iPhone eBook Readers Still Stone Tablets

Zealot’s interesting iBook article published on the Mobility Site has compelled me to make a few observations about iPhone eBook readers. While I am pleased that eBooks are a growing and popular download item, I am disappointed with the iPhone platform. I have been a long-time champion of eBooks and have developed some strict requirements for a decent eBook reader. I am afraid that there simply is not a decent eBook reader for iPhone yet. Sadly, iPhone users do not even seem to know the difference. It appears that as long as you can turn the page with your nose-mining finger, that’s all that’s required. The Earth’s flat, and that’s that.

By all measures, Stanza is by far the best, preferred, and most downloaded eBook reader for iPhone and iPod. It receives good marks for being able to handle a wide variety of eBook platforms and even convert them for iPhone consumption. But, it apparently loses formatting in some cases. It has a nice interface for finger-friendly page turning, but it lacks an autoscroll feature for faster and lazier readers. It also earns points for its ability to change fonts, font sizes, font colors and page background colors. This all contributes positively to the eBook reading experience.

However, the eBook reading experience can be so much more powerful. What turned me on to eBooks and won me over instantly way back before the turn of the century was being able to tap on a word in any language and having the definition pop up on the screen. That was way cool and converted me to eBook reading and abandoning treebooks forever. Can’t do that on Stanza on an iPhone. What a pity. But then, maybe iPhone readers have such extensive vocabularies and are such polyglots that this feature is simply not necessary and is beneath their dignity.

Other features lacking in even the best iPhone reader as exemplified in Stanza include the ability to annotate text, index the annotations, and search them. Speaking of searching, apparently Stanza will only allow searching within chapters, not globally.

What about the ability to make drawings, sketches, and handwritten notes in your choice of colors on pages without destroying the book as you would with a treebook. Nope, not on an iBook.

What about highlighting text in your choice of color coding? No can do on an iPhone.

What if you want to copy and paste text from an eBook into another application for research purposes? Sorry, iPhone is anti-academic on this issue. Wouldn’t it be nice too if it automatically referenced the source? Actually, as I understand it, you can’t copy and paste anything on an iPhone, so it’s not surprising that this feature is lacking in eBooks as well.

Another problem is that there is a lack of up-to-date material on the iTunes site. You cannot download any New York Times best sellers for example. None of the popular authors are represented. Clearly, it must be a matter of digital rights issues that Apple has not yet resolved. Of course the same thing applies to audiobooks and the lack thereof for this platform.

It is sad that iPhone and iPod users cannot take advantage of the marvelous free eBook and audiobook download programs available at almost all public libraries these days because of DRM issues and incompatible formats.

Ebook reading remains a far superior experience on Windows Mobile devices. However, I am pleased that iPhone people are discovering eBooks. Perhaps when they learn the difference they will demand that developers bring readers up to speed. EBook reading and readers will benefit greatly, and that is what matters. Maybe, if the demand justifies it, there will even be some decent material available to read on iPhones that still has a copyright.

Why the huge need to

Why the huge need to consistently take such a condescending and insulting tone towards iPhone users and all things iPhone related?

And why couple that with weak and tired arguments? Your point regarding the lack of copy & paste ability is fair enough - that is a big flaw in this area and across the board for the iPhone. And note-taking features are lacking in most or all iPhone readers as well.

But the rest of your stilted arguments - mostly rubbish that shows a lack of both objectivity and basic research.

"Sadly, iPhone users do not even seem to know the difference. It appears that as long as you can turn the page with your nose-mining finger, that’s all that’s required."

Huh??? That would be based on what evidence? Why are iPhone users meant to be so dumb and crude in their criteria for choosing apps?  Why are you so fascinated with nose picking?

Stanza is a good eBook Reader, but it is hardly the only one for iPhone. eReader (now owned by Fictionwise) offers a huge amount of content and is a solid reader program (that does do auto-scroll by the way). Classics offers a pre-selected group of famous novels and offers a very nice UI. Many standalone (self-contained) eBook apps offer narration, great illustrations, and quite a few multimedia bells and whistles.

"But then, maybe iPhone readers have such extensive vocabularies and are such polyglots that this feature is simply not necessary and is beneath their dignity."

So on the one hand all iPhone users want nothing more from their apps than an ability to scroll with a finger they use to pick their nose - and on the other we are all arrogant barstewards who are too good to use word hints in a reader app??? 

How does this post even get past any sort of editorial screening - any sort of once-over that might determine that it is 99% antagonistic rambling, and maybe 1% touching on any valid mobile tech topic.

Oh, and you might want to rethink this sentence:

"Ebook reading remains a far superior experience on Windows Mobile devices."

You're confusing winning a contest of features with what makes up a user's experience of using these apps. You're seriously going to tout 'the experience' on a Windows Mobile device? The OS that leaves almost nobody with any sense of enjoyment when using it by now. The OS that is way overdue for a big-time makeover. The OS whose applications marketplace has been completely put to shame by that of the iPhone OS in under one year of existence.

Yeah, very smart post indeed.  I thought you were a 'mobile tech and smartphone expert' or some similar description.  My view is that real experts let their knowledge do the talking, not their personal animosity.

Tim, I have to agree

Tim, I have to agree somewhat with jordanpw on this one. I must add, however that I am also a defender of Windows Mobile in general. Those of us that have been there throughout the life-cycle of the OS and seen the advances made, I think appreciate it's finer points (and maybe shy a bit from the detractors). We mostly know the tricks to getting around WM's stickier problems, which means they aren't as big a deal to us. Having said that, I'm also an avid e-book reader. I prefer Stanza on the iPod to any of the WM readers, sorry to say. First because of the better resolution of the iPod touch screen (not the fault of any reader, I know). The flip features are nice, of course. Mainly though, it has never in about 6 months of use lost or failed to save a bookmark or my place in a book (forget bookmarks even), or crashed while reading, which WM readers have done to me many times (almost every other time I used them). Those of us who contribute to the blogs here have had a long experience with the WM operating system, and of course are going to defend it. I personally like both Apple and WinMo devices. They are simply tools in the end. One works well for some things, and the other works well for others. I agree there doesn't need to be any insulting over it.

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