Posted November 7th, 2003 @ 10:05am by Erik J. Barzeski
I've previously mentioned Zinio on this blog, and its shortcomings, but as I read through my free copy of Mac Developer Journal, I'm appalled by a few other issues.
The magazine opens to a glowing review of Zinio in the form of an editorial. Derrick Story says that Zinio is the best way to distribute his magazine. Unfortunately, it seems that Derrick drank a bit too much of the sugary water.
Zinio's biggest selling point (I guess) is that it "looks" and "feels" like a magazine. Pages "flip" and every page looks just as you'd expect a magazine to look.
The problem with that is that digital reproduction of a physical object's "look and feel" oftentimes results in something that's unusable in its new domain. Imagine how useful the Mac OS X calculator would be if you had to click on each button to enter numbers. Zinio, and MDJ, suffer from a similar fate.
Zinio promises so much but delivers so little. Screenshots included in magazines are often shrunk - where's my option to click a screenshot and see a full-size (and not merely a blurry, zoomed-in) picture? Where is my fast (and usable) searching? Zinio tries to bring together the best features of PDF and HTML, and yet succeeds only in bringing together the limitations of both, all because they're trying to maintain the "print-like-look and feel."
- I've highlighted a section, and now I can't figure out how to un-highlight it.
- Search is slow and the results viewer window is incredibly useless.
- The "scroll through the magazine" widget lacks any kind of detail (such as which page you're on as you scroll)
- The damn thing keeps zooming in when I simply want to switch to the magazine from another application (and yes, I know where the zoom buttons are in the toolbar, and zoom in is not selected).
- I haven't tried to print yet, but I should be able to print a whole article (minus the ads), and I've heard instead that you can only print a page at a time!
- The toolbar is hideous and non-standard - I can't remove or rearrange items.
- I can't even select text! How the hell am I supposed to copy a snippet of code or quote a paragraph from an article on my blog without simply typing it out for myself?
- Zinio doesn't respect my dock, and opened MDJ with the page scroller beneath it.
- The list could go on…
The Zinio format is a dud. In many of the cases above (and my previous list), the complaints are the same as those for a print magazine. In many cases (the scrolling one, for example), the print magazine is better!
I read a lot of stuff on my computer every day. Part of the appeal of magazines is that I don't need to be at my computer to read them. I can read a magazine while soaking in a bath, sitting in an airplane or waiting lobby, and so on. You can't do that with Zinio. If Zinio is to be successful, they're going to have to realize that the digital realm has its advantages - and different rules - than the print world, and make those advantages and rules work for them.
I won't subscribe to MDJ unless the content is really that phenomenal or they switch to a more suitable format.