Subscribing to eMagazines Online from Abroad

You know, I expected this was going to be easier. I mean, why should it be harder to subscribe to the electronic version of a magazine than to the paper version?

It ought to be a lot easier, considering that you don’t have postal workers and airplanes and delivery trucks involved in the electronic delivery. This was what I was thinking when I decided to shift from print magazine subscriptions to online ones, anyway. Since I’m considering getting some kind of tablet computer this year, or maybe a used iPad (since the newer generation is out now), it would mean a lot less trouble in terms of carrying readables around, but also in terms of moving, receiving my magazines (since the post office seems to lose about a quarter of the magazines sent to me from abroad), and to reduce the amount of clutter in my office/home from magazines that are either waiting to be read, or waiting to be disposed of. Better living through electronics, was what I was thinking.

If only it were that simple. Barnes & Noble seems to have ruined Fictionwise, which was a pretty sensible international ebook vendor, and while I could buy magazines there, they seem to cost more than they do on Amazon, and I can’t actually subscribe to a monthly, automated delivery–I have to remember to go there and buy them individually, month by month. And Amazon sells magazines internationally, unlike Barnes and Noble, who seem to think the Internet shouldn’t really be international… but magazines are available for Kindle on Android, and Kindle machines… but not for Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Argh.

It’s all quite backwards and messed up, and the frustrating thing is that it doesn’t have to be. From what I gather, Fictionwise used to be a great vendor. All this makes me wish that, for the love of all that’s holy, the magazines would simply offer subscriptions to ebook format issues directly from their own websites. I would be happy to visit their sites once a year to update my subscription, so that I could continue to get their magazines in the format that works for me. Or, hell, to have an app on my iPhone that would simply download it for me monthly, and for which I would have to buy an “upgrade” every year to get the next year’s content.

Maybe there are workarounds. I don’t know. I want to be able to download the magazine to my PC. To re-load it to my reading device months later and reread something. I want to be able to print it out so I can use a story in a class, just like I can with the paper magazine. I want eMagazines to be not-crappier than print magazines, and I want to be able to buy them in Korea as easily as I can get anything else online in Korea.

(Er, or rather, I want it to be easier. I also cannot buy music from iTunes here, since Apple doesn’t seem to want my [Korean] money enough to set up an iTunes music store that will sell music in Korea, and I don’t want to buy the coupons on Gmarket as a workaround because if Apple wanted my money, workarounds wouldn’t be necessary.)

So while I’m fed up with undelivered print subscriptions of the magazines I read, I’m not sure where to turn. Pay more at Fictionwise and be stuck with having to remember to go download it? I don’t think I’m ready to resolve myself to print editions anymore, so… well, hmm.  Suggestions?

4 thoughts on “Subscribing to eMagazines Online from Abroad

  1. Do you maintain a Canadian credit card? If you do, Zinio might meet some of your needs, thiugh I’ve never played with their desktop clientand am not exactly in love with their iPad version. Digital mags are still a bit of a mess even in areas with fewerrit/localization issues.

    That’s what the iTunes issue in Korea is, btw. It isn’t that Apple doesn’t want your money. It’s probably that the cost of entering the Korean market, with all of the legal, rights clearance, software and metadata localization, and marketing hurdles, far outstrips what they can expect to make, especially if there are already incumbents selling the mainstream hits there.

  2. Just curious, when you sell a story to a US-based magazine, I thought the standard was to sell “North American first serial rights”. If the magazines aren’t buying worldwide publishing rights from authors, do you still think they should be selling those works everywhere?

  3. Since I’ve been in US, I’ve been buying Asimov’s, F&SF and Analog from fictionwise. It’s not a perfect solution, but I prefer it to Amazon for the following reasons:
    1) I got a Kindle and a Nook, [Yeah, I did splurge for both] and I can download a version for both at one price (as well as the pdf version). Use the mobi version for the Kindle and epub version for the Nook, keep the pdf version for the computer.
    2) It’s about as cheap as the newsstand price, and cheaper than foreign subscription price. (Though more expensive than Amazon and the US subscription price – but I’m only here for a year anyway).

    I got some Foreign Affair magazines from Zinio before, and while their interface seems OK for reading magazines on the computer, I still find it a bit awkward to read what is meant to be read in your hands on a computer. (Zinio tries to imitate a magazine format on screen, which can be somewhat awkward if you have a small screen and you need to magnify the content).

  4. Thanks everyone.


    No, I no longer have a Canadian credit card. If I did, I would have used to for my iTunes Store account. Perhaps I should apply for one next time I visit, though I doubt, with me living abroad, I can actually get one.

    Thanks for explaining the iTunes store issues. I suspect a bigger hurdle is government protectionism; they tend not to care when they’ve blocked a service that sells a billion different things, in favor of a local service that sells only a million. Nor do the consumers seem to mind, since most of them just want access to the million. But it’s probably more complicated than that, for the reasons you note.


    Yes, I expect international digital subscriptions should be trivial because international paper subscriptions are. First NA Serial rights doesn’t mean they can’t mail magazines abroad, ship them to foreign shops, etc. It just means they can’t republish them anywhere they want (in any language); they get to run it once, in a North American magazine, and if they want to publish it again, they need to ask and (usually) pay more for that right.


    Yeah, I’m pretty much resigned to going to Fictionwise. As you say, it’s not perfect but they keep the individual issues archived, plus it’s the only place that has the Big 3 magazines plus Interzone and Black Static. I suppose I’ll just have to get a habit of checking in monthly or bimonthly or something.

    Zinio doesn’t seem to have an SF magazines, anyway, and given the format issue, I’d only even consider it once I got an iPad. Which I may well do this year, but I haven’t done now.

    It is annoying to pay more to Fictionwise for having to remember to show up, than I would have to pay to Amazon for automated subscription. Then again, Amazon claims eMagazines would be coming to the Kindle for iPhone app soon, sometime last year. Maybe it’ll actually happen.

    Again, thanks for the advice and info, folks.

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