Many people now find it more enjoyable to read magazines on the iPad than on paper. But publishers have yet to figure out exactly how to make the business side of iPad publishing work. From Pages to Apps you can subscribe to a slew of big-name magazines, including Macworld of course, and many lesser-known titles, through the free Zinio iPad app (www.zinio.com). There is also an iPhone version. 

In most cases, what you get is essentially a PDF of a printed magazine, with a few perks. For example, you can tap links in a table of contents to jump to stories; you can call up those lists of contents – which show page thumbnails or story titles and descriptions – any time. And there are links that take you from one page to the next. Some Zinio titles have been enhanced for computer and iPad use, with elements including video, slideshows, photos and interactive content.

You can pick up subscriptions to magazines at Zinio, which generally come in at less than the print version. For example, you can subscribe to NME on Zinio for £51 a year (for 51 issues, so that’s £1 an issue). Similarly a year’s subscription to Macworld via Zinio is £39.99 – a 52 per cent saving on the newsstand price.

In addition to (or instead of) appearing via Zinio, many magazines now offer their own iPad apps. In these, the content (sometimes from the print edition, sometimes not) has been especially formatted for the tablet. Much of the time, the apps themselves are free, but you then buy individual issues each month. Some publications, such as Virgin’s Project Magazine, are iPad-only and didn’t even exist before appearing on Apple’s tablet. Project’s £1.99 issues have features possible only on a tablet, such as video covers, interactive content with buttons to change the display and more.

Digital newsstand Shop for magazines on the App Store or through Zinio. Compared to print, digital editions offer innovative navigation features and interactive content


For publishers taking the App Store route getting Apple to approve a title can be a major hurdle to overcome. 

Business mode

While Zinio uses a traditional magazine subscription model, iPad magazine apps originally sold single issues. Then, in February, Apple launched its long-awaited App Store subscription model. Customers can sign up for the subscriptions via in-app purchases, which are automatically billed and renewed on their iTunes accounts.

However, the number of iPad magazines offering subscriptions is still pretty small. Part of the problem is Apple: the company takes 30 per cent of any subscription sales, bars publishers from charging more for a subscription on the iPad than they do elsewhere, and doesn’t provide the kind of subscriber data publishers get from print subscriptions.

Publishers can make iPad access free for print subscribers, but until recently, not many did. In some cases, subscription options can be a jumble as well. For example, subscribers to the iPad edition of The Times can choose to subscribe to the paper and iPad editions for £6 a week, or subscribe to the iPad version with a  complimentary subscription to www.thetimes.co.uk for £2 a week. These offers are available at www.timesplus.co.uk, however, iPad editions of The Times and Sunday Times can only be purchased through the App Store for £9.99 for 30-days, or £1.79 per edition of the Sunday Times. 

Like The Times, most magazines available on the App Store are offered as in-app purchases. You download a free app, and within that app you can download editions of the magazine. In many cases you can see a preview of what you are buying, or at least a contents page. However, some magazines, such as Project, offer only an image of the front cover to entice you to part with your cash.  

Once you’ve downloaded an issue to the app, you can read it without a data connection, which is one way that the iPad trumps the internet when it comes to news consumption.

Alternatively, reading magazines through Zinio is like reading anything else on the iPad: you swipe between pages and pinch to zoom in on sections to make them larger and easier to read.

The iPad magazine business is changing rapidly. But at least it seems to be headed in a direction that’s good for readers.