Book apps for the iPhone keep getting better

Many people I know have no interest in reading longer-form works on a screen when printed books have always served them well, and that’s completely fair enough.

Obviously I’m not hostile to the book as a printed object. There are hundreds (thousands?) of them in my apartment. No doubt there will soon be hundreds more.

Nor, however, am I averse to reading books electronically. My first successful attempt came by accident early this year, when I ended up tearing through most of my friend Marie’s novel manuscript on my iPhone.

My train stalled on the way home from work that night, and after I finished the pages I’d printed for the ride, I was left the middle of a suspenseful scene. The “sick passenger on the train ahead of us” (i.e., did she fall, or was she pushed?) situation dragged on. And on. Finally we crept into an above-ground station where I could get reception. I whipped out my phone and downloaded the attachment.

Although grumpy and self-conscious at first, soon I was so drawn in that I forgot to be annoyed. Everything — where I sat, what I was holding, the fact that we were now speeding toward my stop — fell away, except the world of the story. (Granted, I am probably not the best test case.)

Since then I’ve tried Stanza (free) and Ereader (free). As you may remember, my phone plummeted to the subway tracks in September while I was engrossed in (what else?) Twain’s nonfiction. When the MTA guys handed it back to me 45 minutes later, I hadn’t even lost my place.

Recently I downloaded the bare-bones (but searchable! and free) Shakespeare app. And right now I’m re-reading Robinson Crusoe using Classics. (Pictured; $.99, comes with 13 books.)

Of these, Classics offers, overall, the most pleasant experience once you get the hang of the page-turning. I intend to keep using it until I can get my hands on the next thing, which might happen very soon.

For now, a few links that may be of interest:

  • Side-by-side screenshots (scroll down) of the iPhone and the Kindle reveal that the number of words on each screen is roughly the same. (Also, an October Wired report suggests that iPhone Stanza downloads may top Kindle sales. No idea if that theory holds up in light of what we know now about the Kindle market.)
  • “We’d love to see Amazon (AMZN) take the Netflix (NFLX) approach — make its digital content available on as many platforms as possible; not just its own gadgets — and create a Kindle reader/store app for the iPhone.”
  • Net Galley centralizes galley and digital press kit services, enabling publishers to avoid bombarding reviewers and bloggers with unwanted books and catalogs. (I really hope this takes off.)


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