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How Next Issue compares to magazine apps on Android devices

by Marty Gabel

With Apple facing a Department of Justice inquiry about price fixing and collusion with publishers, reading books and magazines on handheld devices is firmly in the spotlight. Your Android tablet (or smartphone) is a great way to consume written material. Google Play Books continues to be a solid way to purchase and download books and magazines, while the success of the Amazon Kindle Tablet exemplifies the public’s desire to consume their reading material in tablet form.

Old school mags on new-school tablets

Just launched into the Google Play Store recently (once a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 exclusive), Next Issue gathers magazines from some of the top publishers around including Hearst, Time Inc, Condé Nast, Meredith and News Corp. The app is offering a free trial for 30 days to entice new customers, and single publications can be purchased individually. But the real draw are Next Issue’s ‘all you can eat’ plans. A basic subscription starts at $9.99 per month and you’ll get to read as many magazines as you choose – certainly cheaper than buying them off the shelf.

And the magazines are fun to read on your tablet, too. They are all properly formatted for tablet screens, making for a comfortable reading experience. If you’re a magazine fan, the service and app are definitely worth a look. What’s more, it’s an experience iPad users can’t get for themselves just yet, but expect an iOS tablet app soon.

Next Issue wasn’t the first to launch a magazine reader specifically for tablets in the Google Play Store. Back last year, we discussed Zinio’s specific tablet launch on Android and discovered it did a pretty good job, too. Over the past few months, the app has continued to be refined and updated and also offers a good selection of publications like The Economist, Rolling Stone, Hello! and US Weekly.

Magazine format without the magazines

What’s interesting is how the magazine format itself is proving to be a popular way to consume news and articles on Android tablets these days, even if you’re not subscribing or buying the individual magazines themselves. Flipboard, the popular iOS app (which will hopefully appear on Android one day), has inspired a number of similar apps that allow readers to take in multiple stories from a variety of sources by simply ‘flipping’ through pages like they would with a magazine. Google Currents, for example, which just recently received a welcome update to increase its update/refresh speed, works nicely on an Android tablet. Choose your sources from a huge list of popular Internet sites and consume all your news in one sitting. There you can click on stories to delve deeper, or just take in the abstracts, rather like you do when browsing a physical magazine.

Zite recently found its way to Android devices, but alas, without tablet support just yet. However, it’s worth a mention here because Zite has some clever technology under the surface. It offers a personalized magazine that automatically learns what you like, and even boasts that it gets smarter each time you use it. Zite taps into your Twitter feed or your Google Reader account and learns about what you’re into, then delivers focused contact to your handset (and, hopefully soon, your tablet). Also of note is that Zite was acquired by CNN last year.

Choices are great!

Why buy 20 magazines on Next Issue when one app can track your history and already knows what you like or dislike? Well, the technology is new and not perfect yet, but there is no denying that the way we consume content these days continues to adapt to us and our devices. There are ways to read a traditional magazine cover to cover on a beautiful hi-res tablet display, or you can simply download an app or two and let them do all the hard work recommending you things as you go.

And even if you’re not ready for app curation or a dedicated magazine newsstand, more often than not, individual titles themselves are available to download as single apps like TIME, People, INC Magazine, and numerous others.

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