02 April, 2013

Review: BBC History Magazine Delivery Options

As a long time fan of BBC History Magazine I was frustrated when my bifocals were no longer up to the challenge of it's text. It is a beautifully designed magazine, the sort I enjoy flipping through as much as I enjoy reading. Unfortunately the effect of small fonts and bold colors meant slow going. So last year I started exploring my iPad options.

My first stop was Zinio. The subscription price was reasonable and I read other magazines with this app. Unfortunately, the thing that makes Zinio ideal for those is not enabled for the BHM. When reading articles in some magazines, Zinio brings the selected article up in a pop up window, allowing you to enjoy the layout without sacrificing readability. For BHM you can only pinch and zoom - moving the entire page and being forced to zoom it back before turning the page. It's tedious, but not impossible. My life doesn't lend itself to tedium, so I have 12 issues all half read in my Zinio library. A big change from my cover to cover preference.

Next I gave Amazon a shot. With the Kindle Fire on the market I assumed the BHM would be a full color magazine with all the detailing I adore. It was very much not. Large blocks of black and white text, tiny tokens of art begging for space on the page, the effect was to make me appreciate even more the artistry of BHM's staff. Kindle for iPad rendered BHM high school textbook dull. I quickly abandoned it. It was a can of Ensure when I wanted a full meal.

The last option under consideration was the native iPad app. I use a few Newsstand apps. The lack of consistency across them is similar to the lack of consistency across Zinio, but with a further irksome aspect. Each Newsstand app requires it's own password and it's own operation quirks. While the magazine in the iPad app is the most attractive (and possibly the most readable) it still lacks complete immersion. The iPad native version of BHM is my favorite, so I committed for a year. We'll see how that stacks up against my Zinio experience.

I didn't try Google Play out - but there is always next year. BHM has a roundup of your delivery options with prices per country as well. It's interesting to me that unlike American based magazines UK Print subscribers have to pay extra for a digital version. The U.S. market has a weird convention that buying a paper version means free access to the digital one. I think digital delivery is a medium that hasn't quite matured but my eyes hope we find the right balance soon.

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