Sunday, December 28, 2008

My First eBook...on an iPhone

Last year I read my first eBook using the Amazon Kindle that our librarian at my previous school purchased. I really, really enjoyed the experience of reading Kite Runner on the Kindle. The digital ink had an unbelievable resemblance to paper and I loved many of the other Kindle features.

I was inspired by Dave Cormier over at Edtech talk to give one of the eReader apps on the iPhone a chance after he was spreading the iPhone love on a few of the December Edtech Weekly webcasts. I chimed in that I thought the iPhone would be a little hard on the eyes and Dave mentioned that this wasn't his experience at all. So I downloaded Stanza a few weeks ago and ended up loading a few free titles from the Gutenberg project on my phone. But I never really seemed to get anywhere with reading them. So yesterday I downloaded Andrew Keen's, "Cult of the Amateur," from the Stanza online store for about $14 (more on Keen's book in a future post or two). I figured that if I paid a little cash I'd be motivated to read the book. And this certainly turned out to be the case as I completed Keen's book in two days. It is my goal to create a little video review of the eBook reader on the iPhone and post it on YouTube, but until that happens, here are a few things I liked and didn't like about the experience of reading a book on the iPhone for the first time:

1. I loved being able to toggle text size and spacing between lines. I believe this feature turns the iPod Touch/iPhone into a wonderful piece of assistive/adaptive technology for leaner's with special needs.

2. I enjoyed setting bookmarks that I could come back and refer to at a later date. I want to create a blog post about some of the points that Keen made throughout his book, and being able to set a few bookmarks along the way will help me refer back to the sections that piqued my interest.

3. Reading in the dark was pretty nice. I woke up early in the morning today and turned on the iPhone to continue reading without having to turn on any lights. Because the Kindle doesn't have a back light, you need a lamp in order to read in a dark room.

1. I hope I'm not destroying my eyes. While my eyes don't feel strained when reading, I can't help but feel like looking at a device with a backlit screen for prolonged periods of time will contribute to vision issues down the road. I guess only time will tell on that one. Check back to this blog in 20-30 years (who knows, maybe sooner) and I'll let you know how this has worked out.

2. I felt like I was turning the page quite frequently, which I'm guessing slowed down an already slow reader. Obviously, when you have such a small screen, you're going to have to turn the page more frequently. This wasn't overly annoying, but I did notice it a bit. Also, I wish the Stanza eReader was programmed so that the iPhone home button could turn the page instead of having to tap the screen for page turns. This is where having a trackball like the Google Phone or the Blackberry has would be helpful. Not having a trackball is one weakness of the iPhone in my opinion...I feel like my finger is a distraction when I'm constantly putting it on the reading surface (this goes for reading and scrolling web pages as well).

3. Books in the Stanza eBook store seem to be quite expensive. Keen's book was $14 at the Stanza store and the Kindle edition over at Amazon is $9.99. The soft cover version of the book over at Amazon is $11.20, so I feel that $14 is a bit steep. This price differential isn't that bad, actually, especially in comparison to the next book that I want to read. Jane Mayer's book, "The Dark Side..." sells for $9.99 via the Kindle edition and $10.85 via paperback over at Amazon while the Stanza store offers it as an eBook for $27.50. That price differential is completely ridiculous and needless to say, I won't be purchasing many more eBooks over at Stanza unless I win the lottery (which is impossible, as I don't play the lottery).

4. Some/many Stanza books are laced with DRM, which makes it extremely difficult to put the book that your purchased on multiple devices. As it turns out, Keen's book could only be read on my iPhone...I couldn't even put it on my computer to read. I guess this is appropriate as Keen has a bee in his bonnet regarding new ways of distributing digital content. Also, I purchased Keen's book via the Stanza store on my computer. When I went to download the book wireless to my iPhone, I was prompted to enter the credit card information used to purchase the book online into my iPhone. I found this to be a hassle and a security risk as well (the fewer the number of times I have to enter my credit card on web forms, the better).

Anyway, that is it for now. Like I said, I'll try to post a video review at some point in the future.

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