Preview – Zinio Resident App

On February 21, 2009

I’ve had the opportunity to look at a beta version of Zinio’s upcoming iPhone resident application. I should note that they have made a web-based application available for quite some time. While the webapp offered free content it was rather awkward to use due to the required amount of constant pinching and zooming. Sure, it worked, but it was not an intuitive process. It seemed to me that it would have worked much better if pages were not presented as static documents but that the text was flowed and, therefore, quickly and easily resized. 

I was hoping that the resident application would resolve these issues and offer an easier, more intuitive experience.

Unfortunately that has not been my experience thus far

since the application continues to require constant pinching and zooming. While it is readable once you have zoomed in sufficiently, it isn’t a particularly enjoyable experience. Add to that the fact that links don’t work (one of the things I love most about reading magazines through Zinio) and I’m not sure this is the right implementation for this particular device.

(Bear in mind, however, that this is a beta version and many of my concerns may be resolved before its actual release.)

Let’s take a quick walk through the application itself.

When you first start the application you are greeted by list of available magazines. In the beta version that includes Car and Driver, Esquire and, of course, Macworld.















Macworld indicates that there are a number of different issues available and tapping the Macworld displays which of them are ready to download. Tapping one prompts it to quickly download to the device.(Take that Amazon Kindle!) 















The application initially displays thumbnails of all the pages — a good option for navigation on such a small device. Tapping any specific page opens up that particular page.
















While it significantly larger than the thumbnail it is by no means readable in this format.















The two fingers do makes the text readable within seconds but again… pinching and zooming are a must.

The other option is to turn the device to landscape. While it still isn’t readable it now requires far less assuming to become real.

That’s pretty much the application as it currently stands. It is stable and loads magazines quickly but it is not something I can see using in its current form.

Some thoughts and a conclusion —

I love the fact that when I get a magazine through Zinio and I read it on my iMac, MacBook or, best yet, Fujitsu tablet PC, it closely re-creates the experience of reading a physical magazine. The layout is the same, the pictures are as a vibrant, and it has the added benefit of being able to click a link and open up additional information or, if the link is for a product that caught my eye, take me to the product page.  Reading a magazine using Zinio on a computer works in large measure because it re-creates the user experience electronically and I have been sold on it for a number of years now.

Having now used two incarnations of the service on the iPhone-  both web-based and resident — I can’t help but feel that trying to re-create the "magazine experience" on the iPhone itself doesn’t work. The screen is just too small.

That doesn’t mean the iPhone isn’t an effective device for reading the favorite magazines. It does, however, mean that instead of taking the old paradigm and adapting to the device Zinio (the way they have with the computer version) it likely needs to develop an entirely new paradigm that works more effectively. Perhaps that means making magazines available in a format similar to RSS feeds — regardless of what develops I cannot help but feel disappointed that, despite an excellent effort by Zinio, it just doesn’t work.