Comparing the five major digital magazine subscription services

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 10
At Austin's SXSW festival in March, Apple announced the takeover of Texture, one of the preeminent magazine subscription services. It's hardly the only digital magazine service available though, so here's how some of the current options of Kindle Unlimited, Texture, Zinio, Magzter, and Readly stack up.


Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Amazon Kindle Unlimited


Amazon is the elephant in the room when it comes to digital reading. Despite Apple's efforts -- some of them apparently illegal -- Kindle is the de facto platform in many respects.

For a lot of people Kindle Unlimited will be hard to beat, since in addition to "current" magazines, the service includes over 1 million books and any audiobook on Audible. You can also read on virtually any platform, since in addition to iPhones and iPads, it's on Android, Mac, Windows, and of course Amazon's Fire tablets, Echo speakers, and Kindle e-readers.

The service costs $9.99 per month, but can be tried 30 days for free.

Texture

Texture


Apple's Texture includes access to somewhere north of 200 magazines, mostly mainstream publications such as Time, Wired, The Atlantic, and Sports Illustrated. For the moment, at least, it's available not just on iPhones and iPads but Android devices, including Amazon tablets.

Access costs $9.99 per month after a 7-day trial.

On the surface there's not much reason to go with Texture over something like Kindle Unlimited. More interesting, in fact, is what Texture is liable to become, since Apple is rumored to be using Texture as a springboard for paid subscriptions in Apple News. The company may even be considering a bundle of News, Apple Music, and original video.

Zinio

Zinio


Rather than being an all-you-can-eat service, Zinio is more like a conventional storefront. You pay for individual magazine subscriptions, or even individual issues, which can potentially make it very expensive. In that sense it's best for the occasional magazine reader than someone who wants to be in the know on everything.

Zinio customers can get special deals though, and there are also some free articles available on a regular basis. iPhone and iPad readers can switch between a "traditional" magazine layout and a special text mode, the latter better mobile-optimized.

The service claims to have "6,000+" magazines from around the world. Interestingly, users can also access Marvel comics, something outside the scope of most magazine services.

Magzter

Magzter


The standard Magzter purchase model is a-la-carte like Zinio, but also available is Magzter Gold, which costs $9.99 per month. This offers access to over 5,000 magazines, as well as "premium" articles from publications like Forbes and The Atlantic.

Significantly, Magzter makes a point of saying that Gold members can share their subscription with up to 4 family members. This might not be a big deal -- after all, you can share logins for other services -- but it could be useful for families where it's important to keep progress and collections separate.

Apps are available for iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire tablets.

Readly

Readly


Following a 14-day trial, Readly costs $9.99 per month for unlimited access to over 3,211 magazines and 75,225 new and back issues (as of this writing). Yes, they're that specific.

A subscription lets users read on up to 5 devices simultaneously, with up to 5 individual profiles. You can read on iOS, Android, Amazon Fire tablets, or the Web.

Which one should you choose?

Unless you're militantly against Amazon, the answer is probably Kindle Unlimited. It's just impossible to ignore the extra benefits of the service -- after all, why limit yourself to magazines when you could also be reading books on the subway, or listening to them while lifting weights?

Of course, there are perfectly valid reasons for wanting to avoid Amazon, in which case it really comes down to whether a service has the magazines you want to read, and whether you prefer their app(s). We would highly recommend signing up for as many trials as possible and testing out the services' interfaces, since it hardly matters what a service offers if reading on your favorite device feels awkward.

If you're not hell-bent on signing up for a service today, we would suggesting waiting to see what becomes of Apple's Texture buyout. If the company is planning on Apple News integration or an all-in-one content bundle by the end of the year, it may not make much sense to sink your hooks into something else.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    I'm pretty sure you're mistaken when you say that Amazon Kindle Unlimited includes "any audiobook on Audible", as when you go to the website for this service, it says:  "Listen to thousands of books with Audible narration".   'Thousands', is a minuscule subset of what's available on Audible, and I suspect would include pretty close to zero of any books I would want to listen to.
  • Reply 2 of 14
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,407member
    Anybody know if Kindle Unlimited provides access to as many (or more) back issues as Texture does?
  • Reply 3 of 14
    jaiellojaiello Posts: 1member
    I have been a Zinio user for years now and I can tell you that the service is terrible.  I have complained to them numerous times about their terrible implementation.  I had a number of magazines downloaded and stored.  Zinio pushed an update that caused me to log out and then back in again.  All of my downloads were gone and needed to be downloaded again.  Their explanation never did make sense to me.  Downloaded is download but not with Zinio.  Makes me think that they could pull away all my magazines any time they wanted.   I use Zinio because all the magazines I want are there.  If there was another viable choice I would drop them in a heartbeat.   Maybe the Kindle is the way to go.  
  • Reply 4 of 14
    Kindle Unlimited doesn’t include magazines.  It does include some audiobooks but it’s a relatively small number.

    Kindle Unlimited doesn’t include all books, but you can usually find the first book in a series on Unlimited.  It does include a ton of books, but depending on your reading preferences it may not include yours.  If you’re looking for current “best sellers” it probably won’t be on Unlimited.

    I’ve been an Unlimited member from day 1, and read enough that I’ve saved thousands of dollars.

    Amazon does have something called Newsstand for magazines, but I don’t see bundled prices comparable to Unlimited...

    I’ll take a look at Texture when Apple re-releases the service.  It does look like a good deal, especially for people that prefer apps.  I can see it popular with people the find the internet overwhelming.  My parents still read the “paper” newspaper each day for example.

    Folio
  • Reply 5 of 14
    jdwjdw Posts: 638member
    I use Zinio, but only for Macworld magazine.  That's partly out of habit, since I have been a subscriber since the 1980's.  But I am a daily reader of AppleInsider.
  • Reply 6 of 14
    Michael JohnMichael John Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I've been using Magzter GOLD for a couple of years now. I'd say that their collection of 5,000+ magazines is vastly extensive and thanks to their Family Sharing plan, my entire family can enjoy reading on their own devices without sharing accounts.
  • Reply 7 of 14
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,766member
    Texture is the best of those services, it has a very nice interface too. It’s main issue was marketing and distribution. With Apple, this will change in a major way.
  • Reply 8 of 14
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,595administrator
    Kindle Unlimited doesn’t include magazines.  It does include some audiobooks but it’s a relatively small number.

    Kindle Unlimited doesn’t include all books, but you can usually find the first book in a series on Unlimited.  It does include a ton of books, but depending on your reading preferences it may not include yours.  If you’re looking for current “best sellers” it probably won’t be on Unlimited.

    I’ve been an Unlimited member from day 1, and read enough that I’ve saved thousands of dollars.

    Amazon does have something called Newsstand for magazines, but I don’t see bundled prices comparable to Unlimited...

    I’ll take a look at Texture when Apple re-releases the service.  It does look like a good deal, especially for people that prefer apps.  I can see it popular with people the find the internet overwhelming.  My parents still read the “paper” newspaper each day for example.

    Mine does.

    Also:


    gatorguyGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 9 of 14
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,102member
    But do any of them include porn?
  • Reply 10 of 14
    ivanhivanh Posts: 224member
    If you're just interested in pricing, the best magazine reader you forgot to mention: RBDigital.  You can borrow tens of magazines from RBDigital without paying a dime!  Why bother to buy?  I used Kindle and Zinio and they are so annoying in support. Once I tried RBDigital, I seldom use Kindle or Zinio.  

    If you're interested in app functionality, does any one of the magazine readers mentioned in this article provides dictionary, translation and article sharing?  Can I put the words I learn from an article to a list? What about bilingual books?  Can I have The Little Price in English and French on opposite pages?  Can I keep an article or a paragraph even though I have deleted the magazine?  What about if I want to read a non-English book, say, Korean, Japanese and Chinese?

  • Reply 11 of 14
    Funny my first thought was "for $9.99 there better not be Ads; just clean content!"

    Then I laughed at myself because the occasional print magazine we may buy from the stand is full of....Ads.

    So one would have to expect Ads, even in something "paid for" (like everything else).

    Maybe the Ad placement is somehow less obtrusive?  Maybe none IN and article, but some "in-between" if that makes sense, or in between pages of an article?

    Any comparisons there?  The best service, content, App, and experience would be ruined with pop-over Ads right while reading the "best part".

    E.
  • Reply 12 of 14
    adambravo2adambravo2 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Well, as comparison articles go, this one is notably lacking in detail (and, to a lesser extent, accuracy).

    It appears the Amazon info is not exactly on point.
    I would have expected a comparison of how these magazines look in the various services, and the assorted reading modes (if any) available, especially useful for those with vision issues.
    I also would have expected a price comparison on actual subscriptions for popular magazines, especially Kindle v Zinio.
  • Reply 13 of 14
    chasmchasm Posts: 962member
    Good article, nice comparison. One possiblity that was overlooked (other than Ivanh's RBDigital) is library programs that feature magazines, like Hoopla and Overdrive (et al). Hopefully material for a follow-up feature.
  • Reply 14 of 14
    There are two magazine subscription offerings that Amazon;
    - Kindle Unlimited: you can borrow from a rotating selection of about 60 current magazine issues. These count towards the KU limit of 10 items. You can keep any given issue as long as you want but eventually you need to ‘return’ it to free up a slot for something else. The current summary of KU benefits does not mention magazines at all and I only managed to stumble on the page listing ‘Kindle Unlimited Magazines’.
    - Prime Reading (part of Prime membership benefits): I think it is the same set of magazine issues, but you can only borrow one at a time, maybe even one borrow per month (details are hard to discover and KU overrides Prime Reading benefits; it is as if they do not exist)

    You cannot borrow audiobooks directly through Kindle Unlimited, and it is difficult to know which are available. You basically have to browse the listing of ‘Books with Audible Narration in Kindle Unlimited’, one at a time, to see which books say ‘Read and Listen for Free’ and which just say ‘Read for Free’ (requiring purchase of the audiobook). Many if not most of them are R&L but not all. Once the ebook is borrowed, you can download the audiobook with the the Kindle or Audible tablet apps (or 8th & 9th generation Kindles). It counts as one item, and returning the ebook will also remove the audiobook from device(s) it may have been downloaded to.
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