[Update: Summer 2020: In Readly, you now get newspapers: The Independent and The Evening Standard at the moment, in the UK at least. I’m hoping more will come. And they now include most of the popular computer magazines too including PC Pro, Computer Shopper and Custom PC. There are also Woodworking magazines including Woodsmith and Popular Woodworking. Overall this makes Readly my preferred option at the moment by a good margin].
Walking into WHSmiths to buy a magazine is so yesterday. Following in the footsteps of services like Spotify for music and Netflix for video, you can now pay a monthly fee to read as many magazines as you like.
In the UK at least, there are currently two services to consider: Magzter and Readly. They both offer an unlimited subscription for £7.99 a month, although Readly’s offering is far more straightforward.
With Readly, your subscription will allow unlimited access to their entire catalogue. Magzter offers their unlimited Magzter Gold service, however not all magazines in Magzter’s library are available in their Gold subscription. You have to look for the little yellow book symbol in the bottom right of the magazine’s thumbnail. Fortunately you can apply a filter so only magazines available for free are visible, but this feature is tucked away.
The biggest difference between these two services is content. In a nutshell, Readly offers a more narrow range of more premium titles, whereas Magzter Gold offers a far broader range, but not as many premium magazines.
A lot will depend on what you like to read. Many of the BBC titles like BBC Gardener’s World, BBC Music, BBC Good Food are available on Readly, but not on Magzter.
Also What HiFi, Stuff, The Spectator, Hello and Homes and Gardens are available only on Readly, to name just a few .
And children’s magazines are well represented too like Match, Match of the Day, First News and Horrible Histories. These are all sadly missing from Magzter Gold.
But there are also significant gaps in Readly’s range. For me, the most significant omissions are computer magazines. None of the big titles like PC Pro, Computer Shopper and Custom PC are available, but these are all available on Magzter Gold. And more niche hobbies like woodworking are not represented at all, whereas Magzter Gold has The Woodworker, Good Woodworking and a few others.
Another of my interests, cycling, is better represented on Readly but still has a decent selection on Magzter Gold including Mountain Bike Rider (MBR), Bikes Etc and impressively Cycling Weekly. But Cycling Plus is only on Readly.
Both Magzter and Readly allow you to download back issues, which is a nice bonus and means there is a huge wealth of content available.
Of course the best way to see if the magazines you like are available is to take out a free trial (see links at end of article).
Reading the content
Apps are available on iOS and Android for both services and Readly also has a Kindle Fire and a Windows Phone app. Both services support adding family members under your subscription for no extra charge (4 extra for Magzter and 5 extra for Readly).
It’s possible to read on a phone, but a tablet with at least a full HD (or Retina) screen is far preferable. Most titles are simply digital versions of the magazines, which does mean there is little interactivity and you will often need to zoom in. A 12.9″ iPad Pro would be a perfect reading companion!
With both apps you’ll spend some time initially finding magazines that you want to read and starring them. That’s clicking the star icon in both Magzter and Readly.
Actually reading the magazines is a similar experience on both apps, but the Readly app is much slicker overall. Firstly, you’re only presented with content included in your subscription, whereas with Magzter Gold, the opening screen is a news feed of articles they deem of interest. You need to choose the My Collections icon and and then tap Faves to actually get to the magazines you’ve selected.
Both services allow you to download magazines for offline viewing and both services attempt to sync your position through a magazine across devices. Although this is not as reliable on Magzter.
In a lot of ways Readly is the clear winner but for me at least, it doesn’t let me read the magazines I like, so I ended up going with Magzter. If they could only broaden their range I would switch across, but for the time being, Magzter offers me far better value.
I’d suggest taking the trial on both services and find which one lets you read the magazines you want.
- More mainstream magazines available
- Apps more polished
- More magazines for children
- Available on a wider ranger of platforms
- Big gaps in content [See update at the top of the article]
- No parental controls
- Wide range of magazines available
- Sharing subscription more flexible than with Readly
- Some big titles missing
- Tries to impose its curated news feed
- No parental controls
Any questions, please ask away in the comments section below.