Last month, when 2008 took its final bow, the price of an Amazon Kindle remained steady at $359. Geez — That’s a new 16GB iPhone 3G, plus a ton of apps. So what gives?  

I don’t know if Amazon’s getting greedy or just that the “electronic paper” technology actually lives up to the hype. (Kindle users, weigh in if you have an opinion.) Either way, the pricetag is hard to swallow — especially when I can download electronic books on my iPhone. Good thing I feel this way. The Kindle has been backlogged since November to February, possibly because Oprah hyped it on her show, but more likely due to a new version coming out on February 9.

Either way, the device's success has launched a renewed interest in ebook readers. Luckily, iPhone users who aren’t hot on dishing out hundred of dollars for a separate gadget have some nice alternatives. And so starts the iPhone ebook reader wars, which takes a look at a few noteworthy apps designed to dish up reading material on the go. First up in the queue is Classics.

Classics
If you care more about user experience than selection, and you enjoy great works of literature like Huckleberry Finn and The Time Machine, then Classics is right up your alley.





The virtual bookshelf is stunning and features timeless books with gorgeous cover art, lovely retro bookmarks and line-art page graphics. But the cool thing is the interface. It’s nothing short of beautiful — the pages visually flip with the flick of a finger. (Fast readers, beware: Though the animation duplicates the page turning quite well, it’s not exactly speedy. So if you’re an impatient reader, this may be a dealbreaker for you.)

There are also other issues with the app: The serif font and page design aren’t customizable, the text doesn’t landscape with the accelerometer, and you can’t add to Classics’ current selection of 16 books. New additions arrive at the developers’ discretion via updates. And considering these ebooks are free elsewhere, penny-pinching lit hounds might balk at the pricetag (even at the sale price of $2.99, a discount to celebrate its brief cameo in Apple’s latest iPhone ad).

But if you’re the sort who judges a book by its cover, then this really great-looking reader could make you forgive its flaws. (I did. After all, if design and style didn’t matter to me, I wouldn’t have an iPhone to begin with.)

Interested in more than just classic books? Then look for Part 2 on the eReader app and its eReader Fictionwise account services.
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