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I’ve written previously about free music from the public library via its Freegal service. And of course the rise of digital e-books which are not only free, but even save you the trip to the library that was required for the borrowing of hardcopy books through the minimal effort of downloading and setting up the Overdrive application. Well, just recently I learned about a new free service from the public library – electronic copies of magazines that can be borrowed.

The application for obtaining free magazines is called Zinio. It’s available for iOs, Blackberry and Android devices, although apparently not yet for e-readers. Unfortunately e-readers tend to be proprietary, which is why I chose to go directly to a tablet. That way all the e-reader applications work on my single device.

Now, Zinio is not a perfect method for reading magazines. In fact, some would argue that the new model for reading magazine-type content has yet to be developed. That argument may be true, although I think applications like Flipboard are getting close. Especially now that Flipboard allows individuals to ‘curate’ their own online magazine content and give other readers access to that content.

I tend to agree with the critics. After just a couple days trying out reading magazines via Zinio, I’m finding the need to keep pinch zooming-out the content to make it legible is getting old quickly. But I’m trying to read these magazines the way I read paper magazines – front cover through to back cover. If on the other hand I was to simply find out about specific articles that I wanted to read, and go directly from the table of contents to that article, I doubt I would find the zooming requirement nearly as annoying. Nonetheless, having the magazine format responsive to the screen size on which it’s being viewed, would be a huge improvement to the application.

Shortly after signing up for my Zinio membership (this is one of the requirements for reading Zinio-provided magazines from the public library), I received a promotional e-mail from Zinio offering $10 off my first purchase through Zinio. Beware the fine print, however “Offer good only on purchases made on www.zinio.com. Not valid on gift card purchases, Z-Pass memberships or for Paypal transactions.” Oh, and the $10 offer expires in precisely 10 days. Nice, Zinio, since purchasing a 3-magazine Z-Pass subscription is probably the only way I would actually consider paying for your service. In reality I would probably not purchase a Z-Pass though since it’s not a compelling business case even compared to Next Issue which offers a $9.99 package for access to all monthly magazines – about 800 of them. Plus all weekly magazines for an extra $5 a month.

Way to apply pressure to start spending money on your service immediately. But I guess any private company that according to one of its employees has never made a profit in 12 years of operation must be looking for ways to encourage monetization of its service. For now, I’ll stick with the free version through my library, thanks. I’ve already paid for it.