Going digital: New Scientist

I’ve been a subscriber to New Scientist since October 2008. It is my primary source of keeping up with science and technology each week. For those who’ve never read it (or heard of it), New Scientist is a weekly science magazine out of the UK. It is usually around 48 pages and contains a summary of science and technology news, opinion pieces and op eds, as well as three or four feature articles in each issue. There are also book reviews, and letter columns. It is my favorite science magazine and I’ve tried very hard (although at times unsuccessfully) to read every issue cover-to-cover.

Back when I got my iPad, I downloaded the Zinio app which provides access to scores of magazine subscriptions in digital format. The nice thing about the application is that the digital version of magazine looks exactly the same, page-for-page, as the print edition. At first, I bought a single copy of New Scientist to see how it felt on the iPad. When I found that it was just like reading the print issue, I subscribed to the digital edition for a year, despite already having a print subscription.

This weekend, I received in the mail my renewal for the New Scientist print edition. And after some teeth gnashing, I decided that I was not going to renew the print edition when it comes up in October. I’m going to go entirely digital with New Scientist.  There was one thing that made this particularly difficult: a subscription to the print edition of the magazine gets you free online access to the entire catalog of New Scientist back issues. There is a vast wealth of articles and information available and I like the thought of having easy access to that information. But in the end, I realized that in the nearly-three years I’ve had a subscription, I’ve only gone back to the archives maybe half a dozen times. And that’s just not worth keeping the print edition.

On the other hand, there are a number of reason for going digital:

  1. The magazine looks the same in digital form as it does in print, right down to the advertisement.
  2. The cost of the digital subscription was about 40% less than the print edition.
  3. I receive the digital edition sometime just after midnight each Saturday. That’s the day the issue comes out. Often times, I don’t get the print issue until a week or more after it has come out. (There have been times when 2 issues have been delivered on the same day. Once, I got the “current” week’s issue before the previous week.) It’s a pleasure to know exactly when the magazine is coming.
  4. Zinio has just added some new features that make it even more useful. One in particular allows you to bookmark articles and pages for future reference. This is handy when I find something in an article that might be useful in a story somewhere.
  5. I don’t have a physical stack of magazines collecting on my desk. Instead, my stack is completely digital and I can keep as many as I want without cluttering up my desk (see below). My print issues used to stack up. They take up space, and I wasn’t always good about getting rid of them after I finished reading them.
  6. I can’t really lose a copy. If my own local and cloud backups fail for some reason, I can always go to Zinio and re-download any or all issues that are part of my subscription.
  7. If I don’t have my iPad or iPhone with me, I can always go online and read the issues in the cloud.
  8. It is another step of moving toward my goal of going entirely paperless.
My virtual magazine stack

There are a few things that I wish I could do that I can’t. I can’t send an article to Evernote, which would be incredibly useful. (I can send email an article, and send it to Evernote that way, but it seems like a Send To Evernote feature would be a nice-to-have.) But they did add the bookmark feature and that helps.

I’ve been happy with the magazine in digital form. So much so that I wish Scientific American would do the same. They have an special app issue that you can download, but it is a one-shot deal and I haven’t seen or heard any news of them making the magazine fully available on the ipad. I’ve been a Scientific American subscriber for 17 years or so. If they came out with a digital issue that looked as good on the iPad as New Scientist does, I’d jump on that digital bandwagon, too.


  1. Curse you, Jamie Todd Rubin! I don’t need another subscription! I’m trying to be good.:(

    1. Mike, believe me, so am I: Scientific American, New Scientist, Analog, Asimov’s, Locus, Lightspeed, and AOPA Pilot. Well, actually, I just got my last issue of Pilot since I canceled that one. But, yeah, I hear you!

  2. Thanks for the information; I just found this while searching for the digital edition of New Scientist, since I couldn’t remember what the app was called. I’ve been a New Scientist subscriber/addict since some time in the early 2000s, and my print subscription ran out about a month ago, so I spent some time catching up on the backlog (I didn’t suspend my subscription for long enough when I went on holiday) and reading books, and I’m about to subscribe to the iPad edition.

    I will miss being able to give old copies to friends, strangers and itinerant musicians who look like they need something to read. At least I will once I get rid of the stack on top of my dresser. I don’t think lack of access to the archives will matter much, since with the money saved by going digital I could buy many more back issues than I’d ever need to consult. Of course, digital copies won’t be much use after the zombie apocalypse or other infrastructure collapse, but neither will the paper back issues I’ve given away.


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