iPhone Apps: The ebook reader wars (part 3): Stanza

| January 29, 2009

There's nothing like good looks and brains to boot. As far as the total package goes, I don't think the other ebook apps can hold a candle to this one. Stanza takes some of the best features of its competitors and puts them in one place, along with an enormous selection of easy-to-grab books.

What can I say? Coverflow integration, customizable UI, flawless bookmarking, direct-to-handheld purchasing, and a companion desktop program that converts pdfs to pdb files and uploads them directly from my Macintosh ? for free? Okay, I was sold from the word ?go.? It's also neat to be able to adjust the swiping gestures (so that the page curves up instead of wiping across), mimicking page turns. While it's not as good as Classics? page-flipping feature, for a free app, it's not bad.

Though Stanza has a very, very decent user experience, what makes it really shine is the array of compatible ebook providers. As of this writing, there were 13 ebook purveyors, from Fictionwise to Project Guttenberg. That means I can download anything from bestsellers to romance novels to free books in the public domain, with no fuss or muss.

As much as I like this app, I have to cop to some wonkiness here and there. Some books show up with erratic formatting, and there are occasional crashes. It also lacks a built-in dictionary (which eReader does have ? that is, once you buy a dictionary product). But even though it's not perfect, Stanza combines some of my favorite functions from its competitors and improves on others.

Plus there's another bonus: I can read titles from my eReader Fictionwise account on Stanza, so I don't have to keep both apps. (Warning: If you have a lot of books in eReader, it can take a while to download them all. So if you've got dozens or more titles in your bookshelf, you may want to think twice before deleting that eReader app.)

So all in all, I was ? and still am ? very impressed with Stanza. Once it gets a built-in dictionary, I might actually be in love. But if I was the dallying sort, I might think of dabbling in a different direction. Those standalone ebooks in the App Store seem kind of interesting. (If you?re the curious sort who wants to know what's up with those, make sure to check out the next post.)

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