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Zinio offers new viewer

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Zinio Systems, which helped establish the market for digital editions of print publications with its Zinio Reader platform, last month delivered a new version of its technology that renders magazines within a Web browser.

The new browser-based viewer, Zinio Express, eliminates concerns publishers may have had about forcing their readers to download the Zinio Reader, which in previous versions weighed in at a hefty 15 megabytes.

Along with Zinio Express, the vendor also released a new version of Zinio Reader, which among other enhancements features a download size of just 1.5 megabytes and a 70% faster "page flip," greatly improving performance, said David Zinman, Zinio's senior VP-marketing.

Digital editions are growing in popularity as publishers find them a useful way to get high-fidelity, "print like" electronic versions of their magazines into subscribers' hands at reduced costs. Digital edition circulation has grown by 56% in the past six months, according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) and BPA Worldwide publisher statements.

Indeed, because new audit rules allow publishers to count digital editions as part of their print circulation, publishers have responded by experimenting with the technology to lower circulation costs for hard-to-reach reader groups, such as international subscribers.

"Digital is something publishers have always dabbled with," said Sean Fulton, VP of GCN Publishing, which has worked with several publishers, including BZ Media's SD Times, on digital edition strategies. "One of the drawbacks was worries about forcing readers to download a big reader program. There were also concerns from publishers about getting locked in to a particular vendor."

Zinio claims that concerns about vendor lock-in are overblown-and mainly marketing attacks from competing vendors. "It has no basis in reality," Zinman said. "For our customers, it's never been an issue at all. They may have had an issue using client software versus the browser, but that's why we came out with a browser-based version."

Still, different digital edition vendors have different approaches. For instance, Olive Software and others sell publishers enabling technology and then get out of the way.

Zinio has a more mixed strategy. While the Zinio Reader and related technologies can be privately labeled, Zinio executives compare their newest reader to Apple iTunes, in that it offers a complete environment that allows users to download, manage and even search across large collections of digital magazines.

Zinman contends the Zinio Reader offers a much richer experience for readers, while a browser-delivered digital edition is better suited for readers who want to sample a digital edition in the form of a promotional or "trial" edition.

Zinio contends its strategy is succeeding. By its own count of ABC and BPA audits, it has a 61% share of the digital edition market. Since March 2002, it has delivered more than 26 million digital magazines to more than 1.6 million customers in 232 countries. Its publisher customers include McGraw-Hill, Reed Business Information, VNU and Ziff Davis. 

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