It took me a while to join the digital magazine age, but thanks to the Zinio app and my local library I now read many of my favourite titles for free.

No more costly magazine subscriptions, nagging re-subscription notices, and endless recycling in my humble home — today my magazines are delivered digitally to my Nexus 7 tablet in full page glorious colour. I am in love.

Use your library to access digital magazines for free with the Zinio app.

Use your library to access digital magazines for free with the Zinio app.

I can keep magazine copies in my digital archive forever and I never get billed for my subscription. Since I read several magazines every month, I’m saving around $250 a year, plus I have access to titles I didn’t even know existed. I’m very into it. You can be into it too.

What is Zinio?

Zinio is an app that gives you access to over 5,000 magazines from a wide range of publishers. The Zinio app runs on Android, Apple, Blackberry, and Windows devices.

Libraries around the world have made deals with Zinio to bring magazine lovers a large number of titles for the price of a frugal library card — which generally costs nothing. Not all libraries carry the same magazines, so you are limited by the selection your library offers.

A small selection of business magazines are available through Zinio and the Toronto Public Library.

A small selection of business magazines are available through Zinio and the Toronto Public Library.

THE TRICK: If you go directly to Zinio.com, you have to pay to subscribe to the magazines! The trick is to access Zinio through your local library to download your magazine subscriptions for free.

The perks of not paying.

Access Zinio through your library to:

  • Save money! For example, my subscription to The Economist used to cost me $184CDN per year plus tax. Now it’s free.
  • Subscribe to an unlimited number of digital magazines, restricted only by your library’s catalog.
  • Keep digital copies forever. Downloaded magazines do not expire like electronic library books.
  • Access back issues of many magazines for free.
  • Read anywhere. A tablet or smartphone is easier to access on the subway than a stack of magazines.
  • Save paper and reduce clutter. No more stacks of magazines filling your home.
  • Get informed, read something new. Instead of reading a small number of magazines, scan through your library’s Zinio catalog and read about world events, pick up a new hobby, or become a better cook. The sky is the limit.

Use Zinio and a subscription to The Economist is free.

Use Zinio and a subscription to The Economist is free.

What you need: A tablet, smartphone, or computer to access recent and archived digital magazines through your library. Oh, you will also need to sign up for a library card and download the Zinio app.

Your library and Zinio: How does it work?

Since briefly mentioning Zinio in my 2013 Gift Guide: 10 Awesome Gadgets Worth the Money. Maybe. many readers have emailed about the magazine app. In helping several people sort though the process, I’ve discovered that access can vary depending on your local library setup and your country of residence. So I’ll share the basic steps for getting the goods working for you at home. I’m friendly like that.

Making Zinio work for free:

Step One: Go to your library’s website. The web address should be listed on your library card. For example, here’s the Toronto Public Library website.

Step Two: Browse the library home page. If your library offers free magazine subscriptions through Zinio, the link is often prominently displayed on the home page. For example, here are two library websites that offer Zinio. Check your local library today.

edmonton library zinio

palo alto library zinio

Step Three: Follow the instructions provided by your library. They’ll explain their process. Generally, log in to the library with your library card number and password, click from your library to the Zinio site where you’ll create another account, and then checkout magazines back at your library’s website.

Checking out The Economist through the Toronto Public Library using Zinio.

Checking out The Economist through the Toronto Public Library using Zinio.

Getting Stuck? Some libraries offer video tutorials to walk you through the process. The Toronto Public Library offers this Zinio Tutorial, which is accessible to everyone. Asking your librarian for a little help isn’t a bad idea either.

Beware of these Zinio gotchas:

  • Passwords. So many passwords. You will need accounts with your library, Zinio, and another website called RB Digital which connects your library to Zinio.
  • Don’t get tricked into paying. If you don’t go through your library to access Zinio, you may get booted into Zinio’s service and get billed for magazines. No fun.
  • Free today, gone tomorrow. Your favourite magazine subscription could end in the near future due to changing deals between publishers and libraries. This happened to me when Rogers Media removed all their digital magazines from Canadian libraries back in October.

Now get connected (or reconnect) with your local library and download a few magazines for free. Be sure to tell them Squawkfox sent you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Love,
Kerry