If you’re an avid reader whose method of saving a few bucks involves spending an entire day loitering at the nearest Barnes & Noble reading your favorite magazines cover to cover, Next Issue could be a major game changer as well as super time saver. Next Issue is a digital service that operates through a downloadable app that delivers entire magazines straight to your tablet PC for the cost of 3 issues of Entertainment Weekly. But does its quality, selection of choice, and overall performance make it worthy of your consideration?
Some people are calling Next Issue “the Netflix of magazines”. It’s a summation that’s pretty close to accurate, but only if you can ignore the fact that at present time Next Issue only offers a maximum of 32 magazines to Netflix’s bounty of movies and TV shows. That aside, you still might find this a service worth paying for, as long as your taste in magazines doesn’t run too far into the territory of eclectic. All of the periodicals on offer are of the big-name variety, including titles like Better Homes and Gardens, Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, Popular Mechanics, Vanity Fair, and Esquire.
Next Issue offers three options to accommodate your digital reading. The first option lets you make individual magazine download purchases (or set up a recurring monthly digital subscription that you can set to automatically download an issue as soon as it’s available) at fees that are substantially cheaper than paying for an actual print copy. You can also upgrade an existing print magazine subscription to receive digital copies instead, but depending on the magazine’s policies you may have to pay an additional fee per issue to enable the switch-over (there go the savings) – also, upgrading to digital only gives you access to current and future issues and doesn’t give you digital access to back issues. The second and third options of service offer “all-you-can-eat” access, which is divided into two plans: the Basic plan, which runs you $9.99 per month and gives you access to 27 monthly mags, and the Premium plan, which costs $14.99 per month and gets you an extra 5 digital weekly magazines (Entertainment Weekly, People, Sports Illustrated, Time, and The New Yorker – the latter of which is only available on tablet devices with 1024 x 600 pixel resolution, limiting it to 7-inch tablets).
One of the first things you’ll notice that really makes Next Issue stand out as something more than just a digital magazine or a glorified PDF reader is its use of internet connectivity to create an engaging reading experience. For example, in addition to standard content some magazines also offer clickable areas that launch movie trailers and bonus story-related photo galleries. Time magazine makes equally perceptive use of the service’s “connected” nature to deliver something you’d never get in a print version: a real-time newsfeed of developing stories that appears right after the table of contents and provides a brief summation.
Graphics and Rendering
Intended specifically for tablets (currently limited to Android devices, but with an iPad version purportedly in the works), the visual graphics on Next Issue look remarkably good. Colors are crisp, images are sharp, and fonts are easy to read, delivering a cool “light box” feel. Depending on the quality of your vision and your reliance on artificial light to read, this might just be the major upgrade from traditional magazine reading you’ve been looking for. When reading, the application automatically orients to portrait view, which isn’t necessarily a deal breaker but might cause some readers to grumble.
You’d think that navigating your way through a magazine rack – digital or otherwise – couldn’t be that much of a chore. But somehow, Next Issue has managed to find a way to make simple movement from one magazine to another something of a confusing prospect. At best, it’s far from user friendly. This shortcoming is aided and abetted by a confusing task bar that offers limited options, and even then, those options are pretty unclear about what exactly they do. For instance, if you want to peruse the selections of available magazines, you’ve got to tap an icon that reads “Change Selections.” Once you do, you’re driven to a visual layout of all available titles that you can add or remove from your personal library of checked out magazines.
There’s also a “pinning” feature that’s not entirely clear. Apparently, pinning a magazine that you’ve already selected for inclusion in your personal library downloads it onto your tablet for quicker access, and unpinning it removes it from your tablet storage. Special settings on the Next Issue app also let you designate how much internal memory you can set aside for downloading content, which is a good thing if you’re concerned about suddenly running out of space.
Although Next Issue claims to be available on all Android tablets that use Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich (as long as those tablets are 7” or larger with screen resolutions of either 1024 x 600 or 1280 x 800 pixels) there have been reports that some tablets that meet the description aren’t supported. The Next Issue FAQ addresses a workaround for ASUS Transformer, ASUS Transformer Prime, and Acer Iconia 500 users to be able to download the necessary application directly, with the codicil that owners of these tablets may experience performance issues. Of course, this isn’t anything that’s addressed until after you sign up for the free 30-day trial. Fortunately, cancellation isn’t a complex process if you do determine that your tablet isn’t supported.
Next Issue is a useful service that foretells of a time when all reading materials will be available in digital format and a trip to the magazine rack will be an unnecessary waste of energy – an eventuality that shut-ins and those interested in economy of movement will probably wholeheartedly embrace. But its extremely limited selection of magazines is a drawback worthy of serious consideration, especially if you’re not interested in narrowing your choices to only those periodicals that are the most popular on the market. If you’re a reader with selective tastes (raise your hand if you’re a Fangoria fan), you may want to hold out until selection broadens or until another service comes along to satisfy your unique predilections.
At the time of this review, Next Issue is offering a free trial. So there is no reason not to check it out, right?