Readly–flat rate news and magazine kiosk at home
Stressfree reading is a cultural act for me. An old book with a massive jacket, my corner armchair, and some mellow music in the background is how I enjoy reading the most. I was never very fond of ebooks, since they're missing the tangible feeling of flipping through the pages and the smell of (old) books in general. As I was recently forced to spend more time at home than usual (you know why!), an ad caught my eye: "Discover thousands of magazines with only one subscription for a fixed price of $9.99 a month." A free trial month was part of the offer–that's how they got me hooked! I'm talking about Readly, and here's what you get.
What is Readly?
Readly offers an assortment of roughly 4,500 magazines for $9.99 a month. The Swedish company behind Readly has made it their mission to offer as many magazines for a fixed price as possible. Naturally, it's all online-based: Whether you're using the dedicated app or your browser, you'll be almost overwhelmed by reams of magazines. Aside from traditional topics, like politics, history, finance, technology, and travel, the collection also covers more exotic interests, from model airplanes and dressage to tractors and mandala designs. During my first visit, I was blown away by the sheer number of magazines, and my fingers became almost sore by the amount of scrolling I did! Luckily, language, category, and country-based filters add some structure to the service. You can read the latest magazines for as long as you want (online or offline), and older editions are usually included as well. Even crossword and Sudoko puzzles are present and accessible via browser or app. As with other streaming services, once your subscription expires, so does your access.
Is Readly the Spotify of magazines?
The two are hardly comparable, even though both services offer media access at fixed prices. Spotify has millions upon millions of artists and songs. Unless you have a very acquired, or unusual, taste, you'll generally find what you're looking for. Readly has a large collection of magazines but you won't find everything on it. While the service has more than 4500 titles, there are hundreds of thousands of publications worldwide. It makes more sense to compare Readly to Netflix: You pay a monthly fee for access to a number of movies and series but you can never be certain your favorite movie will be included–and there's no option with Readly to subscribe to additional magazines for a supplementary charge. Either the publishers are on board or they aren't! For instance, daily newspapers are few and far between. It seems Readly's business model doesn't work for them. If you're after very specific magazines, it'd be wise to make ample use of the search feature beforehand to ensure your needs will be met.
Motley chaos prior to sorting
How can I access Readly's content?
You can access Readly through any browser and on any Apple or Android tablet. This is where it gets a little tricky for some users: Readly focuses on tablets (and, in theory, cellphones, provided they have big enough screens). In 2018, there were attempts to pull the plug on web browser access but those plans were scrapped, thanks to outraged customers. Today, all content is fully browser-accessible through Readly's website, even though the technical implementation is not ideal. Text-heavy magazines that tend to employ small fonts posed a real challenge for me, despite my wearing reading glasses. I have four displays with different resolutions, still, I was unable to achieve crisp text without zooming. It works fine but somewhat disrupts the reading flow, which more resilient readers probably won't mind. As for tablets, the Readly app runs very smoothly. Just tap on your desired magazine and you're off to a comfortable reading experience that also supports page flipping. If you've ever read an ebook before, you'll feel right at home. But, unless you have the eyes of a hawk, I recommend you use a tablet with at least a 10-inch screen.
Is it possible to share your access with others?
Readly are very tolerant in this regard. A single subscription can be used on up to five devices with a total of five individual user profiles, very family-friendly. Since different users have different tastes, setting up dedicated profiles for, say, entertainment, politics, or cars, definitely helps. Naturally, filters and favorites are also stored individually, and users receive email notifications about new publications. Without favorites and filters, you'll find yourself scrolling through endless rows of magazines, most of which you'll deem uninteresting. For example, my interest in the beauty scene is rather limited (I'm fighting a losing battle here after all!), and my profile thankfully hides these temptations.
What are the requirements?
An online service requires reliable internet connectivity, stationary or mobile. But beware: If you're on the move and haven't downloaded your, copiously illustrated, magazine beforehand, you may find that it requires quite a lot of bandwidth! What may be a mere afterthought when you're on WLAN can quickly exceed the download quota of your cellphone plan. Readly offers a free trial month, but, as is unfortunately customary these days, you'll still have to provide payment information. At least there's no lengthy contract term and you can cancel your subscription at any time. There is the occasional promotion with multiple trial months or reduced fees, so smart spenders be alert. As for the competition: Texture, Magzter and Apple News Plus, with the latter still unavailable in Germany, in case you're looking for alternatives.
Access to an entire year
Rarely have I seen an offer that depends so much on individual preference. If Readly doesn't have your magazine, if you don't like reading on your PC or tablet, and if all you need is your daily paper and a few news portals, this service is not for you. Because, despite the large collection and the solid technological underpinnings, nobody likes to waste $9.99. But if, like me, you love to venture outside the familiar territory of your usual periodicals, if you seek to provide your family with decent reading material, or if you're simply looking for hours of untamed reading pleasure, you won't be disappointed. I have no idea whether Readly is a worthwhile investment for publishing companies (even when they're supposedly receiving 70% of the revenue), but that's none of the readers' concerns anyway! Judging by the average price of most magazines these days, i.e. $5 per copy, you'll start saving money after just two evenings–and won't have to throw out 5 kg of waste paper.
PS: Readly didn't pay me a single cent for this review! There are enough ad-sponsored articles out there, this blog will remain ad-free.
PPS: You may have noticed the blog's been on hiatus for quite some time. We've had our heads full with other things and there was little room for minor technological affairs, the oddities surrounding huge corporations or everything else that make up this blog. It felt odd to us to write about the usual tomfoolery of Microsoft and others while the world was, and still is, in the grip of a pandemic. There were more pressing matters for us, and likely for you as well. Even IT news articles seemed fixated on a single issue and we didn't feel it necessary to add our two cents.
It's thanks to you that we're back. You've been asking us for the return of the blog in numerous emails, letters and polls. Our support staff, product managers, and receptionists have forwarded each and every one of your messages to us and we've read them all. So what choice do we have?! Let's keep our nerves, dive back into the world of technology, and hold out for better times. Stay safe and keep on reading!