I agree with some of my readers who think this page flipping of digital magazines is a joke but if this is what it takes to get magazines to publish a digital version then by all means, go for it. I think there’s a very small portion of your audience that’s looking for a digital version but is not comfortable with it unless it looks like a magazine and the pages flip. Whatever.

These things seem to be sprouting up everywhere lately:

The originals: zinio.com and issuu.com

Trying to become legit: mygazines.com

More: ceros.com, openzine.com

What I find truly annoying with someone like zinio is that they save the publisher money on printing, paper and postage but still try and charge the same as a printed magazine. I don’t like reading digital flipping magazines in the first place but will do it to save time, money and trees. I would probably subscribe to 40 of these if they were a dollar apiece but if it’s the same price as print I prefer paper. What I really want to do is browse all the magazines and pay to read the articles that interest me. That’s how it works on the newsstand, why don’t they realize that.


Thanks for the tip Stephen.

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  1. On one hand, it’s hard to believe that the Zinios of the world can keep selling these online turds. On the other hand, it’s no surprise that old-world magazine guys who haven’t gotten out of the business yet would see these things as their online messiah.

    I say, if a magazine can be replaced by a website, it should be. And if it should be, it should be done in a format conducive to the medium. Not forcing a tactile, page-turning experience into a digital, scrolling, point-n-click one. That’s just no bueno!

    Thank God French Vogue didn’t make their Terry Richardson calendar available only on a screen…

  2. Good points STONER, first about the fact Zinios charging for the online subscription is crazy, and second that the content should fit the medium.

    But what about something in between? Issuu looks really nice, and soon it will have hot links in the pages they say. So, what would everyone think about a magazine that was printed, with the same layout online in Issuu format, that maybe linked to extra articles, or videos, or something like that?

    I guess I just don’t want my favorite mags to stop printing :(
    Maybe the online site ad revenue could help? Eh!

    • @bob scott, ZoomZoom actually has a much nicer interface than those fake glossy page-turning types. It seems to embrace the medium better. The content is cool, too!

    • i think the zoozoom interface is great – desn’t get in the way. online great for flipping pages -but reading sucks – all the zooms are clunky and a mag is a lot more convenient than a laptop or desktop – IMHO

  3. Great articles and images will be screen shot(ted) anyways. I can’t believe people will pay for these shenanigans (are they) Rob is right, if we’re paying the same who would rather the digital copy?

    That being said, don’t like what it could do for photographers. Yeah lower production costs in printing and distribution will bring down budgets, but it could give these once reputable mags a reason to push for lower day rates, and less features in general. Yikes.

  4. “What I really want to do is browse all the magazines and pay to read the articles that interest me. That’s how it works on the newsstand, why don’t they realize that.”


  5. Pagegangster was ahead of the curve on this…I kinda dig the format…it is interactive can provide rather large pages etc. If this keep the dream alive then I have no issues with virtual magazines.

    The biggest problem is the lack of good layout design.

  6. For those that want to create a flip book, the free version from http://flashpageflip.com/ seems to do a pretty good job. It’s not full featured but worked fine for my blog.

  7. What a lot of people in this (print) business don’t understand is, WHERE people like to read. Sometimes having a computer with you is inconvenient or uncomfortable (the comfy armchair). And no one has touched on what continuous reading online will do to your eyes down the road.

    I prefer paper for magazines. Newspapers, however, is the one application where I think electronic makes sense. THAT’s a LOT of paper that could be saved, and the zoom and link (contd.) features are neat.

    I can tell you, in the future, there will be a lot of blind, deaf, and arthritic people out there from trying to do everything on their phones.

  8. Hi everyone,

    I”m the CMO for Zinio and wanted to respond to this great stream. It looks like some business elements of Zinio may have been overlooked. Like Finn said above- there is a desire for flipping through mags and paying for article you want. Zinio actually offers most of their magazine content for browsing for free. Check it out- go to Zinio.com and type in something in search you want to know about: sky diving, iphones etc and the result will show you the magazines that have articles on the content, and let you read that article for free. If you want to buy the magazine issue or subscriber after that its your call.

    As far as pricing goes, many of our magazines are sold at the same rate as print, but many are sold for less. Publishers are still testing the waters on this one, and so are we, but we will keep you aprised of what we net out with in the end. That said… check out GoReadGreen.com which offers over 200 Zinio titles for FREE to help increase awareness of this growing trend.

    Finally, as far as creative goes – you are all right- flipping through a digital version of a magazine that is flat like print doesn’t always wow, but this year, lots and lots of publishers are making their online magazines interactive.

    If you havent seen them yet, check out VIVmag.com (while it is still free – the entire magazine is interactive, content and ads) or Woodworkers journal. Elle did an interactive accessories issues awhile back and many other Zinio clients are building plans to grow the interactive elements in 2009.

    Would love any feedback or comments – email me at jmullen@zinio.com

  9. the problem with online display of printed work is that we are still caught in the computer-science paradigm–essentially “code”- computers scroll content from top to bottom mainly because of programming convention. When you think about it, other than long lists (code) there is no reason websites have to scroll vertically.

    all print mediums “scroll” horizontally. Unless you count centerfolds:)

    Look at computer displays, they are horizontal. We have all this horizontal real estate and yet we are still scrolling vertically! it’s insane.

    websites should be able to be scrolled horizontally. that’s it folks. that’s the answer.

    eventually all this legacy from the “early” days of computing must get cleared away.

  10. “What I really want to do is browse all the magazines and pay to read the articles that interest me”

    Yep, couldn’t agree more.

    It wasn’t so long ago that I was bemoaning the fact that Lonely Planet & Rough Guides weren’t offering electronic chapters for sale. When you travel a lot, sometimes you don’t want the hassle of having to buy an entire guide book.
    Thankfully they do now and it is about time.

    For me there is definitely a long tail customer base that just wants to purchase things as pdf’s and I wish publishers would start waking up to the fact and thinking more about their audience. It is almost as if publishers are yet to realise that the internet is the most powerful delivery mechanism we have.

    Likewise with magazines. I would definitely pay for some articles in a magazine, especially as a digital copy. But paying for an entire magazine online when I only really want one article and it is at the same price as the newsstand version? Forget it.

    Heck, I would pay for just one page that included my published photo, because I’m sure that would be easier than trying to get a copy from the publisher, scanning it and then adding it to my tear sheet collection.

  11. I’m not sure how many have seen this one:


    They are operating on seed money for the first two years, and will work in advertising to fit their model (curious to see how that pans out). I do not believe they have a subscription plan in their future (may be wrong). The good news is they pay market editorial rates (having done some still & video work for them) and were a pleasure to work with…

    But alas, the pages “flyp”… :-)

  12. Great article and thank you for the mention. Although OpenZine is not a pdf digital page flipping waste of time like what you are mentioning like some of the other sites. We here at OpenZine are firm believers in the future of magazines is not a pdf file of an actual print magazine.

    We welcome any and everyone to take a look at the OpenZine platform and see how its different and built for anyone that wants to publish their own magazine (on the internet)


    all of the issues are built on the site with no html and we have a built in image editor for people to make their covers etc etc.

    look at my issues. click on any cover



  13. As the publisher of an on-line magazine (that Rob spoke of with fondness last year) we tried the flippy format. NO ONE that we polled liked it. I think the success of sites like Issuu is that people can make their own magazines and that’s the format Issuu provides.
    We decided on a simple back and forth method of navigation and people seemed to like it (as our hit count reflects) and, coming in the Winter issue, a downladable PDF file that mags like Trace utilize.
    That being said, if enough magazines use the flippy format, it will become word and anything else won’t be accepted as a serious magazine.
    It wouldn’t be so bad if they could just rid of that stupid sound and the perma-glare in the virtual page gutter.

  14. Great Post.

    Rob, can you put your older posts on a different page so my browser doesn’t have to load so much each time I visit your blog? It’s too many images loading at once I think. If there’s something I can do on my end, someone please let me know.


  15. Just came back from an Adobe workshop and the page flipping device is built into the newest version of Indesign–a program which was formerly a print only layout program. In other words, you can layout your “pages” as a magazine and print directly to a flash file. Upload it to the web and you’re done.

    To me it explains, in part, where all these flipping pages are coming from.

    I actually like it myself.

  16. I worked for a publishing company who was one of the first to develop this technology and put it to use in the marketplace. We had several programers who created the system in a flash/scripted format so clients could put it on their websites. It was a really cool idea and visually an exciting way of presenting material meant to be printed in a new “digital” format. My former company not only started to heavily push this “Page Flipping” technology on their clients but began to tell all the designers and editors that they should make duplicate versions of their “Press” files formated for the programmers to easily place onto the websites. We were told this was to be the “future” of publishing so get used to it. They started throwing money at it like the lovable drunks at the Kentucky Derby.

    This idea of the “future” however began to clog up the schedule of production because no one bothered to allow for more time for to reformat every design project to digital spec. Pretty soon we were 3 months, then six months then a whole year behind on certain projects because so much time was being spent converting huge projects into digital formats. Then the IT department discovered that only an average of 6% of visitors to the websites were viewing the “Flip Books” the majority of people viewing the sites were either on a browser that did not support the flash or were using dial-up which would have taken 30 minutes to load a book to look through it in its entirety. These were web sites that were getting 5,000 to 15,000+ hits a day. The whole thing was immediately hushed up and we were told not to discuss it.

    Needless to say I left the company the next year after it became impossible to complete any project on time because of all the poor inter-office communication. The next quarter the company lost well over a million dollars in profit and several million in sales and had about 50% of its work force turn in notices. It became a sweat shop pretty fast from what I hear. That was about 5 years ago. I really do not see this “Page Flipping” BS as anything more than a passing novelty. Clients don’t want to pay for it, people don’t want to take the time to look at it. We are conditioned by the internet to have instant gratification/information why in the world anyone would want to try and go backwards by presenting digital material in an uneasy to use analog format is beyond me.

    The publishing industry as we know it, I am sad to say is going to have to die. Look yourself in the mirror and you know it is true. But this death is not the end but a cycle which will allow for a new beginning. Everything goes in cycles of being created, destroyed and then created again. What will still be around from the old days will be the classic book format and the very high end collectable printing or book. Magazines as a whole will continue to exist for several years but then like polaroid film will soon become a novelty of the past, I do however believe the popular magazines will be around for another 15 or so years but will be printed in much fewer quantities. Five years from now when we have digital print media readily available via paper-thin LCD screens at affordable rates powered by wireless technology with micro solid state hard-drives and micro XD chips we will all be wondering why we thought we would miss the paper news. We will simply subscribe to the services we want and wake up every morning to find them delivered to our hard drives the way the paperboy used to leave it on our doorsteps. >>>>>TO THE FUTURE!!!!

    • @NoOne,
      Straight up! I can’t wait! I also enjoy Rob’s vision of how this sanario will benefit photographers etc

  17. For goodness sake, you al seem to be missing the point. The fact is ad revenues are falling massively. The only growth area is online. Fact. it is also a fact that traditional forms of online advertising (banners, skyscrapers etc) don’t really ‘work’ any more. Click-through rates are in the region of 0.2%. Fact. It is in fact, Google who is hoovering up the cash by selling adwords and PPC campaigns. And whilst they might generate traffic, they don;t necessarily generate sales. So the publishers and content owners need to find a format that actually does work online. Guess what? Interactive ads in online magazine do work. Fact. I totaly agree that expecting people to pay for access to online magazines is madness, but generating revenue from free-to-access online magazines is not. Can you think of any other ad format that provides an entire computer screen as a canvas from which to publish a truly interactive advertisement? You can in an online magazine. Get over it. This is plain economics. Take a look at the ad examples on this page http://www.ceros.com/page/titles and you’ll revise your viewpoint.

  18. I actually use Zinio and is not bad.
    I receive the NAPP magazine.
    I still prefer the paper is more inspiring.

  19. Very interesting thread – my role is to develop online editorial solutions and I agree than meaningful, effective online magazines are VERY rare.

    There seem to be some essentials that a lot of publishers are missing;
    – A direct conversion has limited value to many publications/audiences – ‘designed (and written) for screen’ is the way to actually engage with the reader.
    – You can do a lot more with this technology that is available ‘off the shelf’ – brining in dynamic content, comments, forms, polls, puzzles… if it’s available in Flash or Web2.0 you can, with a little investment, make it work in a page turner.

    However there are also a lot of people putting a downer on page turners and pointing at the ‘web site’ solution – which also doesn’t work for ‘editorial design’ content. We need to get to a point where web design templates can be made a lot more flexible and allow designers to impact and individualize each article.

    I have looked a lot at how we can start to do this, but the platform that allows magazines to be produces and designed on a page by page basis; whilst being fast to load will be able to clean up in the market.

    The insane thing is – both CSS html styling and flash allow us to do this – we’ve just not found a method to do it quickly and affordably; yet.

  20. Really dig Robert Wright’s comment on websites scrolling horizontally instead of vertically.

    Also, “behavior” of the audience matters a lot here. It’s not the medium as much as the way people are currently comfortable using it. People LIKE to flip through magazines, so why not have a digital experience that meets their behavior?

  21. Issuu an “original”? Please – the interface is ultra-sweet and so is the DIY aspect, but if you Google “digital magazines,” you’ll find dozens of companies that have had live linking for years. They “hope” to add it soon? A friggin’ hyperlink?? Give me a break.

    Can’t say much about Zinio other than my system crashes when I try to use it and they send me more spam than just about anybody else.

    I agree w/ the comment about revenue – there’s a market for this stuff, but Zinio and Issuu are two of the worst out there going after it.

  22. Nice thread. Thanks! SO much to keep an eye on in the coming months…

  23. V Magazine in my opinion completely upped the anty with there online version. Huge pages. Glossary section. Zoom in further. Quick page changes, etc. And of course the greatest photography. Very much worth a subscription as it comes with a hard copy !


    would you agree?

    • @gm, oh wow! That was impressive. That’s the kind of people I would want to work with.

  24. I can definitely understand the frustration with the flip book style publication. It seems easier to scroll through a blog or simple web page than to zoom in on a page of a digital magazine.

    First of all, WOW factor is a big reason for the flip style, however, with so many competitors in the space it is beginning to lose its shine.

    However, the biggest reason is creating an interface that is intuitive. Just because Windows is the most used operating system doesn’t mean it is intuitive. In fact, when I switched from using a Windows machine to a Mac, it took me a while to get used to a new operating system. I was so accustomed to the Windows structure, I never stopped to think about whether it made sense. Mac made me realize there are much more intuitive interfaces out there.

    The same is true for the flip style. It is intuitive. We have been reading books for centuries and this is how we are accustomed to reading them. I don’t have to wait for multiple web pages to download, I simply flip the page.

    Digital magazines have one key advantage over printed publications, however. The platform itself leads to much more interactivity. Not to throw another provider at you, but the company I do work for is http://www.yudu.com. Not only can you produce flip style publications, but you can add video, audio, Flash animation, live links, and much more. YUDU even provides an eMarketplace where you can browse both free and paid publications. As an author, you can sell your eBook and get paid for your expertise.

    I wasn’t a believer before, but once I started to really use the format, I found that I love it. I upload all of my PowerPoints after my presentations for the attendees. I publish whitepapers and brochures. It makes it pretty simple to produce great publications.

    Take it for what it’s worth.

  25. Thanks for posting this discussions..

    Talking about page flipping, I think we @ ebooksys not shy in saying we know best about the intuitiveness of this metaphor.

    We started off with Photo Album editing software (FlipAlbum) http://www.flipalbum.com, that helps to organise your digital photos in a flipping album style.

    We have FlipViewer, a FlipBook Viewer that lets you view documents, such as web pages, albums, manuals, catalogs (collectively called FlipBooks) created using FlipPublisher®, FlipAlbum® or any products that create OEB Package Format files (OPF).
    Sample: http://tinyurl.com/flipviewer

    We have FlipViewer XPress, that provide no download access to published magazine.
    Sample: http://tinyurl.com/fvxpress

    It’s just natural to FLIP a digital publication.

  26. Paper is the best, however it depends where you are on the planet. I am in Europe and there are several trade magazines in the US that are published on the web in an e-mag format. They are not cheap, but when you factor in the expensive postage and the ‘lost in the mail’ issues they are a great idea.

  27. have you seen http://platform.idiomag.com – very interesting take on the whole thing. basically it autocreates digital publications from dynamic data feeds – across web/mobile/widget etc. Because it is created on the fly, it can choose a blend of content based on each reader’s taste, and can insert high-performing advertising into the pages…

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