iPhone App Watch - Are you ready for some eBooks?

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Once upon a time, I was a big reader. Bookworm, really. But since having a kid, I haven't read more than four books a year - and least year I finished none. And I'm in a home surrounded by tomes - honestly, we could start a lending library.

When I first learned of the Kindle, I was curious but discounted it immediately. No backlight. I like to read in bed after GrrlGotGame has gone to sleep (though for the past several years I've mostly been using my Nintendo DS to wear out my brain after lights out), so this was a showstopper. Same with the Kindle 2, though now they've made it easier to attach a book lamp to front light the device.

Two things happened recently to get me to try eBooks:

I made an impulse buy of the Twilight series at Costco and, after getting hooked and finishing the first two books, I found them available for the iPhone.

Eclipse on Iceberg Reader Breaking Dawn on Kindle for iPhone
Eclipse on Iceberg Reader Breaking Dawn on Kindle for iPhone

Eclipse on Iceberg Reader Iceberg Reader. So I could continue the series with a bit more portability and read more at night, I picked up Eclipse (Book 3) for $10 in Iceberg Reader format. I wish there were a free demo book that uses this reader since I would have liked some hands on time first - but at this writing there still is not. There were tons of good reviews, though, and I liked what I could see of the UI. Seriously, I would have agonized over this purchase much less if I could have sampled the reader first.

The Iceberg Reader is nice and something the standalone Kindle hardware device is not: tactile. You interact with the pages by scrolling the touchscreen with your fingers, sort of like reading down the page, and then tapping or flicking to the right to flip pages. This also means that the eBook doesn't remember your place if you stop reading halfway through a page, but just like when reading a paper book it won't take you long to find it. The interface is also nice, and includes the option to add notations but no bookmarks. It simply remembers where you left off.

My biggest complaint is the typos. The first few chapters were clean, but typographical errors were rampant several places further in (Chapter 8 in particular). Also, handwritten text from the book was set in regular type, not as images, which dulled the impact and made one section hard to follow. I finally went back to the hardcover version for a few pages, so I could understood who wrote what in a series of back and forth handwritten notes.

Finally, Iceberg Reader is not a platform, so each book takes up a new app slot on your phone. Since I'm consistently at or near 148 apps installed on my iPhone, this is a consideration for me.
Kindle for iPhone Kindle for iPhone. Just as I finished Eclipse, Amazon released Kindle for iPhone. This free reader app is a platform that downloads and displays all of your Kindle purchases from the Amazon online store. So you only need one app slot for all of your Kindle books and periodicals. There are also plenty of free books to get you started, if you're into the classics.

I immediately downloaded Pride and Prejudice (a personal fave) and several other titles to read to my 6-year-old: Treasure Island, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Gulliver's Travels, The Jungle Book and The Three Musketeers. You can also get a free sample chapter for virtually any book in the Kindle store, so it's easy to try before you buy.

Breaking Dawn (Book 4) was $20 in Iceberg format, but only $11.38 plus tax in the Kindle store. Since I had already bought the hardcover editions, I wanted to minimize the cost for my portable copies. Plus I was still annoyed about all of the typos in my Iceberg Reader version of Eclipse. Also, if I ever do get a Kindle reader(probably the Kindle 3 at this point since I wasn't overwhelmed by the Kindle 2's cost, coupled with its lack of backlight and touchscreen), I get to carry over any purchases I make.

The only major downside I could see is that I'd have to pay Amazon directly instead of using the money I'd already banked into my iTunes account. Also, you can't buy directly from the app - you need to use a Web browser. In spite of these minor quibbles, I took the plunge.

The Kindle reader only displays one non-scrolling section at a time. The default doesn't have much text on each page, but you can adjust the font size up or down (there are five preset sizes) and then turn the page by flicking so you still get that tactile connection. You can bookmark as much as you like, though there's no option to annotate - at least not yet. And while I have so far spotted two typos in the first 10 chapters of Breaking Dawn, they are not nearly as widespread. Still, I would expect all major eBook titles to be digitally sourced from the publisher - what do they do, type them in by hand?! Scan with optical character recognition and proof?!! What is this, 1994?!!! In a day where digital movies can be delivered via satellite to the cinema, you would hope that electronic texts could be transmitted intact from publisher to eBook distributor.

The Kindle reader isn't quite as fancy looking as the Iceberg Reader (I love that red book-shaped "progress bar"!) but it's much more functional. And so far the quality is better, though not perfect and still without images of the handwritten text. Some Kindle books do have illustrations, typically on their own pages from what I've seen, but that's not how they are handling the scrawled notes peppered throughout the Twilight series.

There are other eBook formats on the iPhone (many with free samples), but I'm not likely to stray too far from the Kindle at this point unless someone offers a book I want to read for free or greatly reduced cost. I did pick up free copies of The Telltale Heart and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but they're much further down my now-burgeoning reading list.

And that's really the important thing: I'm reading again. At traffic lights, in line at the store, in bed at night, while waiting for stuff to download and people to respond to mails. I still love real books, and will probably make mostly redundant eBook purchases for portability. Honestly, if Amazon wants me to buy from them, they should start bundling regular paper-based products with Kindle copies.

And digital game guides. Where are the walkthroughs and strategy guides? OK, so eBooks still have a ways to go. But they're worth a look.

1 Comment


I was seriously considering the Kindle 2. I grow tired of my book collection, but want something more comfortable to read than a LCD screen. Still no backlight, unbelievable! On the other hand, I don't have nor want and iphone and don't think I would enjoy reading on that either. As you stated, I await Kindle 3.

*side note, I can't seem to long into my typekey account. Anyone else have this issue?

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This page contains a single entry by Gamewatcher published on March 11, 2009 7:54 PM.

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