Barnes & Noble released a free eBook reader for the iPhone and iPod touch late last week and announced that they intend to offer over 700,000 books in their new eBook store, including 500,000 free ones in collaboration with Google Books. Like Amazon, their price for new offerings is $9.95. You can read more about their new eBook store in a report in the New York Times.
One of the big surprises of the past couple years has been the popularity of Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader. Serious readers love it, but at around $350 it’s a bit pricey. So I was thrilled when in early March Amazon released a free iPhone app that lets you read any of the 240,000 titles you purchase from the Kindle eBook store.
This app lets you access the Shortcovers Web site and build your own digital library by choosing from thousands of bestselling books, chapters, news and magazine articles, short stories, blog posts, and more.
Most closed reading systems offer classic books that are no longer subject to copyright and other restrictions. The exception to this is the Iceberg Reader system. Scrollmotion (the developers of Iceberg Reader) have partnered with Random House, Hachette, Penguin Putnam, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Simon & Schuster, and are able to offer a uniquely contemporary selection of books.
Classics does not offer content that you can’t find elsewhere, but it does offer an incredibly unique interface that helps replicate the experience of reading a hardcover book.
Rather than displaying a list of books, the main interface is a digital bookshelf with cover images for each of the books in the library. Tap on an image to open the book and start reading it. Even the page turns are animated. Unfortunately, like a hardcover book, there is not much else you can do. Underneath the slick graphics and animation, this is really a no-frills reading experience.
In addition to the well-known document viewer, Readdle Docs, Readdle also publishes a number of eBook collections, including Shakespeare, Fairy Tales, Horror Books, Love Stories, and others. I tested their system out with Shakespeare and was quite impressed.
BeamItDown eBooks is probably the most unique closed reading system. Instead of breaking text into pages, BeamItDown uses its “iFlow” technology to display the content as a continuous stream of text scrolling up your screen. You can sit back and watch as the text passes right before your eyes. (eReader offers this functionality as well.)
The last entry in this section is Stanza, which is the most feature-rich expandable eBook reader available for the iPhone, and while it may not sync with the Kindle 2, it does just about everything else. To start, the main library gives you full-color thumbnails of each of your books. This helps replicate the feeling of actually browsing through a bookstore. To make it even better, when you turn your iPhone sideways, you get your library in coverflow view, just like in iTunes.
Releasing the iPhone Kindle app is probably the smartest move Amazon has made since introducing the Kindle. While the Kindle app is pretty bare bones, it does offer a few significant features that make it worth a closer look First of all, it’s tied to Amazon.com, and all of the 200,000+ books available for the Kindle can be read with the iPhone Kindle app. In addition, the prices of Kindle eBooks are very competitive, with most best-sellers costing $9.99 or less.
This is the most readily available of the expandable eBook readers, offering versions of the app for virtually every mobile platform out there. Since your library is maintained online, you can move books between platforms. For example, you can read an eReader book on an iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile smartphone, and more. However, you cannot synchronize your progress between platforms as you can with Kindle’s Whispersync.