Going paperless: how to get magazines, newspapers and books on your iPad

Tired of lugging around a big stack of books to read fighting over the latest issues of the paper at your local cafe or flipping through worn-out copies of Cosmopolitan Time Magazine and National Geographic from the early 90s at your doctor’s surgery?

Pick a format any format: web app or PressReader.

If you have an iPad moving your media consumption to digital has many advantages. The convenience factor alone makes it worthwhile as you can have a whole library worth of books newspapers and magazines within easy reach. If you have an internet connection handy you can easily download new stuff to read on the fly once you burn through your existing collection and most digital versions of magazines and newspapers include extra content like photo slideshows embedded video and links to extra content. The iPad’s 9.7in screen and light carry weight (not much heavier than a typical magazine) also makes it the perfect size to consume print media on and for many newspaper and magazine titles you can get free access to the digital version if you’re already a subscriber to the print edition.

There’s a good chance that you’ve already used the iPad’s web browser for accessing a news web site. This is your best option if you want to see the same layout of the news site that you currently get from a desktop browser and it’s also the best format if you want to see an overview of all of the latest stories across the different news sections. The other advantage is that sites are typically completely free to access. However if the site uses Flash for embedded videos like SMH you won’t be able to play them through the iPad’s web browser and news sites don’t usually include all of the content that’s available through the print version like supplements crosswords and cartoons.

This is where discrete apps for individual newspapers come in handy offering an iPad-optimised layout that makes navigation between the different sections a lot easier as well as providing multimedia content that’s easily viewed on the iPad. The only downside is that newspaper apps charge a monthly subscription fee to access them. The Daily and Sunday Telegraph are available together in a single app and costs $7.49 a month to access while The Australian costs $12.99. SMH is currently free but Fairfax is expected to start charging for access shortly. Various international newspapers offer iPad apps as well such as Washington Post which is also offering free access for a limited time.

Another option for accessing newspapers is using PressReader and if you’re a news junkie that likes to read multiple newspapers a day this is definitely your best option. This app lets you access over 2000 newspapers from around the world in their native layout taking advantage of the iPad’s pinch-to-zoom feature for zooming in and out of the pages to read the text. PressReader lets you download seven issues for free after which you can download individual issues at US99c each or go for an unlimited download monthly subscription for US$29.95. While it uses the classic broadsheet layout for each newspaper PressReader offers a few digital conveniences like a section navigation bar at the bottom of the screen a mini browser that lets you navigate through the newspaper using thumbnails of page and a Smart Flow view that re-formats the page in landscape format so you don’t have to zoom in to read each story.

iOS 5 introduced Newsstand for downloading magazines and newspapers on either a per-issue or a subscription basis including our very own APC. Most of the content on offer is magazines. The price per issue is typically cheaper than buying the print version – especially for overseas mags as you don’t need to pay the importing fee that newsagents charge for international magazines – and the advantage of Newsstand is that you get a notification as soon as a new issue is available for download.

Many of these magazines were discrete apps before Newsstand debuted and while they’re still technically discrete apps Newsstand groups them all together and lets you pay for all of your magazines through iTunes saving you from having to hand over your credit card details to individual publishing houses. The digital extras vary between magazines but you can expect things like embedded audio and video content extra images you won’t find in the print version (including 360-degree views that you can rotate with your fingers) the ability to jump to different sections quickly and clickable links.

Another repository for magazines is Zinio. The price for both Zinio and Newsstand publications is typically the same although Zinio appears to have a much larger selection of popular magazines and it’s also easier to navigate through what’s on offer as it splits the catalogue up by categories. In Newsstand you can only browse through the New & Noteworthy section or do a search for that specific magazine title. Worse since Newsstand magazines are technically apps the search function in the Newsstand store looks through apps as well making it harder to find what you’re looking for.

The final piece of the puzzle is books. Apple has its own iBooks app for reading books bought through iTunes and it has a decent selection of popular Australian and classic literature. Apple’s bookstore is a lot easier to navigate through compared to Newsstand as it has its own discrete section that’s separate to apps where you can browse through top charts categories featured books and authors.

For the biggest selection at the cheapest prices however you can’t go past Amazon Kindle. The fact that it’s available for all of the major smartphone and tablet operating systems adds to its appeal as it means you’re not locked into using an Apple device in order to have access to your eBook library in the future. The Kindle app for the iPad doesn’t let you buy eBooks directly from within the app – instead you have to either use the Kindle Cloud Reader or buy books through the Safari browser and then download them separately through the Kindle app. Another eBook reader app worth checking out is Kobo – like Kindle it’s available for a variety of platforms.