For magazine lovers, tablets are worth flipping over.
You can carry hundreds – nay, thousands – of magazines on a super thin and lightweight device, and flip through it all with a simple finger swipe.
There are many tablet apps that aggregate digital versions of magazines, such as Zinio and MediaWire, and some, like Flipboard, create a personalized magazine based on your interests.
Now there’s Next Issue, an app for iOS, Android and Windows 8 devices that gives you unlimited access to more than 125 magazines starting at $9.99 per month ($14.99 a month for weeklies, too, like Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker and Time). Consider it the Netflix for magazines as it’s an “all you can eat” buffet model opposed to a pay-for-what-you-download “a la carte” approach.
While it lacks some key features, it’s a good start, and with a hearty selection of magazines to choose from.
After you sign up for a Next Issue account, you’ll see thumbnails of magazine covers to subscribe to. By default, magazines are presented alphabetically — from All Recipes to Yoga Journal – therefore you’ll tap to add them to your personalized library. Being the geek that I am, I selected PC Magazine, Popular Science, Wired, Geek and a few others (Rolling Stone, Inc. and Esquire). The latest issue of a particular magazine will load first, but you can also have the app queue up previous months – also represented via thumbnail images of the front cover – which you can tap to download.
While it varies, a new magazine downloads in about 5 to 10 seconds over Wi-Fi (the app also supports cellular connectivity). You can also select “Automatic Download,” to have the app automatically download the latest issue of your favorite magazines whenever the app is opened. Because your magazine preferences are tied to your account, you can log into Next Issue from a number of devices and it’ll know what you like to read.
When you flip through magazines with your fingertip – just like an ebook – you can swipe right to left to turn pages between features and columns, and up and down to read the story. Tested on an iPad Air, Next Issue is quite intuitive to use; the pages load quickly; and the images and text are crisp. You can also pinch to zoom in and out or double-tap to return to the main view (one magazine page to fill the tablet screen).
Some of the front covers are animated, too, such as Wired’s January 2014 issue, with a man’s smartwatch and augmented glasses cycling through content.
If you tap the screen once, you’ll see a navigation bar appear at the bottom of the screen, which allows you to jump to main sections, as well as Masthead, Editor’s note, etc. Or you can press and swipe your finger left and right over the bar to “scrub” forward and back through the magazine. There’s also an Index tab in the top left of the page to hop to various departments. While I didn’t see it often, some of the links are active, which opens up a web browser.
Unfortunately, Next Issue is lacking a few things. For one, there’s no keyword search to quickly find what you’re looking for. In other words, you can’t locate a word or phrase inside a magazine, such as “quiche,” “Google Glass,” “Obama” or “Katy Perry.”
On a related note, there’s no way to search for magazines by keyword, such as typing in “Entrepreneur,” “Oprah,” “Cosmo” or “Golf Digest.” By comparison, the Zinio app has a search window in the top right of the main page to find a particular title. You can, however, sort your magazine library by New, Date, Title, Last Opened and Download.
It would also be good if you could tap on a word in a magazine article to get a dictionary definition – like you could in an ebook.
And while you can print a page wirelessly on a compatible printer, there’s no way to share what you’re reading via email or text (SMS). There’s optional Facebook integration, but no Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or other social media sites. You also can’t bookmark a favorite article or way to “clip” something you like to easily find later. I also didn’t find any multimedia in the magazines, such as videos or audio clips.
As you can see, Next Issue has some room to grow.
Shortcomings aside, its selection of more than 150 high-profile magazines is certainly impressive — with publication partners like Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp, Time and Rogers – and all at a reasonable cost per month for unlimited access. But you don’t need to read between the lines to see the app will be even more appealing once more features are added.