RBDigital Magazines, sometimes referred to as Zinio for Libraries, has been all over my Twitter feed this week as users look to use online app services on their tablets and phones to access library materials. I first talked about the Zinio app in my post on free library services that low vision and blind users could benefit from (read my post about online library services here), and since then, I have been using the RBDigital app to read magazines in an accessible format on my iPad for free. Here is my RBDigital Magazines app review for iPad.
RBDigital Magazines/Zinio for Libraries is a free service through local library systems that allows cardholders to check out an unlimited number of magazines, with almost 100 different magazines to choose from. Some examples of magazines include Vogue, Wired, National Geographic, Seventeen, Reader’s Digest, Popular Science, Highlights for Children, and many more. Once magazines are downloaded, they’re stored in the app and can be accessed at any time, online or offline, indefinitely.
Users can access RBDigital Magazines and Zinio for Libraries on their computer or through apps. The RBDigital Magazines app is available on iPad here and Android android here. There is also a Zinio for Libraries app that is no longer updated, but can be downloaded on iPad here and Android here.
There is also an RBDigital app for Kindle that can be downloaded, but I have not tested it. Read more about the Kindle Fire for low vision here.
There are many libraries that are partnering with RBDigital for accessing this service. Large library systems with this service include Boston Public Library, DC Public Libraries, Los Angeles Public Libraries, Chicago Public Libraries, and more. Smaller library systems also are partnering with RBDigital and Zinio, so check to see if yours participates. Speaking of libraries, read more about college libraries and their services here.
To create an account, confirm if your library participates in Zinio Magazines or RBDigital. After that, go to the library website and follow instructions for setting up an account. Each library has a different way of linking accounts to the service. My local library had me connect my library card barcode with my email. After that, login to the RBDigital or Zinio for Libraries app. If you have low vision, I recommend having someone assist with this, as the menu to sign in is difficult to see and does not scale in large print.
By going to the magazine section, users are taken to a page that displays the magazines that are available for download. The current issue is downloaded by default, but back issues can be downloaded as well. There is no limit to the number of magazines types that can be downloaded, nor is there a limit for the amount of issues that can be downloaded. If users use the Zinio for Libraries app, they are taken to a portal with all of the magazines available. Magazines are organized alphabetically and the most recent issue cover is displayed. While users can’t automatically subscribe to magazines, there is an option to sign up for email alerts to download new issues as they’re released.
The app itself has very small font and displays magazine cover pictures as thumbnails. When the user opens a magazine, the pages are high quality images that can easily be navigated using standard gestures such as swipe to turn pages and pinch to zoom in, as well as links within the magazine. The text in magazines can be enlarged from within the app either by zooming or manually increasing the font in the settings section. Users can also enable a text mode that organizes text similar to a book or website article. I strongly recommend having accessibility features enabled when navigating the app- more on that below.
The app does not have much as far as accessibility settings go, which is surprising given the growing number of people who have difficulty reading standard print. However, the app can still be used by people with low vision and blindness. Users can zoom in on pages and read text-only views of articles, though the built-in iPad accessibility settings are required in order to truly enjoy the app. For more on iPad accessibility settings, read this here.
By enabling text mode on the bottom of the magazine page, VoiceOver can read all of the information on a page easily. Advertisements are scanned in as images, and text is separated with headings, so there is no jumping around. In the Zinio app, the user has to go into page view in order to turn pages, the pages cannot be turned from within the text view, but the RBDigital app does not have this issue and pages can easily be turned.
I found it easy to navigate the magazine pages with Zoom enabled, though chose to show the controller in the corner of the screen so I wasn’t constantly triple tapping the screen. I would turn zoom off when turning pages, and then turn it back on. The maximum zoom capabilities from within the app did not enlarge the text enough for me, though I could navigate other magazines with larger than average font without needing to enable Zoom in accessibility settings.
While I don’t read a lot of magazines, I appreciate having them in an accessible format available offline so that I can reference them at any time, without having to worry about time limits or other limits. Plus, I can download a magazine in less than a minute and be reading it quickly. Other users may benefit from using the magazines in the classroom, practicing with iPad accessibility, or reading articles in a natural format.
This app could be improved with more large font options available. Still, it integrates well with the built-in iPad accessibility settings. If you are proficient with using Zoom or VoiceOver, then the RBDigital Magazines app with Zinio will be a great addition to your iPad.