I have been a National Geographic subscriber for more than a year now. The subscription I am talking about is the digital version of the magazine. It has all the contents of a regular physical magazine, but you read digitally, from your iPad or iPhone. Though you don’t have the physical copy, there are several advantages to subscribing to a digital one. First, is the portability and mobility of carrying the magazine. You don’t have to add extra weight to your bag when carrying the physical magazine around. The Nat Geo app, which allows you to read the digital versions allows you to read comfortably on your iPhone or iPad. This is great for commuting, especially when you want to insert reading time in between traveling without the hassle of carrying the actual magazine.
The digital magazine comes packed with interactive features not found in the physical copy. Sections such as daily news, instagram photos, interactive maps, visualizations, diagrams and embedded video clips that enhances the story and articles being written and told are not found in physical copies. This makes the entire experience much more immersive, meaningful and best of all, being able to better connect emotionally to the stories being told about places, people and events around the world.
The subscriptions are usually cheaper. Physical magazine subscriptions usually costs more. This is mainly because of the actual printing, and distribution of the magazine to your doorstep on a regular basis right to your doorstep. With the digital version, you simply download data, digital bits and bytes that would ultimately make up the magazine itself. It is hassle free, as the downloads are usually automatic and comes on the day the issue is released, as compared to waiting for a couple of days to allow the magazine to be shipped to you. And because there is no printing involved, you save the environment along the way, saving paper and ink.
Of all the magazines that I’ve looked at, National Geographic is by far one of the best. It has its own dedicated app to download, manage and read the magazine. The magazine is also formatted correctly depending on whether you are reading the magazine from your iPad or from your iPhone. This maximizes comfort when reading text and and interacting within the pages no matter what the screen size is. Therefore, they actually have a dedicated team ensuring that the experience you get out from reading the magazine is consisted throughout, regardless of where you read it form.
I have contemplated subscribing to other magazines such as The New Yorker, Discover Magazine and perhaps American Scientific. However I am still hesitant, as the digital counterparts are not as robust and mobile-friendly compared to National Geographic. However, one distinct advantage is that you can read all the articles featured in the magazine from your PC, from their website, just by logging onto your account. Paywall articles will become accessible to you once you are a subscriber. If you wish to read from your phone or tablet, you can ready the PDF versions of the magazines. However, I find the PDF versions to be clunky, and difficult to navigate, and it is not different than reading a scanned copy of the magazine with no way to reformat the article to suit the screen size of your tablet or phone. The New Yorker however has its own dedicated app to read the articles just like National Geographic, but that magazine features articles that touches on topics like the Arts, politics, general interests and current affairs. I’m still not sure if the articles in the magazine would be enjoyable to read, considering the topics that are featured, despite its excellent reporting.
Discover magazine and American Scientific have apps that allows your read the digital versions on your mobile or tablet, but they simply offer simple pdf versions of the magazine, which like I said, makes reading clunky as the documents are oversized, and you have to constantly zoom in and out to read that little snippet of text somewhere in the magazine. Simply put, it is not optimized for reading on your mobile devices. What makes it attractive though is access to the articles from the website itself, and the website has a very good layout to begin with with regards to reading long-form articles. Simply log in and you have the full access to all the articles and materials found in the actual magazine itself, and they even throw you access to past editions as well. Subscription is also very cheap, considering they are waiving the cost of printing and shipping the physical magazine.
So there you have it, the pros and cons of reading digital magazines. I am most probably going to try out subscribing to Discover magazines, because they have an offer of subscribing 2 years worth at a very very cheap price.