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Digital Magazine Services for Your Library This Summer
Posted On July 7, 2015
This summer’s beachgoers will probably be bringing along paper magazines to help them relax on the sand. But for other lazy days this season—lying in a hammock in the shade, lying on the couch in the air-conditioning—it’s undeniably cheaper to get digital magazines from local libraries to read on a mobile device. The following services help libraries offer e-magazines to their patrons. Read on to compare their features and for a sneak peek of what they’re doing next.


EBSCO Information Services’ Flipster provides school and public library patrons with “[i]nstant access to the most popular magazines.” They can log in to the service from their library’s website with their library card number and read magazines online or get the app to download and read titles offline; they don’t need to create a separate Flipster account. Tracey Paine, director of product management for Flipster, notes that “we don’t force patrons to enter their email address and we don’t collect emails because we are not trying to sell magazines to library patrons.” 

Flipster has a collection of more than 500 magazines that patrons can browse by alphabetical listing or by category, including Consumer ReportsPeopleSports IllustratedTIMEMen’s JournalRolling Stone, Us Weekly, Forbes, and Bloomberg Business Week. Content is added on a weekly basis.

The reading interface is clean and intuitive, says Paine. “The most frequent feedback we get from librarians is that people ‘just get it’ and librarians don’t have to explain how to use it.” She says this benefits patrons who are using library services remotely as well as libraries that want to expand their outreach by drawing nontraditional users to their website. Flexible subscription options are available for libraries, and Flipster advertises “No hidden platform fees.”

In the future: “Our future plans include releasing an updated interface that will provide users with the optimal experience across all devices. And, we are about to release our native iPhone application,” says Paine. Additionally, EBSCO plans to integrate its databases with Flipster so users can access Flipster content from within the databases.

App: Patrons can download the free app from the Google Play Store (for Android phones and tablets) or the Apple App Store (for the iPad and iPad Mini).


Gale’s InfoTrac offers consumer magazines, scholarly journals, newspapers, and other reference sources to public, academic, K–12 school, and special and government libraries. Its focus is on improving research by making timely, full-text articles easily available as HTML and PDF files. Each resource is enhanced with features such as manual subject indexing by experts (including librarians), low-to-no embargos on content, ReadSpeaker text-to-speech functionality for 22 languages, and the ability to download every article as an MP3 file in any language. Additionally, patrons can highlight text in and add notes to the articles, as well as print and export information, facilitating “powerful project management,” says Phil Faust, VP and publisher for databases at Gale.

Publications include Newsweek, The Economist, and USA Today magazine. Patrons can cross-search periodicals and ebooks if their library subscribes to Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL).

Recent enhancements to InfoTrac position it as a mobile-friendly, accessibility-conscious service, says Faust. They include improved navigation, content visible in prime locations on the page, toolbars and filters on the right side of the page, and high-contrast banners and buttons to make text easily viewable.

In the future: “We are continually improving and expanding the platform to include news, trade, and popular magazines, in addition to scholarly peer-reviewed journals (more than 1,000 new titles per year),” says Faust. Gale will work with its parent company, Cengage Learning, to deliver InfoTrac content that is closely tied to school curriculums.

App: InfoTrac features responsive design so it’s easily usable on both desktop and mobile devices, although there are plans to “make our content more easily accessible via apps … through closer integration with leading technology providers,” Faust notes.


OverDrive partnered with Barnes & Noble’s NOOK brand to begin offering digital magazines and newspapers to schools and libraries. To read them, patrons need to sign up with their library card, create a NOOK account, and download the free NOOK app (if they don’t already have a NOOK tablet). OverDrive offers simultaneous access to all of a library’s selected publications, so they need only purchase one copy of each title, and the periodicals are available on the same platform as the library’s ebooks, audiobooks, and streaming videos from OverDrive.

“OverDrive has always been known for the largest catalog, and libraries frequently asked us to consider adding magazines and newspapers,” the company notes. “In evaluating the options, we recognized the Barnes & Noble/NOOK offering as having the best value proposition, with a strong catalog of magazines and newspapers and a superior app.” OverDrive found that adding periodicals leads to higher overall circulation for libraries.

There are more than 1,000 popular magazines and newspapers from various countries available for borrowing, including Family Circle; O, The Oprah Magazine; The Atlantic; Popular Science; and ESPN The Magazine. Newspapers include national, regional, local, and college publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, and The Washington Post. Magazines display in typical magazine layout, and newspapers have familiar style formats.

In the future: “As we continue to do in our entire catalog, we will be adding more content, specifically more magazines and newspapers, especially international editions. We also expect to expand the service to libraries outside the U.S.,” according to OverDrive.

App: To access digital magazines and newspapers on a non-NOOK device, patrons need to download the free NOOK app (for major Android- and Windows 8-based devices as well as iPhones and iPads).


PressReader’s solution for public, academic, and special libraries allows them to offer patrons “a comprehensive digital resource, while minimizing costs.” Its database of more than 4,000 newspapers and lifestyle, business, and sports magazines includes The Washington Post, Business Traveller, and ForbesDaily as well as other local, regional, and international titles from 100-plus countries in more than 60 languages. Additionally, it has partnerships with thousands of global hotels, major cruise lines, Qantas, and Uber that provide travelers access to the PressReader platform.

Patrons can use the service in the library with PressReader HotSpot, which gives them unlimited access via the library’s Wi-Fi connection. They can view titles on their own mobile devices and laptops without logging in and can download titles to read later at home. Outside the library, patrons can view the periodicals by logging in with their library card number on the Library PressDisplay web portal. They “can subscribe to alerts on topics so any time a subject they’re interested in comes up in the media, they’ll get a notification. They can comment, share and interact socially with our content,” notes PressReader. The periodicals can also translate instantly in up to 17 languages so readers can view international content in their own languages.

In the future: According to PressReader, “the two things you will continue to see ongoing improvement in are our catalog (we add many publications every month, and our catalog is growing all the time); and our product itself. Our team is always working on adding new features, improving the user experience, and trying to make PressReader better and easier to use all the time.”

App: Library users can access the web portal via their mobile device. For general access to PressReader, users can download the app for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Desktop, Windows 8, Kindle, Windows Phone, and Mac devices.


Zinio for Libraries is distributed by Recorded Books, an audiobook and digital media provider to a variety of markets. Zinio, which also has a consumer component, has facilitated 30 million checkouts—in public, academic, school, military, and corporate libraries—since its launch in September 2012. Patrons need a library collection account to check out magazines on their computer or mobile device and a personal reading account to stream the magazine immediately via a web browser or to download checked-out magazines for offline reading. They can check out an unlimited number of magazines (without waiting for holds) and keep them in their account permanently; there is no loan period.

Magazines are organized by title or category, and each current issue offers the option to browse for back issues. Its catalog has 3,000 titles, including Billboard, Fast Company, Car and Driver, American Patchwork & Quilting, and the National Enquirer.

The company recently introduced an HTML5 online reader that is accessible directly from each library’s web portal. Ongoing staff and patron training and support are part of a library’s subscription to the service.

In the future: According to Zinio, “Zinio for Libraries will soon offer mobile support through the HTML5 online reader, allowing patrons direct streaming access to magazines without the need to download and install the ZfL [Zinio for Libraries] apps. New and exciting titles continue to join the catalog, including a renewed focus on children’s content.”

App: Patrons can download the free apps for iPads, iPhones, Android tablets and smartphones, and the Kindle Fire HD and HDX. The consumer app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows 8 devices, as well as for the desktop.

Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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Comments Add A Comment
Posted By Bryan Nick7/10/2015 6:57:22 AM

Many Libraries have embraced this digital change. Good to see libraries swift acceptance to the changing reading habits of people. I am a member of the WTCox Library. They have associated with Magzter digital magazine store which enables the library members to read more than 6000 magazines digitally on smart devices for free. Thanks to the digital technology and the newsstands which are making reading a blissful experience.

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