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More on Zinio

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."

Other nit-picks:

  • 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.

28 Responses to "More on Zinio"

  1. Yeah, try reading a magazine on a 12" PowerBook. That's a lesson in futility; talk about zooming when you don't want to.

    The novelty of the pages turning (animated) wears off pretty quickly.

    Why couldn't they just make them (secured if they must) PDFs...

  2. I kept reading MDJ and thinking Mac Daily Journal, instead of Mac Developer Journal. And it occurs to me, a digitally signed PDF like the "real" MDJ format might not be a bad idea for the new MDJ.

  3. I trashed it also. Zinio is horrible. Why should I need proprietary software, that litters itself all over my hard drive and has no respect for my file system layout - to read what could and should be a PDF? And why does their software not even have the most basic functionality of a PDF? I can not scribble in the margin, copy/paste text. Print it to read someplace else...

    It seems they spent more time trying to DRM the content to the point that it is more restrictive that the original media? Whomever was incharge of this project needs a clue. I have little to add to the complaints already leveled at this absolutely craptacular piece of software.

  4. Man, after reading the last word of Eric's post I proceeded to press Page Down, only to find out that I was using Safari and not Zinio's reader in zoom mode. 😛

    Well, at least it was good for reading a free issue of Motor Trend, though they won't be getting my money. Thanks anyways. 🙂

  5. Man, after reading the last word of Eric's post I proceeded to press Page Down, only to find out that I was using Safari and not Zinio's reader in zoom mode. 😛

    Harly, not sure what you mean by that…

  6. Zinio - Crap

    Today after reading about Zinio in NSLog(); I wanted to have a look into the free peek of Mac Developer Journal. And in fact I didn't even read the articles because the Zinio Reader is this horrible. It is about the most horrible thing you could have d...

  7. Looks like we won't be through with Zinio any time soon: according to Think Secret, Zinio will be coming preinstalled on new macs soon...

  8. I SO nearly misread the first part of the second-to-last nitpick item... Though it would make sense in a way, Zinio stepping all over your `system' without your consent.

    Moving on...

  9. I used the Zinio beta and tried to read my free Macworld. I gave up 5 minutes into it. Some things are just better as a physical printed copy.

  10. Zinio is already pre-installed on some PowerMac G5 machines. I just unpacked a new dual 2.0 GHz machine for a coworker a few days ago and I noticed that Zinio was in the /Applications folder. (yuck) .. the good news was that the machine had Panther pre-installed.

  11. Zinio is less a proprietary file format, and more of a DRM - enabled wrapper around PDF...which has it's own DRM...


    and speaking as someone who has an article in the first issue of the Mac Developer Journal, i'm NOT impressed.


  12. ~/Magazines!!!!! Die Zinio!!! DIE!!!!

  13. I originally thought Zinio was okay, but only for magazines that are like "bathrooom reading"...skim through, see what's there, discard. I couldn't in a million years imagine reading a reference-based magazine for developers that way. I think it's taking DRM too far.

  14. It's surprising to see O'Reilly at all involved in something so lame.

    Zinio might be reasonable for a 'Better Homes & Gardens' magazine, but I suspect a developer magazine's readers have different requirements and behaviors.

  15. Here's what I sent to the feedback address (though it bounced):

    - Scott

    I really like the idea of Mac Developer Journal, but I have two main points of feedback:

    1. I find $50 way too high for four issues per year, particularly considering the relatively low amount of content and high amount of ads. I can't see myself subscribing at this point. In order of preference, I'd need to see one or more of the following:

    - Monthly issues

    - More content per issue

    - A lower subscription price

    The "multimedia" aspect of the publication doesn't justify additional expense in my book. If there were no ads whatsoever I *might* consider paying $50.

    2. Zinio Reader

    This reader is okay. The page turning effect is nice. But it makes a major Mac OS X cultural error. It puts data in the user's home directory, in a subdirectory called "Magazines". The home directory is sacred, that's not where application support files are supposed to go -- especially if they're not human readable. Good citizen applications put that stuff in (of all places) the "Application Support" directory.

    Something like that may fly on Windows or Linux, but it's an experience issue Mac OS X users won't look kindly on. This is particularly frustrating because a Mac OS X developer publication should be providing examples of the *right* thing to do.

    Again, the concept and presentation is great. It's just the details that will prevent me from subscribing.

  16. I think you were way too kind, Scott. 🙂

  17. Very nice, I can't download the magazine or reader without an "official" supported browser. On Windows this pares down to AOL, IE, or Netscape 4.7.x (but not above).

    So is there no other way to get MacDeveloper Journal?

  18. We're working very hard to compile a list of requests and talk to Zinio about them. And we're considering finding a way for paying customers to view content from the issues in alternate formats, as well.

    As for the $50 a year price, even at that price it will take a substantial number of subscribers for this magazine to succeed. The ads help reduce that number slightly. This is just the way of the magazine business... if we can provide developers with information that improves them, their software, and their businesses, it should be worth at least $50! 🙂


  19. Hi there everyone - I am the founder of Zinio and am interested in everyone's reaction to the product. If there were some ways you'd like to see the Zinio product tweaked to add value for you, what would they be? Perhaps more integrated multimedia such as video, audio, animation, etc? Copy & paste? Better search?

  20. Kevin, uh, did you read everything we wrote? Why did you list an email account?

  21. Yes, I read what you wrote - I'm wondering if you think Zinio is a total write-off for you or if there is *any* way you could find it valuable??

  22. I couldn't get past the 14M download to even see a magazine to comment on Zinio reader but I would have much preferred PDF to make my life simpler and save disk space.

    But really I'd rather have a paper issue actually whatever the software's like.

  23. I received a Texterity edition of "Technology and Learning" in digital magazine format. See It was very clean, fast, and it worked on the Macs and the PCs easily. No plug-in is required, it works right from my browser.

    The quality is excellent. They even have pictures that pop up for a photography contest. This is far superior to Zinio, as it requires no download, no program to install.

    It's a great user experience, even on a fairly slow connection at my school.

  24. How do you get read of this program? I decided it wasn't for me, so went into delete mode. I started in the Add/Remove program, then checked my hard drive. Found it there, so deleted. And then, noticed in my "Common files" that it was STILL there. Upon trying to delete it rec'd the following message: "Error deleting file or folder. Cannot delete ZSHExt.dll. Access is denied. Make sure the disk is not full and that the file is not currently in use." What's up with that? Why won't it go away? Any ideas how I can get rid of it? Please help. Thanks

  25. I had this problem - major headache... Change your firewall settings temporarily to allow all connections through and then use uninstall from the start menu.Should work ok.

    Zinio must be the crappest software I have ever used.

  26. What an awful reader, I used Zinio on a PC to view PC Magazine since PC Magazine made a cheap offer to use it. It was slow, non-intuitive and cumbersome.

    Acrobat's pdf files are much better with little overhead, couldn't Adobe just add some DRM to Acrobat to quell publishers' nightmares?

    I called PC Magazine back and asked to receive the paper version and uninstalled Zinio.

    I would much prefer to have my magazines in digital format, especially for searching. But, there needs to be a usable reader and DRM.

    When Intuit put DRM into TurboTax, it was a poor implementation and after six years of using TurboTax I switched to TaxCut. It seems to me that Zinio is a DRM implementation that is obnoxious just like Intuit's.

  27. This software is really horrible It came preinstalled on my new iMac. I ordered a subscription for macworld and downloaded it. The magazine was unreadable.I then proceeded to try all of the suggestions in the FAQs and got the same result. I contacted tech support by email and phone with no response. They only responded with the generic automated responses which did not help. The really bad thing is that I waited a year before trying a digital subscription because I was unsure I would like it and I paid $69.99 for a subscription for the UK version of macworld. I live in the US so getting the digital version of this magazine seemed appealling. I want a refund but cannot seem to extract one from them no matter what I do.I have attempted to resolve this with them throgh several phone call and emails with no luck. So to anyone reading this BEWARE this is more trouble than it is worth. They have taken DRM to an all time low

  28. I think the main problem with Zinio is that it pales in comparison to other magazines and papers on the iPad that are fully interactive. For example, I got a sample issue of New Musical Express - and why should I have to print out the crossword to play it from the app if I can just use a crossword app? There's no thought or heart in any of it, they all look like scanned copies of the magazines. Vanity Fair and The New Yorker got it right this week with their formats - they're intuitive, comfortable to use and read, and a legitimate substitute for the print editions. The magazines on Zinio might as well be crappy pdfs, and no one should have to pay for that. I can't believe the magazine developers aren't raising more of a stink - I wouldn't want my product reduced to that.