November 15, 2008

Using the iPhone as an eBook with the app Stanza.

I'm a sucker for eBooks. I bought a Rocket Book years ago and, in the last year, a Kindle. (Here's a vlog I did comparing the 2 quasi-rectangular objects). And I haven't much liked either of them. I complained about the Kindle here, and I haven't touched it in months. I have to remember not to throw away hundreds of dollars on eBooks!

But now, here's an app -- Stanza -- that makes the iPhone work as an eBook. It's free, so if I don't like it and don't use it, I won't have to feel like a chump. Anyway, it works nicely. I've set my font size. The print is, of course, bright and clear. And you don't turn pages, you "cover flow" to the next page with a finger swipe.

The on-line libraries are fun to browse. For example, I can see a list of the most commonly assigned high school books. The top 5:
  1. "Pride and Prejudice," by Jane Austen
  2. "Jane Eyre," by Charlotte Bronte
  3. "Wuthering Heights," by Emily Bronte
  4. "Death Comes to the Archbishop," by Willa Cather
  5. "The Awakening," by Kate Chopin
Notice anything? Has high school become Women's Studies? Well, to be fair, the next 20+ are by men: "Heart of Darkness," "The Divine Comedy," "Don Quixote," "A Tale of Two Cities," "Crime and Punishment," etc.

It's also interesting to see what books are most popular among those who download free digital books. From the Freebooks list, #1 is "The Art of War." Hmmm. The top 6 are by men, and #7 is good old "Pride and Prejudice." (When did that get to be the greatest novel ever written?) But generally, this list is pretty masculine, and I'm glad to see it's not all novels. Charles Darwin ranks high. So do Freud and Nietzsche. From the Project Gutenberg list, Albert Einstein is #1, followed by Confucius, "The Art of War" again, and Plato's "Republic." The Gutenberg crowd is really ambitious. What's the top novel for these folks? "Siddhartha"!

Anyway, highly recommended, if only for the fun of browsing lists of what other people read. But I've downloaded a few things to read in full.


knox said...

...good old "Pride and Prejudice." (When did that get to be the greatest novel ever written?)

Blasphemy. Look for me protesting in front of your house in the near future, with placards, chants and shrieking contingent of Jane Austen enthusiasts.

Seriously, there's never been a greater fictional heroine--or hero--than Lizzy Bennett. Maybe Augustus McCrae in Lonesome Dove. MAYBE.

Matt Eckert said...

Don't you know that the greatest fictional hero is Barack Hussien Obama.

Jim Hu said...

I've been using Stanza for a while. A tip: there's a setting to lock the text orientation to keep the accelerometer from rotating the text when the phone rotates. Also as an alternative to swiping across the page you can tap on the edge to go forward or back.

UWS guy said...

I just finished "The idiots guide to the universe" by Steven Hawkings....or whatever his book is called.

I enjoy stanza a lot, next up...crime and punishment which I will read slowly as I wait in line at the post office or while I wait in the doctor's waiting room or what not.

Christy said...

Why do I suspect that those download lists are a bit like those Netflix lists you blogged about earlier. We know we should read the important works and make a good faith effort when we download, but never actually get around to reading them.

My book group has chosen Pride and Prejudice for our next book. Some haven't read it; the rest don't mind a reread. It probably became the greatest novel ever when the BBC did the 5 hour miniseries starring Colin Firth a dozen years ago. I've had teenage girl cousins bring the series with them on a visit because they couldn't be without it. PBS is reshowing it over the 3 weeks around Valentines day next year btw.

Jim, does Stanza handle PDF files? My library has PDF downloads and I know Kindle doesn't do them well.

UWS guy said...

the iPhone itself does PDF files

Revenant said...

4. "Death Comes to the Archbishop," by Willa Cather
5. "The Awakening," by Kate Chopin

I've never even heard of those two books, even though I've read almost everything else on the list. Strange.

Christy said...

Thanks UWS Guy.

RR Ryan said...

I've heard of all of them, although the Kate Chopin was pretty obscure. I've never read it. A suggestion: if you love Austen, but have run through them, try Barbara Pym. She's a little known British writer from the fifties, sixties and seventies.

blake said...

(When did that get to be the greatest novel ever written?)


Ralph said...

1813. Of course, there wasn't as much competition then.

Since when were book titles put in quotes? Don't tell me the blog owner has to use html code.

We had to read Lady Chatterly's Lover senior year. Our fruity teacher was very transgressive. He told the class the exact wording of the Earl Butz joke (it was a boys school).

Jonathan Card said...

Actually, I've never seen any but the Joe Wright Pride and Prejudice, but it's been my favorite novel since high school in the late '90s.

I have the Sony eReader, myself. I really like it, actually but I can never find the books I want for it. I didn't want a Kindle because I can't imagine paying for a cell phone contract just to avoid syncing with my computer, which I don't mind doing at all.

UWS guy said...

mens novels deal with academic subjects. Even the "lighter" fare plumbs the human condition. Novels by women concern themselves social cliques and the pining after men.


Ralph said...

mens novels deal with academic subjects
and sex.

Chris Wren said...

Kindle Schmindle. The iPhone/Pod is the best book reader on the market. Have you tried the Ereader app? It's a little more robust. And get this: When I installed Ereader, it brought up every book I'd ever purchased through their service, all the way back to 1999 and my first Palm Pilot!

UWS guy said...

I'm gonna download ereader. Wonder If there's really a dif.

UWS guy said...

ahh. You buy books w/ereader

UWS guy said...

Interface seems nicer on ereader. Just downloaded candide

Marcia said...

My favorite quote about Jane Austen is by the late William F. Buckley: "By the way, Sally, does anybody ever confess to just plain 'reading' Jane Austen? I know only people who 'reread' Jane Austen."

Pride and Prejudice may not be the best novel ever; it wasn't even Jane Austen's favorite of her own. But it's my favorite ever.

I agree with Knox that Lizzy Bennett is a great heroine. I would also add that Mr. Bennett and Charlotte Lucas are some of the best supporting characters in literature.

Ralph said...

Charlotte Lucas???
I think you mean Lady Catherine.

Nichevo said...

If one might condescent to a modern, Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin sea-novels greatly evoke her world. Try Post Captain.

PS I love my Treo, it reads books just fine. Much mAh burned doc reading on my baby.

Tex said...

No surprise about those high school books. The feminization of K-12 education is a phenomenon I’ve read about and observed with my own son. Many “innovative” classroom practices are said to favor girls. Collaborative learning groups featuring discussions on topics of little interest to many boys (“how do you feel about global warming?” in science class), whole language instruction, math journals (“what do you like about math?”) are some examples that come to mind. This unfortunate trend plays a part in the dumbing down of the curriculum in our public schools.

By 2016, women are expected to comprise 60% of graduates from four-year colleges. Although I haven’t read too much about this in the MSM, with my son applying to college I have definitely sensed that this growing gender imbalance is a concern among college admissions officers.

knox said...

Actually, I've never seen any but the Joe Wright Pride and Prejudice, but it's been my favorite novel since high school in the late '90s.

Then you definitely need to watch the BBC version Christy refers to. It's close to perfectection.

knox said...

which is even better than perfection

Duncan said...

I read ebooks exclusively but have always done so on whatever PDA I carried. Mostly Palm OS systems in the past and currently a windows mobile smartphone with a tiny screen.

My eyes aren't in any better shape than anyone else's over 50 but I just ignore the comfort issue in favor of constant availability.

Before ebooks, I carried a real book and read while walking (as I do with ebooks).

I mostly read public domain works or current works offered with weak or no DRM. Baen sells unprotected science fiction ebooks and MobiPocket has weak enough DRM to work on Palm OS devices. The Bolshi DRM systems don't like Palm.

Since an awful lot of good stuff was published prior to January 1, 1923, I'm not short of content.