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Free digital magazines for library members
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Newton County Library members will have free access to 34 digital versions of popular magazines in 2014 thanks to a new partnership between the library system, RB Digital and Zinio.

Beginning Jan. 1, library members will be able to get free, unlimited access to any of 34 magazine titles – with more titles expected to be added over time – which can be viewed on computers, tablets and smart phones through Zinio, a company that creates digital versions of print magazines, including adding audio, video and other interactive elements to some of the 5,500-plus magazines in its catalog.

The service, called Zinio for Libraries, is offered through RB Digital, an arm of Recorded Books, which started out as an audiobook company and now provides a variety of library services. The Newton County Library System has an 18-month subscription to Zinio, which will cost the library $6,317 for the 34 subscriptions and hosting fees. The fee was paid with a donation from the Porter Foundation.

Once the service is active, there will be a link for library members to follow on; staff members at the Covington and Porter Memorial branch libraries and Newborn Service Outlet will also be available to help.

Though it’s unclear exactly how the registration process will work since Newton County’s service is not up yet, library patrons will likely have to go through a specific process to get free access and are encouraged to go to to register. Once they are registered, Zinio offers mobile apps, an app for Windows 8 and desktop readers for PCs and Macs.

"One of the best features is that you don’t have to place magazines on hold like you do with e-books," Library Director Lace Keaton said. "As soon as the issue is available on the website, you can download it to your device, and more than one person can download the same issue at the same time."

The ability for an unlimited number of users to download a magazine is a huge boon to libraries, which have struggled with expensive fees to buy a limited number of e-book licenses that can only be checked out by one or a few users at a time.

Another benefit of the Zinio system is that users have access to digital magazines the same day the magazines’ print versions come out.

When asked how the idea came about, Keaton said library officials are continually monitoring "new developments in our profession in order to provide the best service possible."