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My Zinio adventures

My Classic Toy Trains subscription lapsed. I decided I wanted to subscribe to the digital edition and see if I liked the paper reduction enough to live with the DRM restrictions. I can always switch back to paper next year, right?

So I went to and tried to subscribe, and had nothing but problems getting them to take my money.

They wouldn’t take my Discover card, so I whipped out my Visa debit card. They declined the card. Helpfully, they said to contact my bank. So I contacted my bank. They blocked the transaction because it came from Great Britain, and there’s a lot of fraud coming from Great Britain. Nice. In the meantime, I contacted Zinio customer service, and I’m still waiting for a response.

So I decided to try going through the publisher–Kalmbach, in this case–instead. Yes, they’ll process the subscription, and yes, they’ll take my Discover card just fine.

So if Zinio won’t take your credit card and your bank can’t help, track down the magazine’s publisher and try buying the digital subscription from their web site instead.

Making me think twice about buying something is a very bad idea, but in this case I wanted it badly enough to try again. That trick worked. A few minutes later, I was reading my magazine.

Speaking of reading those digital magazines… Zinio lets you view it in your web browser, but it crashes a lot. Now I understand why Steve Jobs banned Flash from Apple devices. I was able to crash the Flash plugin four times in five minutes. No joke. Turn a page, crash. Find an article I might want on paper, hit the print icon, and crash. Another time I was just reading a page and it crashed. Fortunately Zinio has its own reader that runs outside a browser, and lets you download and read offline. It works much better. The downside is that the reader–on Windows at least–brings along all kinds of dependencies with it, like Adobe Air. Make sure you download and install Secunia PSI if you take that route–you’ll need it to keep all that software up to date.

Trying it out on Android is on my to-do list. That approach works better on Android, since Android apps update continuously. No exaggerating. I have a couple dozen apps on my Android devices, and at least one of them updates every single day.

Is it worth it? Well, being able to search entire magazines for keywords of interest immediately is very nice. Being able to immediately find an article a few months after I read it will also be nice.

I’m disappointed that most digital magazines sell for the same price as paper. Yes, there’s a convenience factor that’s worth something, but there’s no printing cost and no mailing cost, so it would only be fair to pass a little of that savings on to readers. Maybe that will eventually correct itself. After all, then people will buy more magazines, which will drive circulation rates up, which will increase what they can charge for advertising.

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