Scientific American on the iPad!

I have occasionally complained that Scientific American was not available on the iPad. At present, it is the only magazine I receive that I don’t get in electronic format. That includes all 6 of my science fiction magazine subscriptions and 2 science magazine subscriptions. I have received New Scientist on the iPad (via Zinio) since last May. And earlier this month I subscribed to Discover magazine via Zinio as well.

I have read Scientific American longer than any of the other science magazines. I believe I’ve had an active subscription to the magazine since 1996. It seemed odd that it was the only magazine that I couldn’t read on my iPad. Every now and then I’d check but I didn’t see anything for the iPad, other than an “app” that had a kind of special issue of the magazine.

But I’d noticed that they had a digital subscription a while back. The problem was the digital subscription was for a PDF of the magazine, and for some reason, my addled brain didn’t think that would work very well. But yesterday I asked myself, “Why not?” So I decided to try it out. I plunked down $5.99 for a single issue of the digital version and decided to compare it to the print edition. And you know what? Just like New Scientist, there was not difference. And it was just as easy to read on the iPad.


When I got the PDF for the issue, I sent it to the Kindle email address for my iPad and the screenshot above shows what the cover looks like inside the Kindle App, compared to the actual paper issue. Obviously, the screen is a little smaller than the paper issue, but an occasional zoom gesture inside the kindle app makes things perfectly readable.

Here are the two opening pages for the cover story in the paper issue:


And here are those same pages in the Kindle app:




I went through the entire issue, page by page, and the PDF is identical, even down to the ads, as far as I can tell. It is almost exactly like reading New Scientist in the Zinio app, although the Kindle App lacks a few features for PDFs. I can’t bookmark things, and I can’t, obviously, highlight or annotate. But even there, I found a solution.

Because you are given a PDF file as part of the subscription, I can do two things:

  1. Send the PDF to the Kindle App
  2. Save it into GoodReader, the PDF annotation app on the iPad

I can, of course, read it in either app, and since most of my electronic library is in the Kindle App, it’s nice to keep the magazine issues there as well. But if I find an article that I want to highlight or annotate, I can easily save a copy of the PDF to GoodReader and do my highlighting an annotating there. Here is an example of what that looks like:


The digital (PDF) version of Scientific American has been available for quite a while, but misconceptions on my part prevented me from considering it as an option. I think my biggest misconception was that it was in PDF format. I think my thought process was stuck on the actual Kindle device, the 2nd generation device, which didn’t handle PDFs so well. Why I should think this would carry over to the iPad is beyond my understanding.

My print subscription of Scientific American ends with the June issue, at which point, I’ll re-up, using the digital subscription. And at long last, all of my subscriptions will be in digital format.


  1. My husband has a print subscription to Scientific American, so we extended his subscription to include the iPad version. The reason I have an iPad is so I can enlarge the print, and their version wouldn’t enlarge, or show up horizontally! So we cancelled that extention of his Scientific American subscription. I hated to do that, but there did not seem to be any other choice. Too bad.


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