Have You Tried Any Free Digital Magazines From Public Libraries Yet?

Free Zinio Magazines

Last week I posted an article about how it’s now possible to get dozens—even hundreds—of digital magazines through Zinio for free from public libraries. You can download as many magazines titles as you want for free, and you never have to return them. It sounds too good to be true, but I’ve tried it out and it’s not. The whole things is getting very little news coverage around the internet, so I wanted to reiterate once again just how big of a deal this is.

It depends on your local library’s selection, but we aren’t talking about crummy magazines you’ve never heard of before. No, these are popular bestselling titles.

My library currently has about 200 digital magazines. There are no limits. I could download every single one of those if I wanted, all for free. And I’d never have to return any of them. And then I could do it all over again when new issues come out. Kind of crazy, huh? It’s a lot different than getting ebooks from libraries where you can only checkout so many at one time, and then they automatically expire after 2-3 weeks.

I normally don’t even read magazines, but while browsing through the different titles at my library I found some that looked intriguing, so I downloaded about a dozen different titles to test on my iPad 3, which is probably the best device for reading digital magazines. Larger Android tablets like the Nook HD+ and 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD would work well too. The magazines are compatible with computers and Blackberry devices as well.

One of the best magazines from my library is the interactive version of National Geographic. It’s made for tablets, and has interactive features, audio and video, scrollable articles, moving pictures, and other advanced features. It’s quite impressive, and it’s surprisingly detailed and lengthy.

The concept of giving away magazines through libraries still seems a bit odd to me. I’m surprised publishers are okay with this. It seems like this kind of thing could hold back sales when you can just get them for free instead. Perhaps they plan on doing something like altering the free titles available periodically so that you can’t keep getting one subscription over and over again for free. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, but it could be a good way to get readers hooked.

So have you had time to try any free digital magazines from public libraries yet? If so, what do you think about them? Do you think having access to free magazines will make you more or less likely to buy them in the future?

If you still haven’t gotten any magazines from the library and would like to, there’s a video tutorial about how to do so on this earlier post. Basically all you need is a library card and a Zinio account. It’s super easy. And if your library doesn’t have Zinio magazines, you could probably get them through other public libraries that offer cards to non-residents.

Update: Check this out, free magazines aren’t just limited to current issues anymore: Zinio Now Offers Free Back Issues of Magazines Through Public Libraries.

17 Responses to “Have You Tried Any Free Digital Magazines From Public Libraries Yet?”

  1. I have about 25 magazines that I read regularly with my local library’s contract with Zinio. The library (Silicon Valley city of Santa Clara) offers about 100-150 different magazines, but what I like most is that they offer a good intellectual variety ranging from AAAS’s Science to Harper’s to Utne Reader to PC Magazine. On a couple recent 5-hour flights, the number of issues I had on my tablet allowed me to switch when I was weary of a particular subject. Along with the ebooks I had on my tablet, I have dozens of hours of thoughtful entertainment.

  2. Aw man, you are rubbing dirt in the wound. My library doesn’t support it.

  3. I’ve downloaded many of the 100 magazines from our Viking Library System in Minnesota. I love it! I love that the Zinio app for libraries always has dozens of featured magazine titles, not part of the library package, that include a free article from each, with the option to buy the magazine. Might that be a factor in enabling the other magazines to be free? Also, all those free magazines still have lots of ads that are reaching a lot more readers this way. I would also mention that there’s a print option for magazines with patterns, recipes, etc. It’s great!

  4. I like this new service. It gives me a chance to try new magazines. My library offers 80 digital magazines. Brooklyn Public Library does not support the service at this time, at least I couldn’t find it. The Zinio app, compared to the dedicated iPad app for National Geographic, is a bit clunky but workable. How this is going to generate a profit for Zinio is unclear to me, but I will enjoy the service while it is available.

  5. I can view the selection on my Nook HD+, choose the ones I want to read, but can’t open them as the device does not support them.

    • The Nook HD+ does support the Zinio app and the library magazines. The app runs slow on the HD+. Lots of black screen while swiping between pages but will display the page after a 1-2 second delay. The app runs smoother on an iPad, using the same Internet connection, then on the Nook HD+. It does work though on Nook HD+. Did you install the Zinio app from the Google Play Store on your HD+ and link your 2 Zinio accounts?

  6. I live in southern California, and unfortunately neither of the public library systems that I have access to (Los Angeles County and Ventura County) are participating in this program yet.

    • Keep an eye open. It’s a new program so maybe they just haven’t had a chance to get the system up and going yet.

    • Los Angeles city library has a large collection. True, the county selection is much smaller. I’m loving it.

  7. The Los Angeles Public Library doesn’t have this capability yet, but they have Overdrive, Axis 360 and EBSCO for e-books to name a few. I’ve used the Zinio platform for many years, but I have a question about the Library version. The version I use allows you to print out articles, but it now puts your account name across the text as a watermark which makes the article unreadable. Crystal you indicate there’s a print feature. Have you tried it yet? Do you get the watermark? Please let me know. Personally I find it sort of annoying.

    • Jim, I’ve printed pages from the quilt magazines and have gotten the exact duplicate of the page with absolutely nothing else on it. And if the magazine has a pattern insert, the digital edition provides a link to a PDF file. I haven’t tried printing from other magazines, but I’m guessing that it would be the same.

    • Jim, Los Angeles County Library now has the Zinio magazines available

  8. Crystal, the Windows version of the Zinio reader that I use has not been updated in more than a year and is about to be replaced anyway. I’ll have to look for a public library in California that has the Zinio magazines and join it. In California you can join most public libraries as long as you can show California residency.

  9. Jim, if you find a California library that has Zinio magazines please let me know. I started searching after Nathan’s post last week and haven’t found any mention so far in LA, San Diego City or County, or Kern County.

    • Orange County both Newport Beach and Yorba Linda are participating. Got my Newport beach library card this week and it works great.

  10. Los Angeles County Library just added the Zinio magazines.

  11. Jermain Johnson October 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I live in new York in Manhattan and I tried five public libraries in New York and nobody knows about this program. Please can you help me.