iPhone Apps: The ebook reader wars (part 2): eReader

| January 29, 2009

I started writing about alternatives to the Amazon Kindle in Part 1 of the ?ebook reader wars.? And in the hot debate over the best readers for the iPhone, you really can't talk about the issue without bringing up the veteran eReader. Man, I only wish I?d had this app back in college. It's a solid offering for fans of digital books. But even so, it's not without some downsides, as you?ll see.

This is a must-have app if you?re an eReader customer who already has a big library of titles. It natively hooks to accounts in eReader.com, Fictionwise and manybooks.net, and users who are willing to tinker a bit can access accounts on other websites. (I had trouble with this, but others have reportedly had some success, so it may just be my failure of patience.)

This has everything you?d expect from a top ebook reader, including bookmarks, notes, a customizable UI (fonts, colors, even flicking gestures), and pages that move from portrait to landscape mode easily. It also has dictionary compatibility, though you need to buy one of their compatible dictionary products to make it work. (The free Oxford Dictionary sample I picked up didn't work with it.)

As a retail module, it lacks some luster. The buying process is cumbersome, requiring you to go on the Internet to add titles to your online bookshelf, then syncing the phone to that account to have your reading material in your phone. It has a built-in browser for this, which helps, but the extra steps get old pretty quickly. Loading your own personal content isn't easy either. You have to convert the file to a pdb document, upload it to your online bookshelf or configure your computer as a personal web server. Eeeshk! Well, at least it's a free app.

Despite all these irritations, it's a solid reader. It doesn't crash often, and the eReader online account, powered by Fictionwise, offered a nice selection of books. So I did like and use eReader, at least for a while ? that is, until I met Stanza.

Products mentioned