I wonder if there is any relationship between Newsstand.com and Apple’s announced Newsstand service. I haven’t seen anyone mention this, but Newsstand.com has been delivering newspapers digitally for a long time. I mentioned them in my PC Mag vs MaximumPC digital subscription clients post back in Feb 2009.
If there is no relationship, Newsstand.com must be pissed!
MaximumPC uses Coverleaf and PC Magazine uses Zinio. Zinio appears to have the larger library, but Coverleaf does have recognizable magazine names. One big difference is that Zinio allows you to use an optional desktop client whose use is obviously directed at offline reading. That’s a nice feature. The desktop client also has annotation features missing from the bare-bones web client. However, the web client has a feature sorely missing from the desktop and that is the ability to save and share links to pages. You can even send the link to one of the various social networks like Delicious. I use Delicious to save links to articles that I might want to refer to in the future.
The reading experience is much better on my slate tabletPC using the Zinio desktop client. I can move from page to page by clicking corners of the pages. I’ve rigged up a similar thing on Coverleaf by using a mouse gesture extension that emulates pageup/down keystrokes. Note that this only works in Internet Explorer. Firefox for some reason does not move you from page to page with keystrokes.
If it matters to you, Zinio is a Flash-based web app and Coverleaf is Ajax. Both are pretty good, but clearly Zinio “feels” a little smoother. That said, Coverleaf actually has a couple features that Zinio doesn’t. In particular, I like the Pages function which displays a page of thumbnails of all the pages in the issue.
Now obviously you don’t really need to pick one over the other. You can use them both. At least the hardware you need is the same…ie a PC and a web browser. It’s not like trying to decided between a Kindle and Sony Reader.
I suppose that while I’m at it, I should mention my other favorite electronic subscription service and that’s NewsStand.com. Here you’ll find lots of newspapers, like LA Times, NY Times and USA Today.
I’ve been seriously trying to decide between the Kindle and the Sony Reader, but I’ve just discovered that you can’t beat a slate-style tabletPC-I’ve got the Motion Computing LE1700. Digital media consumers, like me, have long moved way beyond the one-dimensional black and white mediums and onto color-intensive things like magazines, websites, etc. Even newspapers have embraced color. What would USA Today be without color.
This is why I see single-purpose devices like the Kindle and Sony Reader as great devices, but unnecessary in the grander/long-term scheme of things. Plus, they are relatively expensive. How much more use can you get out of a 32GB iPod Touch or netbook compared to a Kindle or Sony Reader?
More and more traditionally print publications are being offered in electronic versions, although you’d be often hard pressed to find them. I recently discovered the (well hidden) digital subscription to Maximum PC and LA Times, but PC Mag, being only offered in digital format, was not surprisingly easier to get. A digital version of PC World is also available, but at $19.97/yr, it’s a bit pricey. MaxPC and PC Mag are under $10/yr. PC Mag has a special 2-year subscriptions for $15!
Digital subscriptions are by no means limited to tech magazines either. Check out Zinio.com, the engine used by PC Mag, and you’ll probably be surprised at the strong catalog of offerings. Newsstand.com is also good. That’s where you’ll find a lot of the newspapers like the LA Times, NY Times, USA Today, etc.
I will fully admit that I envy the awesome ebook reader battery life and the crisp eInk display, but giving up a full PC experience is too much to ask. I was just relaxing reading an issue of PC Mag and decided to start blogging my experience. Try THAT on an eBook reader.
The big downside to electronic publications, as with any copyrighted electronic medium, is DRM. Zinio and Newsstand both rely on proprietary file formats. Sure you can download and archive them, but who knows when they will become obsolete.
In my opinion, however, do publications have that much value after a year or two? Maybe books do, but who really re-reads their books? Yeah, I now people like to save and collect their magazines and books into their own personal library, but how often do they look at them? How much is relegated to dusty cardboard boxes in the garage taking up valuable storage space? Now hopefully, electronic publishers will embrace and standardize on the ePub format, but I’m not holding my breath. For the most part, I think the usefulness of individual magazine and newspaper copies are transitory. Just re-buy them in the future if the desire arises.
For portability, I’ll rely on my iPod Touch and N95. Both support eReader ebooks. Guess I could even stoop to a good old fashion paperback. The battery lasts forever, but no built-in backlight…oh the Kindle doesn’t have that either ;-)