Saturday, 12 June 2010

Somebody told me, that you had an iPad, you want to read eBooks that I had in February of last year...

I first got an iPhone around 12 months ago. At about the same time, a chap I work with got a Sony reader. I was impressed by the easy to read display and battery life, but inspired by the ad campaign I wondered if there was an app for that. Turns out, there was. And now the iPad is here, there is even more choice in the app market, so here is a quick review of your choices:

Classics (iPhone only)
You never forget your first. And this award winning app is really fantastic. A

growing selection of public domain books have been lovingly optimized for this app, the text, and in some cases illustrations fit beautifully onto sepia pages that turn with a satisfying swish, and your library is stored on a bookshelf "front page". Unfortunately this attention to detail means that you are limited just to the books that have been formatted for the app.

If you have been following the development of the iPad, and you think this format looks familiar, you are not wrong.
And all the developers have been able to do is post this little note in the app store.

Stanza (iPhone only)
Wanting to read more than was available on the classics app, I also downloaded Stanza, which had the advantage of in-app purchasing from several eBook stores, and free downloads from Project Gutenberg. The app is highly customisable, with multiple fonts, colours, backgrounds and page turning/scrolling. Unfortunately, there is to be no iPad version of this highly customisable reader app, and the recently introduced regional restrictions in the stores have really pissed me off.

Kindle (iPad and iPhone)
Probably the most bland of the dedicated reader apps, books on the Kindle app can be read in black on white, white on black or sepia tones. Page "turning" is a jarring swipe across your field of view, all very disappointing seeing as they own the versatile Stanza.
It's major advantage over all the other readers is it's access to the Amazon ebook store, which is vast, and has no region based bars to reading the books you have bought. Also, with the clever little "whispersync" function your downloads and bookmarks will automatically update on your iPad, iPhone or kindle device wherever you are in the world. However, the kindle app is restricted purely to the amazon store and has no free content whatever. With the availability of so many classics texts from the Project Gutenberg this is a serious limitation, and makes me think Amazon are not bothered about you actually using their app, they just want you to use their store.

Good Reader(iPad)
Not really an eBook reader, but if you can download your books as .PDF files, convert formats like epub to .PDF files, this will allow you to read them. Straightforward

iBooks (iPad)
I wanted to hate iBooks. For what Apple did to Andrew Kaz and Phill Ryu. For the inflated prices that I was sure would come with the iBook store.

But when it was released earlier this week, it came with a free book. And not just any free book, Winnie the Pooh. A.A. Milne's full colour illustrations look beautiful on the large screen, and the interface is closer to reading a real book than the classics app, simply because of the size. I wanted to rant about the cost of the books available, but for the first 3 days (before the iPad was released in the UK) the UK iTunes bookstore was populated by free books from Project Gutenberg. I may yet get a chance to rant about DRM and pricing for a non-physical media, but so far, damn it all, Apple got it right again.

iBooks is good, but I don't think it will replace real physical books just yet. You can read a book in the bath, or throw it at your annoying big sister. You can scribble your own notes in the margins of a textbook, or you can use it to prop up your iPad while watching a film. You can buy a book and hold it in your hand. The bookshop cant take it away because they decided that you live the wrong country. You can carry it across international borders. There is no glare on the screen, and the batteries dont run down, ever. I am watching the iBook store closely, but I don't think it's a threat to Waterstones just yet.

- Blogged from my iPad

1 comment:

    This blog was ready before I went on holiday, forgot to post it. Freshly back from hols, I posted the blog, and switched on the iPhone. To my delight, there is a new update for Stanza with iPad support!
    Haven't used it yet, but I will report back when I rant about ebooks, DRM, and pricing!