Last night I planned on writing a post about borrowing digital magazines from my public library and reading them on my iPad. I hadn’t actually set up the account to do it yet but I figured, how hard could it be? I’d get home from work, set up the account, get a few magazines, browse through them and write a post about it. An hour of research and prep time and then the post would be a breeze.

Now I consider myself to be a fairly technically savvy person. I have, after all, worked as IT support, done database and network administration and a bunch of other IT related things I won’t bore you with. So why did it take me an hour — an hour! — to be able to get my digital account set up? I didn’t even have to download or install anything.

My public library uses the digital magazine subscription service called Zinio. They aren’t strictly for libraries, anyone can buy digital magazine subscriptions through them. But to get it free, I have to login through my library. So I first had to create an account at my library to allow me to get to my library’s Zinio landing page. Then I had to create an account with Zinio.

The problems came with the Zinio account. I created an account, or at least I think I did, and tried to login but it told me my username and password didn’t work. So I backed all the way out and started from the beginning, logging in to my library account and then into Zinio. Still didn’t work. So I changed my password thinking maybe I was typing it wrong and didn’t realize it. Zinio had my email on record and sent me a password reset so that means I have an account, right? But it still didn’t work. I tried a gazillion different ways to login and went at it from a gazillion different angles and every time I thought I was finally logged in and chose a magazine to “subscribe” to, it told me I had to pay.

At this point I was getting so angry you don’t want to know what sorts of things I was grumbling out loud. Thank goodness Bookman wasn’t home from work yet and the cats don’t speak English and couldn’t report me when he got home.

Did I mention I was trying to get this all to work on my iPad and my laptop? I started with my iPad and got sick of having to deal with the touchscreen keyboard so switched to my laptop. On the brink of giving up, I clicked on something, I have no idea what, entered my username and password and it suddenly all worked. I think I might have yelled something like, “Holy sh*t! WTF did I just do?” I still don’t know, but when I used my iPad to login it all worked just fine and Zinio knew I was on an iPad, sent me directly to the app store for the free app download and it all just worked.

Of course I don’t get to choose any magazine from the thousands that Zinio offers, my selection is limited by my library. So here is what I subscribed to: Discover, Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening, The Writer, Harper’s, Mental Floss, New Scientist, Poets & Writers, The American Poetry Review, Utne and Vegetarian Times. I just went crazy and have never read a few of them but they seemed worth investigating.

The magazines all show up in my personal “library” and Zinio will send me emails when new editions arrive which will also appear automatically in my library. Let me just say that looking at the photos in Organic Gardening on my iPad is marvelous. They are beautiful, bright, crisp, and have a sort of glowy quality. The text is another matter. So tiny! I can make it bigger within the layout of the magazine but then have to move the page around on the screen to be able to read it all. Zinio also offers the ability to tap a “text” button and just the text of the article will pop up in front of the magazine page in a decent font size. But if it still wasn’t good enough, I also have the option of making it bigger but this time it doesn’t distort the page because it is text only that you just scroll through. Spiffy!

One of the things I enjoy about reading magazines is tearing out pages of articles I really liked and want to save. There is no doing this in a digital magazine. However, Zinio has a cool bookmark feature that lets you bookmark articles into a separate file and then name them what you want. So Zinio as a reader works great.

What I really liked about reading the digital magazines is that all websites mentioned in articles are hyperlinked. Also, I found Mother Earth News often says at the end of the article something like (for example), “for more information on growing sweet potatoes” and then has a link. I can click on the link, it takes me to the webpage with loads of detailed information and then I can save the page in my browser read it later file.

Check your public libraries out there for a similar service. After the initial hour of swearing it all came together and is really fantastic. And don’t think you need an iPad, you can use a computer or other mobile device. If your library has such a service, I hope your experience of setting it up goes much more smoothly than mine did!