People who use the two public library systems in Whatcom County can access up to 100 magazines digitally, for free, through a service called Zinio.
"It expands our virtual branch," said Beth Farley, head of information and reader services for Bellingham Public Library.
"It's another way to get reading materials into the hands of the public," said Lizz Roberts, community relations coordinator for Whatcom County Library System.
The two library systems are separate organizations but share their catalog and coordinate their policies, allowing library cardholders to use both.
Zinio provides access to magazines on a variety of desktop and mobile platforms: PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire/Fire HD, Windows 8, and Blackberry Playbook.
The range of magazines being offered through the libraries include Newsweek, ESPN, US Weekly, National Review, Runner's World and Vanidades.
Both library systems will continue to carry magazines in print.
"We're considering the future," Roberts said. "In some cases, the publishers will be driving our need to provide e-access to magazines - like Newsweek being offered only electronically."
The service had a soft launch Jan. 1 and has garnered more than 730 subscribers since then through both library systems.
They had checked out nearly 7,800 digital magazines through March 18. The most popular titles have been National Geographic, US Weekly, The Economist, Consumer Reports and Martha Stewart Living.
To access the service, people must have a library card from either of the two public library systems. To create an account through Zinio, users also will need to provide their email address.
Because the two library systems are working together, they're able to expand their magazine subscriptions to 100 different magazines, instead of 50 each.
"We like to collaborate so that we're able to ensure that everyone in the community has access to the same resources when possible," Farley said.
Users will be able to see the magazines as they appear in print. Online, they can click on links for video clips or audio clips.
"It's a richer experience," Farley said.
For the service, each library system is paying an annual fee of $6,260 for the platform and the magazine subscriptions.
Roberts said the cost is "relatively low," given the number of subscribers so far - a number that is expected to go up - and the number of magazines checked out to date.
"If we had bought the magazines individually," she said, "we wouldn't get them for this kind of pricing. While we are providing many of these magazines, in several of our branches, only one person from each branch could check out this month's issue of a magazine at a time.
"Zinio allows all patrons access to that same issue of the magazine."
HOW TO SIGN UP
Bellingham Public Library card holders should go online to bellinghampubliclibrary.org or call 360-778-7323, ext. 3.
Whatcom County Library System card holders should go online to wcls.org/zinio-faq or call library staff at 360-384-3150.
Each library website offers step-by-step instructions.
Once readers download an issue, they have that issue until they delete it. When they want to read a different magazine - among the 100 that are offered for free - they should access them through the library system's websites.
To use a mobile device for Zinio, set up a Zinio account first and then download the Zinio app.
Both library systems also offer help on how to use Zinio and other technology. Go to each library system's website for dates and times.
Reach KIE RELYEA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2234.