If you’ve seen the empty bookshelf icon staring at you and wondered how does Newsstand work, we are here to help guide you though Apple’s hub on the iPhone and iPad for reading newspapers and magazines. When you’re finished reading this guide, never again will you have to worry about ink on your fingers or dodging the sprinkler as you make your way down the driveway to pick up your daily newspaper. Read on for everything you need to know on how to use Newsstand on iPad and iPhone.

How to use Newsstand

Getting Started
If you are familiar with iBooks, think of Newsstand as the magazine version. The main difference being the type of publication, which is a newspaper, magazine or periodical. When you first launch the Newsstand app, you’ll want to tap on the ‘Store’ icon. This will bring you to a dedicated Newsstand section within the App Store. As you peruse the virtual shelves, Apple highlights some of the more noteworthy publications. If this seems overwhelming, you’d be correct. You can narrow the selection of titles by tapping on categories. At the time or writing this guide, there were twenty eight categories in all.

Categories in Newsstand

When you first enter a category, the layout is similar to the front of the store, but without the highlighted magazines that are on a continuous scroll. You have four sections that can further help you drill down to content of interest.

  • New
  • What’s Hot
  • Paid
  • Free

Tip: If you find a magazine of interest that is listed in the paid category, the App Store may let you download it. Unfortunately, these often contain no actual content, other than an array of paid subscription options.

Within each row of publications, you can swipe left to scroll through titles and cover art. Tapping on ‘See All’ brings up a scrolling list within that sub-category. When you select a title, the layout is not different from the App Store layout. You can check out details, read reviews or find related magazines.

Download magazine to Newsstand

When you’d like to add a publication to your bookshelf, just install it as you would an app.

Tip: When selecting related, it’s possible that the result will include a mix of Newsstand items and apps. These are discernible by looking at the icon. Apps will have a traditional rectangular icon, while Newsstand content will take on the shape of the publication, in digital form.

Earlier I mentioned that you would find this similar to iBooks. One major caveat to that quote is the inconsistency in interfaces between magazines. Publications differ in how they handle and present content. You might find great content presented in a not so great format or vice versa. It’s my hope that Apple would at some point push through a consistent user interface. It would help not only developers, but likely the adoption of the entire platform.

Newsstand UI

How to buy issues and subscriptions in Newsstand

The entire process of purchasing periodicals is a bit convoluted. While they are categorized in free and paid sections, that’s not always the case. Free typically means you get some level of content. That’s true with some publications I downloaded, but it’s far from consistent. Take the Recipes mag, which had a slew of purchase buttons, but not one recipe. I see that as a missed opportunity for the publisher. In writing this guide, I was browsing the Cooking section and was genuinely excited about checking out what a sampling of recipes. How many folks subscribe without thumbing through an issue?

Subscription pricing in Newsstand

As for the paid options, those too can be somewhat confusing. As with the layout, the purchase model differs greatly. In the paid options we tested, you could download one sample issue. To have a re-occurring subscription, you’ll need to follow the directions using the in-app purchase. Some do a fantastic job with this and I’ll use The Boston Globe as an example of best practices that should be followed. It’s free to download and you immediately get to view fresh content. Additionally, they offer a free one month trial, allowing users to see if an electronic publication fits into their daily lives. Pricing is also very clearly spelled out. In closing, expect variation in pricing with everything from monthly, annual and back-issues as paid options. So how do you cancel a Newsstand subscription? Each of your periodicals should have an option to manage your subscription. If you purchased a one year subscription, there is no way to get a refund. You can simply set your account to where it will not review.

Newsstand is Apple’s hub in iOS for magazines and newspapers. The selection is still far from complete and pricing in some cases show no real discount over the print versions. The advantage here is that you’ll automatically get the latest issue without the hassles associated with a delivered periodical. Purchasing publications is still a bit convoluted, with some offering nothing in the way of free trials. Unlike iBooks, Newsstand is a bit of a free for all when it comes to the user interface. There is certainly room for improvement.