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Zinio Z-Pass gives you three magazines for $5 per month

The digital newsstand's new pricing scheme offers one advantage over traditional subscriptions, but the math may not work in your favor.

Zinio's Z-Pass gives you a choice of three magazines for $5 monthly. But is that really a good deal?
Zinio's Z-Pass gives you a choice of three magazines for $5 monthly. But is that really a good deal?

I love a good magazine. That's why I'm hoping digital distribution services like Next Issue and Zinio can help usher in the age of the digital periodical.

Yesterday, Zinio gave it a little nudge by unveiling Z-Pass, a sort of a la carte subscription option: three magazines for $5 per month.

According to the Zinio press release, "The monthly cost of a Z-Pass is the lowest available in the market for a multiple-magazine subscription model." That's technically true, but with a huge asterisk: Next Issue (a sort of Netflix for magazines) costs $9.99 per month (or $14.99 for a premium subscription), but gives you unlimited access to over 80 titles.

Zinio has a much larger library overall (over 5,500 titles, according to the company), but only some 300 are eligible for Z-Pass.

That said, I'm sure most readers could find plenty of interesting material within that selection. The real question is whether $5 per month -- $60 annually -- offers good value.

Let's say you're interested in Food Network Magazine, Reader's Digest, and Popular Science. Regular subscriptions to each cost $19.99, $10, and $14.99, respectively.

Did you do the math? That works out to around $45 annually. Even if you replace Reader's Digest with, say, Car & Driver ($19.99), you're still up to only $55. Depending on which titles you choose, Z-Pass might be a worse deal than just a regular old subscription.

The one saving grace is that you can switch magazines from month to month (and up to three times per month). So, for example, if Car & Driver isn't really doing it for you, you could switch to something like Men's Fitness.

Can't decide if you'll like the Z-Pass option? Zinio gives you one free month to find out. Personally, I'm not seeing the value, especially compared with the likes of Next Issue. Your thoughts?