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Get free digital magazines from your library



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RBdigital is the gateway to free digital magazines from your library.


RBdigital / screenshot by Rick Broida / CNET

Public libraries are so great. (Thanks, Ben Franklin!) You can not just borrow physical books, but digital content like e-books, audiobooks and – surprise, surprise! – digital magazines.

That's right: many libraries have partnered with RBdigital (formerly Zinio for Libraries) to provide electronic zines that you can check out and read on a variety of devices. I've been a big fan of it on my iPad so I'm overjoyed that my local library here in Metro Detroit offers this fantastic option.

It is also a surprisingly generous offer: For most titles you have no access to it Only the latest issue, but also past issues. In general, there is no limit to the number of magazines you can "check out" and they do not expire after a certain amount of time, as is the case with library e-books. In other words, you can keep it for as long as your account is active.

This is particularly exciting in view of the recent News Plus Subscription Service service which gives you access to over 300 magazines for $ 10 a month. Not only is RBdigital free, it is also compatible with Android devices and Amazon Fire ($ 50 on eBay) tablets.

Learn how to get started with RBdigital starting with what you need to read

Dust off your library card

First, visit your local library's Web site (via your desktop browser) to see if RBdigital is mentioned. In this case, you will need your library card number and password to complete the registration process that should be accessible through this site. This process typically creates an account with RBdigital, the library journaling service.

When this is done, check your inbox for an activation email from RBdigital and click on the link to confirm your account.

You may want to do this Look at the available journal catalog, the size of which may vary from library to library. For example, I have about 300 titles – interestingly, Apple News Plus. It does not have every magazine I want, but it's a good mix overall.

If you see something that you know you want to read, just click on the cover and then click the blue Checkout button. Pro Tip: Click after clicking the button. The next issue will be automatically checked out . Presto! Now you have a "subscription" for this magazine.

Consider the hardware

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Reading from Magazines on a phone – like Reader's Digest (shown here) – are not that bad, thanks to RBdigital's text mode. Luckily, it's not all text.


RBdigital / screenshot by Rick Broida / CNET

Next, find out where and how you want to consume your digital magazines. In my opinion, the best bet is a full size tablet, that is one with a screen that is at least 8 inches tall. I've used an iPad Mini ($ 445 on Amazon) which is pretty good as long as it has a retina display, but a full-size iPad or Amazon Fire HD 10 ($ 150 at Amazon) is better. A 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($ 759 on Amazon) ? Best option by far.

Ultimately, you want something with the highest resolution and the largest screen you can get – at least if you want to use magazines in their native format (ie PDFs of the actual magazine pages). Fortunately, the RBdigital app provides a textual view for many, if not most titles, and it's a pretty good implementation.

Reading a scanned magazine on a smartphone (or smaller tablet) means a lot of scrolling and zooming. This is far from ideal. Switch to text mode with the RBdigital app with a single press of a button. This will give you greater pressure in the desired sizes, well-sized for smaller screens. And it's not just raw text. Photos are also mixed in.

This mode definitely works better for longer stories. On pages with many small folding icons, the app can not always be well separated. I also found that magazines can be downloaded only slowly. On a Fire HD 10 and an iPad, I usually wait one to two minutes for a problem to load. It's also a surprisingly slow application in other ways, such as switching between PDF and text views.

Get the Apps

The RBdigital apps are available for Fire, Android and iOS. Run it after installation and sign in to the RBdigital account you just created. All magazines that you have already checked out should be waiting for you. Alternatively, you can tap the menu and then Magazines to explore the collection and select titles to check out.

RBdigital may not be perfect, but if you like and like magazines To read them for free, it's time to renew this library card.

Read More: I've made the bill, and News Plus is actually a pretty good deal

on November 15, 2016.
Update dated April 4, 2019: Adds new information.

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$ 318

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