A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Digital Magazines @ Your Library

by on March 19, 2013

Digital magazines are a terrific complement alongside eBook offerings.  If a library user is already reading books on their tablet, it is likely they will also enjoy reading digital magazines.  Zinio and Recorded Books partnered to offer digital magazines to libraries.  They provide access to thousands of publications with multi-user access, including some interactive content with video and sound.  There are no waiting lists, no due dates, and readers can keep the magazines on their device as long as they choose.

My library started offering Zinio with a soft launch last summer.  After eight months, 114 people are registered, and they checked out over 1,600 titles.  While there is a learning curve to set up an account and choose titles, feedback has been extremely positive.

Setting up Zinio was as easy as setting up any other online resource from a vendor.  We purchased a package that included our choice of titles.  Each title had a price similar to an annual subscription, and we simply made a list of titles until the total cost matched the package price.  The selection of magazines is excellent and includes many foreign language titles.  Some popular titles are not available because those publishers prefer not to share their content with Zinio or library users.  Technical support has been timely and helpful.

To use Zinio, there is a customized library landing page where users enter their library card number and email address and then select titles.  When they click on a magazine cover to select it, a second browser window or tab opens to the Zinio website, and users are prompted to create an account or log in again on the Zinio website.  Users need to keep the library’s landing page and the Zinio website open at the same time and then toggle between the two to checkout more than one magazine at a time.  Magazines can be read on a computer or through a free Zinio app installed on a mobile device.

The multiple windows or tabs can be confusing at first.  Zinio also sells magazine issues and subscriptions which can create further confusion.  If users prefer to read on a tablet through the Zinio app, they are required to use a browser to check out the title and then go to the app to download and read on their device.  Users cannot checkout magazines directly from the Zinio site or the app and must go back to the library’s landing page to select additional titles.  This process has a small learning curve, but once users understand the steps, it is easy to use.

We are pleased with the platform.  Reading the magazines on a computer or through the app is easy and intuitive.  The photos are clear, and it is easy to zoom in to read sections of the pages.  Some magazines also offer enhanced content such as video, sound or extra photos that add to the user experience, and some magazines also allow pages to be printed.  Offering digital magazines is a good complement to our current print magazine collection.  Some magazines that are no longer available in print are available digitally through Zinio, and duplication of popular titles between print and digital provides greater access.

While feedback has been positive, we have stumbled on two glitches.  Email alerts about new issues are not sent out consistently, and we have not been able to determine how to fix the problem.  Also, back issues are not available at this time while Zinio and Recorded Books determine how to offer these securely.

As Zinio and Recorded Books move forward with this resource, on our wish list is the ability to have more control customizing the library landing page and email alerts to the users, a streamlined checkout and download process, compatibility with more devices and a greater selection of popular magazines.  Overall, we are pleased with the product, our package is a good value, and our patrons have expressed positive feedback.