Reading newspapers and magazines on the iPad is not like reading newspapers and magazines in any other electronic form. The experience is really slick, but only you can decide whether it’s worth paying the tab (in the cases where you do have to pay).

There are two paths you might follow to subscribe to or read a single issue of a newspaper or magazine. The first path includes several fine publishing apps worth checking out, including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Reuters News Pro, BBC News, Vanity Fair, and Popular Science.

You also can fetch the free Zinio app, which offers more than 5,000 digital publications including Rolling Stone, The Economist, Macworld, PC World, Car and Driver, Maxim, National Geographic Interactive, Spin, Bloomberg Businessweek, and many more. You can buy single issues of a magazine or subscribe, and you can sample and share some articles without a subscription.

In some cases, you have to pay handsomely or subscribe to some of these newspapers and magazines, which you find not in the iBooks Store but in the regular App Store. You also see ads (somebody has to pay the freight).

The second path, Newsstand, was new in iOS 5. This handy icon on your Home screen purports to gather all your newspaper and magazine subscriptions in a single place. Newsstand is actually a special type of folder rather than an app.

You purchase subscriptions in a section of the App Store, which you can also get to by tapping Newsstand on your Home screen and then tapping the Store button, which opens the App Store to the new Subscriptions section.

Numerous publications have adopted the Newsstand paradigm, though some choose custom apps or Zinio, and many do both.