Category: magazines

Revisiting Digital Magazines

Way back when I first got my iPad 2, I began the long-awaited transition from paper-to-digital magazines. At the time, the only magazine that I read that really had a decent digital edition was New Scientist. I used the Zinio app to access my magazine, and at first, Ioved it. Later, Scientific American became available in digital form and my subscription afforded me access to a PDF copy of the magazine each month. This, too, was pretty cool. Eventually, I read other magazines using Zinio as well. Over time, however, my excitement waned.

There were a few problems. Most notably, was the fact that my iPad screen was smaller than the typical magazine. Since both Zinio and the Scientific American PDF essentially rendered the magazine as-is, it meant a lot of zooming and moving around in order to read articles. In Zinio, I could change to “article” mode, but when I did that, it no longer felt like reading a magazine. Here, for instance, is what a page of the Scientific American PDF looks like on my iPad:

Sciam PDF
PDF version of the Scientific American article.

In order to be able to read it, I need to pinch-and-zoom, and then move the page around. The same was true of my subscriptions in Zinio. While the magazine looked exactly as it did in print, it was harder to read on the smaller screen. It seemed to me that the experience of reading the magazine was lost somewhat, and my magazine reading scaled back because of this.

A magazine interface for iPads

Recently, my desire to read magazines has increased, but when I thought about reading them on the iPad, I balked. I considered returning to paper subscriptions because for me, unlike with books, there is a certain interaction with magazines that was absent from the simple Zinio and PDF versions that I was looking at. With a book, I typically read straight through, and so e-books have never seemed any different to me than paper books. But with magazines, I jump around quite a bit, and the interfaces I’d encountered thus far, were not conducive to that.

I was almost ready to pull the trigger on paper magazine subscriptions, when I remembered that in the time since I started reading magazines electronically, Apple had introduced their Newsstand app. I’d never tried it out, and since many of my subscriptions were available electronically through the Newsstand, I figured I’d give it a try.

It was an eye-opening experience.

Unlike Zinio and PDF copies of magazines, which reproduce the magazine exactly as it appears on newsstands, the Newsstand versions are adapted for iPad use. Navigation of the magazine is easy. You swipe left or right to move from article to article. Within an article, you scroll up or down to read or move from page-to-page within the article. It’s very simple, easy to use, and best of all, the articles are rendered for an iPad screen. So no zooming is necessary. That same Scientific American article I illustrated above in its PDF incarnation looks like this on my iPad:

iPad Mag 1
iPad version of the Scientific American article. Scrolling up or down scrolls through the article.

What’s more, while the Newsstand version is designed for the iPad interface, it still maintains much of the look and feel of the magazine. Many Scientific American articles make use of sidebars, and those sidebars are carried over neatly into the iPad format:

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Read a Short Story Today

Twenty years ago, it seemed that the number of outlets producing good short science fiction, fantasy, and horror were few and far between. Today it is thriving. With attention spans growing shorter, short stories are the perfect ingredient for readers who want to fill those shrinking slots of time. And so, as a reminder, here are a baker’s dozen of great outlets for outstanding stories.

Happy reading!

Looking for a Last-Minute Holiday Gift: Give the Gift of Short Fiction

There are so many great science fiction/fantasy/horror magazines available today, and any (or all!) of them would make a great gift for that special someone who loves to read. And since many of these magazines are available online, or in e-book format, you can subscribe today and have your subscription in time for tomorrow–making them a great last-minute holiday gift. Here are ten of my favorites to choose from.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are plenty more. These are just the magazines that I enjoy the most. They all maintain a high level of quality, the stories contained within are very, very good, and they are all well worth their subscription price. If you are looking for a last-minute gift, or any gift for that matter, for someone who loves to read, check out the magazines above and see if a subscription would fit the bill.

Digital Magazines: Regular or Super-Sized?

All of my magazine subscriptions are in digital format. Several of them (New ScientistRolling StoneEsquire) I read via the Zinio App. Many others (most of my science fiction magazines, for instance) I read via the Kindle App. And several I read as PDF files (Writer’s DigestScientific American, and Locus). I noticed that there is a trend to make magazines more interactive, which could be a good thing, but the trend seems to be to make them more interactive in a less useful way.

When I think of good “interactive” features, I think of things like highlighting text and/or articles. Capturing notes. Linking to additional online material. Sharing items over social media. Some of the apps do some of these things, but the trends seems to be more along the lines of marketing tie-ins. In Esquire, for instance, there is a SHOP button that I can tap if I want to shop for something I see in an ad on the page. (Possibly, this is a useful feature to some, but in Esquire, I find that the things on the page often cost multiple thousands of dollar.)


And then there is the exploding size of the magazines. Take Scientific American for instance, a magazine which I’ve been reading for nearly two-decades, and one I love. The digital version of the magazine is offered as a PDF file, which is generally between 20-30 MB in size, and which I read via the Kindle App on my iPad. Recently, Scientific American has informed me that as a subscriber to the digital edition, I can now access the magazine directly on my iPad. So I have this a try. Turns out, I prefer the PDF version. Part of the problem is that the iPad version is often several hundred megabytes in size, 10 times at least the size of the PDF file. Why is this? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it’s due to the embedding of all kinds of extra multimedia stuff within the file. Time magazine did this as well, and I hated it. I love the idea of reading my magazines in digital form, and having them look just the way the print versions look–but I hate the idea of stuffing all kinds of extras into the file. If you want to include these, make them links so that I can optionally download them. As it stands, I can hold hundreds of issues of Scientific American on my iPad in PDF format–but far less in the ballooned iPad format.

Do we really need these super-sized versions of our digital magazines, or is the regular version with some embedded links good enough? I tend to lean toward the latter, but then again, I read the paper version of the magazine for a long time before I switched to the digital version and I may be biased by that.

Clarkesworld Magazine Subscription Drive

Never read short science fiction stories and want to find out what all the buzz is about? Or maybe you were once a science fiction reader looking to get back into the game? Head on over to Clarkeworld Magazine and subscribe. Clarkeworld has been publishing some outstanding science fiction from Genevieve Valentine to Tobias Buckell to Ken Liu and Kij Johnson and Catherynne M. Valente and more.

In addition to their excellent fiction, they also have compelling nonfiction articles and gorgeous cover art.

And one of the best readers in the business, Kate Baker, reads one of the stories each issue as part of the Clarkesworld podcast. And that podcast is free of charge.

You can have the magazine automatically delivered to your Kindle App or device. Or you can subscribe via Weightless Books.

Head on over and check them out.

Apex Magazine Is Having a Subscription Drive

Yesterday, I posted a list of all of my current magazine subscriptions. One of those subscription is to Apex Magazine, a wonderful magazine edited by Lynne Thomas, that publishes science fiction, fantasy and horror. They always publish great stories. They’ve even published a story by yours truly.

Apex is having a subscription drive. If you are looking for a magazine that publishes excellent SF/F/H stories with a somewhat darker edge to them, you can do no better than Apex. You can subscribe to the magazine in a variety of ways, including via Amazon Kindle, which is how I happen to get it. A subscription to Apex would make the perfect Halloween “treat” for that special someone.

Seriously, they publish great stuff. They’ve recently had excellent stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, Adam-Troy Castro, as well as my favorite Elizabeth Bear story, “Sonny Liston Takes the Fall.” Go forth and subscribe!

My Active Magazine Subscriptions and Where I Read Them

Because I need a break from work, and to have a nice reference point, here is a listing of my active magazine subscriptions and where I read them:

  1. Analog Science Fiction (Kindle App)
  2. Apex Magazine (Kindle App)
  3. Asimov’s Science Fiction (Kindle App)
  4. Clarkesworld (Kindle App)
  5. Daily Science Fiction (Email)
  6. Fantasy & Science Fiction (Kindle App)
  7. InterGalactic Medicine Show (Kindle App)
  8. Lightspeed  Magazine (Kindle App)
  9. LOCUS Magazine (Kindle App via PDF)
  10. New Scientist (Zinio App)
  11. Rolling Stone (Zinio App)
  12. Scientific American (Kindle App via PDF)
  13. SFWA Bulletin (Print1)
  14. Time Magazine (via Apple Newsstand)
  15. Writer’s Digest (Kindle App via PDF)

I recently gave up my subscription to Discover Magazine (via Zinio) because I never read it. I just couldn’t get into it. I replaced it with the subscription to Writer’s Digest, which I initially subscribed to so I could read a good article by fellow writer’s group member Joanna Castle Miller. I decided the magazine was pretty good so I’m keeping that subscription.

I try to keep up with all of them as best as I can, although I do get behind and don’t read every word of every issue. The only magazine that I really don’t read at all is Time, but Kelly reads it (we also receive the print edition).

If you exclude Daily Science Fiction, which publishes on short story every weekday, that amounts to 19 issues each and every month.

  1. It is not available in electronic format.

Dear Scientific American, Left hand, meet right hand

I get that third-party vendors of digital magazines like Zinio may not share subscription information with the source magazine in question. So when I subscribed to New Scientist through Zinio and I kept getting renewal messages from New Scientist, it kind of made sense, in a bizarro-world kind of way. New Scientist simply didn’t have any way of knowing that I was still a subscriber through Zinio.

But Scientific American is another story. I love Scientific American and have been a subscriber for 15+ years now. Recently, I let my paper subscription lapse and replaced it with a digital subscription. The digital subscription is not through Zinio, but through Scientific American‘s website. You’d think all of this would be associated and recorded in the same database, but I keep getting e-mail from Scientific American with urgent warnings that my subscription has lapsed and I am going to miss out on vital scientific reporting, to say nothing of great savings on my subscription.

Wrong. I am not missing out on anything. I have the latest issues, all of them. I got them using my subscription to the digital (PDF) version of Scientific American, to which I subscribed through the Scientific American website. Why can’t their subscription department figure this out and stop pestering me? You’d think that a magazine that reports on science and technology–including articles on information technology–would have a clue and get their act together.

Come on, folks, you can do better than this. After all, you are Scientific American for crying out loud!

My first-ever issue of Rolling Stone magazine

rolling stone.jpg

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I’ve never read a single issue of Rolling Stone. I’m not sure I’ve even looking inside an issue. But earlier in the week, io9 announced that Peter Dinklage had made the cover of Rolling Stone. Being a fan of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones as well as Peter Dinklage, I looked to see if the issue was available on Zinio, the app that I use to read several magazines on my iPad, including New Scientist and Discover. As it turned out, while Rolling Stone is available through Zinio, the issue in question is not yet on the news stands. But the current issue featured an interview with President Obama. The price of the issue on Zinio was $4.99, I think. And since I knew I also wanted the next issue, I decided to bite the bullet and pay for a subscription, which was less than $20.

Last night, in between various tasks, I read the magazine. Not the entire magazine cover-to-cover. I skimmed a lot of it, but I read every one of the feature articles. All I could think was what have I been missing? It was a fantastic read. I’m not up with the current music scene, but the in depth articles about Levon Helms and Gregg Allman were fantastic. The interview with the President was fascinating. And even the in lengthy profile about Floyd Mayweather kept me riveted. The truth is I loved reading the magazine and I am already looking forward to the next issue.

The next issue, incidentally, is supposed to hit news stands today, according to the i09 article. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked Zinio to see if it has shown up yet. I really want to read the article on Peter Dinklage.

As if I didn’t have enough to read already with 3 science magazines and half a dozen science fiction magazines, I’ve now added Rolling Stone into the mix. Great stuff!

Goodbye, paper edition of Scientific American, hello digital

I think I’ve had an unbroken subscription to Scientific American for the last 15 years or so. This week, I gave up my paper subscription. I usually purchased my subscription for 3 years at a time, but the latest round was due to expire in June or July, I think. I’d started getting the reminder notices, telling me to renew my subscription. Well, after my experiment in January, seeing how the magazine looked in the digital edition on my iPad, I decided not to renew the paper edition and instead, subscribe to the digital edition.

While the digital subscription is about $5 more each year, there are three big advantages:

  1. I get each month’s issue a week before it hits the newsstands.
  2. I can read the issue on my iPad.
  3. I have access to the entire digital archive of the magazine going back to 1993.

That latter item is huge. I’ve already played around with it. I can access a PDF copy of about 200 issues of the magazine. I can download either the entire issue in PDF format, or just the article I happen to be interested in. Now, when reading a current article that refers to an earlier article, I don’t have to wonder about it. If it appeared in a post-1992 issue, I can get it and read it.

Of course, there is also the usual benefit of being able to search within the issues, to say nothing of not having stacks of magazines cluttering my office.

The only magazine I still receive in paper form is Time and I also get that in digital. I’d give up the paper version there, too, but Time does not provide an option for that. To receive the digital version, you must also get the paper version. Maybe one day they will figure this out, too.

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.

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Why no notes or highlighting in Kindle magazines?

I’ve written before of the many reasons why I love e-books. One of those reasons is the ability to highlight text and make notes about what you are reading. I find this enormously valuable, and it is something I would never dream of doing in a physical book.

I’ve been reading a lot of magazines on the Kindle App on my iPad and iPhone lately, trying to catch up with stories that I missed in the SF/F magazines this year. And one thing I’ve noticed is that the highlighting and note-taking functionality doesn’t work or is deliberately disabled. This seems to be true for the four magazines that I read on the Kindle App: Analog, Asimov’s F&SF and Clarkesworld.

Does anyone know: is this a limitation to the Kindle App on the iPhone/iPad? Can you highlight/annotate magazines on a Kindle device? Or is this a limitation of the magazine format on the Kindle? Or, perhaps, is this a deliberate choice by the publisher? Any ideas from the experts out there?

I’m curious because it wouldn’t seem to be a technical limitation. I’ve discovered that I can highlight and annotate my copies of Lightspeed that I receive in ePub format and read in iBooks. So why not Kindle?