10/16/2013 01:06 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Free E-Magazine Borrowing Becoming More Popular Through Public Libraries

TORONTO - Rogers is launching a digital subscription service that allows readers to pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to a newsstand's worth of e-magazines.

But many public libraries are already offering a similar product for free.

The free service is run by the digital magazine company Zinio and is available within libraries' digital collections.

In Toronto, the service has mushroomed from about 5,000 borrows a month in June to 55,000 monthly by September, said city librarian Jane Pyper.

"It's pretty new for us but we've seen tremendous growth in interest and use of it, for sure, in that short period," Pyper said.

"Generally people are widely enthusiastic, is what I would say the feedback is."

More than 300 magazines are available to download on a computer or mobile device. Popular titles include The Economist, House and Home, National Geographic and Rolling Stone.

"Young people in their 20s and 30s, which is a demographic we don't always reach, are interested in e-content," Pyper said.

"It's diversifying our audience, which is good."

The reaction to the service has been similarly positive in Edmonton, said Sharon Karr, manager of the city's public library collection, management and access.

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"The uptake has been pretty good, since February we've had close to 4,000 customers sign up and close to 100,000 check outs," Karr said, noting Us Weekly has been the most popular title among the 273 available, followed by Consumer Reports and Hello magazine.

The library's contract with Zinio is nearing expiry and when asked if renewing was sure thing Karr said, "Yes, absolutely.

"The customers who know it and have signed up for it use it well," she said.

Rogers' product, Next Issue Canada, will charge $9.99 a month for access to monthly magazines, and an additional $5 a month to also get weekly magazines. The list of the more than 100 top magazines available through an app includes Rogers titles like Chatelaine, Maclean's and Flare, as well as newsstand mainstays like Esquire, GQ, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, TIME, Vanity Fair and Vogue.

It launched for Rogers customers on Tuesday with a free two-month trial and is set to become widely available on Dec. 15.

A French version of the tablet app will not be available until next year.

Pyper said she's "heard rumblings" that Rogers might be pulling its magazines from the Zinio platform, which she hopes isn't true.

"That would be, from my perspective, a real disappointment if they did reconsider," she said.

"My message is that public libraries are a legitimate market, we're willing to pay for content. We introduce readers to new content, we introduce readers to new titles."