Monday, March 23, 2009

iPhone App eBook Readers

o the new world is about who has the smartest mobile application. It may appear that these have been around for ever but the reality is they haven’t. We have yet to really see the RIM, Android, Palm, Symbian applications and what once was the territory of Microsoft is now clearly owned by Apple and its ‘I’ family. Its interesting to note that some apps are free whilst others charge a nominal fee. Perhaps with such a low entry point the consumer will download the lot and then choose which they like today and user churn will happen around upgrades. So where is the glue that will retain user loyalty or is it just open season for all?

Nintendo is even reported to be eyeing up the iPhone and success of the Apple Apps Store and looking to compete using its stable of game developers. Nintendo already has its DS Shop and DSi Ware services, to accompany DSi when it launches next month in the US. However is it now seeking non-gaming applications for the DSi to complete head to head with Apple? Alternatively are they now also aiming to try and head off the likes of Apple and Android off from their games market?

So who are the ebook mobile application players today?

The free Stanza reader from Lexcycle is the reader of choice of many and now is fully integrated with Adobe’s ACS4 so offering DRM protected Adobe eBooks and epub files. It has a very customisable user interface especially with the type font and a landscape library view. The app also sorts books by title, author, subject and your latest reads. Stanza enables you to download books from many different sources including Fictionwise and also import your own library using their desktop application and interfaces with Digital Editions.

The Kindle app is part of Fortress Amazon and can only read books from Amazon’s 250,000 titles but offers the best price value and widest range of titles. If current content is what you are after then the Kindle is probably the answer today. However, it offers minimal type customisation other than sizing and its files can’t be transferred anywhere other than to a Kindle.

The free eReader from Fictionwise, or should that now read Barnes and Noble, clearly has the right name and has been around longer than many. It supports many file types, including its own and with it new eager parents, is certainly going to be around for the long haul. It is not clear how the exclusive deal with Ingram now pans out, but like their recent tiff with Overdrive, it will probably get sorted in the background. The eReader application wins many over with its navigation, highlighting, annotations and search. Some would argue that it doesn’t offer the same level of font customisation as others but it still remains very user friendly. The only negative appears to be on performance especially when an ebook is downloaded from another source and read on eReader. This may be seen by some as a feature, not really recognised by others and a pain and frustration to many who have seen comparable readers.

As we have seen through their emailing programme, it often pays to wait until the weekend, or for a discount offer, when buying from Fictionwise as they seem to have one every few days to celebrate nothing except a discount offer.

Bookshelf is not a free app and is from Zachary Bedall. It uses Apple’s networking to let readers set up and manage their own “shelf servers” and supports a wide range of e-book formats. Although it does offer more than 20 scalable typefaces, a range of background colours and its scroll feature works well the application isn’t that consumer friendly in its appearance and feel.

The iFlow reader is a reader in a book as opposed to a book you apply a reader to. They offer tens of different book collections. So you buy multi-volume sets of books with a reader, priced anywhere from free to $10. The text scrolls like a teleprompter that you control by tilting the screen. You cannot import your own books and there isn’t a single instance of the application.

The Classics reader launches a bookcase, you simply tap a jacket and the book opens, tap a page and the page turns. Today there are only a few titles but you can arrange the shelves to your taste. On finishing, a crimson bookmark slides down the left side of the page and the book closes. Fun but limited.

So what will determine the winners from the losers and can a free reader that is not tethered to content make it. Alternately why pay a few dollars for a reader when another is free? Apart from Fictionwise, today there still appears to be many features missing such as annotations, highlighting and personalisation. The mobile platform offers so much and if the larger iTouch becomes a reality these readers will certainly be the ones to watch.


Mike Shatzkin said...

What a helpful informational post, Martyn. Thanks very much.

Administrator said...

The Toy Lounge of St. Paul MN - - creates iPhone apps for eBooks and Children's books. iPhone apps for Children's books is substantially easier than for eBooks, because illustrated Children's books don't need a special reader for the iPhone or iPod Touch.

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