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Is the iPhone a Good eBook Reader?

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There is a rumor that Amazon will be revealing the Kindle 2 on Monday, and many feel like the iPhone and the Kindle are direct competitors in the same space in regards to the future of ebooks.

Steve Jobs has stated in the past that he didn’t think an ebook reader would ever be successful because “people don’t read anymore”. Citing that in 2006 most people read only one book all year.

Still, that “fact” isn’t stopping Amazon and Sony from trying to bring the ebook into the mainstream with their eink portable devices.

The iPhone, however, is a power and compelling solution that Apple as a company doesn’t seem to have a problem promoting as an ebook reader. A recent iPhone commercial showcased the beautiful “Classics” App that is nothing but a very polished set of ebooks.

So is the iPhone a good ebook reader?

I think so. It really comes down to the software you’re using, but in the case of “Classics” and “Stanza” I believe that the iPhone is a great ebook reader. It makes it very hard to justify the purchase of a Kindle or Sony eReader, when I already have a digital device in my pocket that is perfectly capable of presenting a digital book to me.

I don’t know if the Amazon and Sony products will ever be truly “mainstream” and adopted by millions of people, but I do think its an interesting time in the digital space – and it will be very interesting to see where things go in 2009 and beyond.

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

7 thoughts on “Is the iPhone a Good eBook Reader?

  1. I have 66 year old eyes and tried reading a technical pdf on my granddaughters iPod Touch. I could read it, but it became very tiring after an hour or so. The screen is too small; if the screen were larger ( just barely fit in a pocket), I think I would buy. So I don’t think I will be reading books on a Touch.
    But I could imagine myself taking a Kindle to bed and reading a Spencer mystery; and subscribing too newspapers/magazines – the lack of color makes me hesitate.

  2. I use Stanza and find it very easy to use on the iPhone. It has a wide selection of titles and it is free. Reading the complete works of Sherlock Holmes is a great way to pass the time while I am on the train.

  3. I have been debating buying an iPodtouch just for this reason. Has anyone had any experience reading textbooks in pdf format? Since it can only be done with third party software I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. It seems to me the screen might be a bit too small and zooming and switching columns on a page might be tedious, but I’d like to hear someone’s opinion who has tried it. I wish the iRex iliad was a bit cheaper it seems to be the best option.

  4. The iPhone is a fine ebook reader, but some statements in the earlier comments illustrate a common misconception about how to best use this tool. Books should absolutely be reformatted for any particular digital device and applications like Stanza and eReader do this well. You can make the text larger or smaller depending on the age of your eyes or just your own whimsical preference. You can use black type on a white page or white type on a black page depending on the ambient lighting in which you are reading.

    What doesn’t work is to try to shoehorn the original printed page onto a 2″ x 3″ screen. Similarly it doesn’t work to squeeze a complex illustrated volume (most textbooks!) through such a small portal. Adobe’s PDF format was designed to create digital versions of printed material that were faithful to the originals in every way, with large page sizes, multiple columns, complex layouts, detailed forms, etc. These will almost all be unsatisfactory when displayed on a small screen, requiring awkward scrolling, zooming, and dragging.

    –Jim Gibson

  5. In fact, I would say that the text file has to be somehow “optimized” to read it on the iPhone, that’s why, in my opinion, directly reading PDF files on the iPhone is certainly not the way to go. As Eberlin says, using Stanza app is great for reading text. You can adjust text size to your wishes, and you can even switch from black text on white background to white text on black background, which is far more logical when reading on a screen (less tiring for the eyes). With this app, reading on the iPhone/iPod touch can become a very pleasant experience. In addition, it’s free. The only missing thing is a convenient ePub file editor to create your own stanza files (you can directly import common text formats, though).

  6. The fact that Apple has quality screen color capability on it’s iPhone and iPod Touch should give Amazon sleepless nights. With the Mac user base that Apple has, a slightly larger screen that is easily held in bed or on a plane… Amazon would find that to be about as much fun as Microsoft has had with the Zune. Or maybe Microsoft can save the Zune by making it bigger and make a grab for the handheld book market. But not to worry. Artistic design is a FLAT REQUIREMENT, and I remember that Microsoft’s first and most important color choice for a new product was dog poop brown.

  7. Steve also said that no one really wanted to watch video on an iPod. What Steve and Apple always mean here is that:

    It can be done, but it won’t be great (which is where video was for awhile)
    It can be done, and it’ll be great, and we’re working on it
    It’s here, and it’s fantastic.

    Until they get towards the end of stage 2, no one at Apple will sing the praises of reading on the iPhone — but see their latest ads.

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