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Marvin for iPhone

The developer contacted me to let me know that Marvin was now available for the iPhone. Marvin is a beautiful ereader app that was previously available only for iPad readers.  Kristian, the developer, offered me a free promo code but I bought the app and asked for a promo code to giveaway. He offered up five so there will be five promo codes available at the end of the review.

Marvin for iPhone

I’ve always thought the Marvin App was beautiful and I still believe that. With its adherence to the importance of white space, the Marvin App is clean, easy to use, with a wealth of customization features.  From a reviewer’s standpoint, it doesn’t get much better than this (although it might be a great app for authors to proof their books and editors to read submissions). From a reader’s standpoint, it requires some technical knowledge because there is no Marvin store.

Accessing Books

The primary negative feature to the Marvin App is that it allows you to read only DRM free ePubs primarily purchased at other retailers.  Thus it requires some technical knowledge to get started using Marvin and get books onto the Marvin App.  There are a few ways to do this for readers like you and me.  First and maybe the easiest is simply email yourself the ePub file. You can then use the “Open In” feature from within the email.

Marvin access options

Second is using Dropbox. If you have a folder where all your ePubs are stored and that folder is linked to the Dropbox cloud, you can easily access your ebooks from the Dropbox connection. Marvin will search for all files ending in .ePub and offer them to you in a list format, no covers.  Using Dropbox also enables you to use the location sync between your devices.

Third is using Calibre which I talk about below.

Fourth is a connection to a OPDS catalog.

  • Create your own:  I’ve blogged about using Calibre and Calibre OPDS to create such a catalog.
  • Use Calibre’s default catalog: If you are connected to the same internet as your Calibre, you can access the Calibre default OPDS server which requires you simply to know the address of your Calibre server.  For MACS go to Spotlight ->Network Utility and look for your IP Address. FOR PCS go to Start – > run and type in ipconfig.  Look for the IP address or IPV4 IP Address.  In Marvin, type in the IP address followed by :8080/opds. Then you’ll need to go to the heart, select Calibre to download the OPDS feed.


You are allowed to sort by Title, Author, Series & Number, Date Added and Last Read.  The Library View shows a list of books. Swipe to the left to access the menu. From there you can share, organize (put into a collection), take actions, edit and/or view the metadata and delete.

2013-09-21 12.02.01

In addition to categories, Marvin has status updates for the books.  Red = New book; Blue = read; and Green=reading list.

Marvin Reading Status

A couple things to remember when you are using Marvin and that is the options screens, you need to swipe to the right or left to access more options. The first screen is never the only screen. Probably this should be a UI change to give notice that there are more option screens available.

Social Media

The social media interface is one of the more robust among apps.  You can share via Facebook and Twitter, but you can also enter a list of names of friends you often correspond with and send them highlights and notes throughout the book. Even better, for reviewers, you can send yourself the entire highlights and notes file via email in CSV or HTML form.

Email notes to myself from Marvin

Calibre + Marvin

The Marvin App has been adopted by the MobileReads community and one of the Calibre plugin developers created a Marvin driver.  This works only with the iOS device plugged in to the computer.  Once the device is plugged in, however, you can easily transfer items to and from your iOS device.

  1. You need to install two plugins to Calibre: iOS Reading Applications and Marvin Driver.
  2. Restart Calibre.
  3. Once Calibre is restarted, you must go to Preferences -> Plugins and search for IOS Reading App.  Highlight and Customize the app so that Marvin is your default reading app.iOS Reading App Customize
  4. Quit Calibre
  5. Attach IOS device with USB cord.
  6. Restart Calibre.
  7. Go to IOS Device and open Marvin App.  Click on the menu button in the bottom and select the “cloud” icon. Click on Calibre and it will say “Ready”.  On your computer, it should recognize an iOS device.

In the future, you need only to repeat steps 5-7.  Once the iOS device is attached, you can easily “Send to Device” any books in your library and they will appear in your Marvin App.  Important: Marvin does not work in the background. If you close out of the Marvin App, you cannot connect to the library until the Marvin App is open and showing on your IOS screen.

Beyond just transferring books from your Calibre library to Marvin App, however, is the ability to manage your Marvin App from within Calibre.  Look for the blue Marvin XD+ icon.

Marvin XD icon


You can view and sync your metadata with that in your Calibre library.  The more that you use calibre to sort and organize your files, the more meaningful your organization can be on Marvin.

Marvin Calibre Sync


Ultimately the question is whether the Marvin App is worth $4.99. For iPad users, the App is free. The cost is solely for the iPhone users. There are two things that elevate the Marvin App and if those two things are vital to you, then it is worth it. First, the ability to email yourself the entire set of highlights and annotations is awesome.  Second, the easy interface with Calibre makes it easy to organize and access your entire library of books.  If you’re interested in Marvin, enter the Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Alanis
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 05:48:30

    I bought Marvin for iPhone last weekend and spent the whole weekend organising my library on Calibre and migrating it over to Marvin.
    The key feature that Marvin delivers is the ability to:
    1) Import all metadata including all tags from Calibre
    2) allow me to search by any tag
    3) Allow me to add tags and notes and then sync them back to Calibre
    This is important to me because I read hundreds of books a year but have a terrible memory. So, as I read I add the appropriate tags that will allow me to search for the book again in a year when I can’t remember which urban paranormal I read that had the Yeti show up in it or whatever I’m looking for. The other nice thing is it allows me to remove the unread tag, add a read (or DNF) tag and keep my library updated that way as well.
    Another nice feature is the word count which allows me to queue up the appropriate book for the amount I have time to read. Nice free weekend and it’s time to queue up the 330K Under the Dome, not that much time and it’s the 50K novella that I tackle..

  2. Ruth
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 06:45:07

    The fact that it lets you synch across devices is pretty neat along with the metadata synching with calibre. I’m really looking forward to using it.

  3. Diana
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 07:38:43

    Hmmmm… It looks awesome, with some great features, but $4.99 is too steep for me, as I don’t read on my iPhone hardly ever. Does anyone (genuine question, I am curious)? I’ve never been able to seriously read a book on my phone, despite really wanting to. It’s just an uncomfortable reading experience to me.

    When I do read on my phone, Readmill or the Kindle/Nook apps are free and work fine for me. The connection with Calibre is pretty cool, though, but I can’t use Marvin on my Nook. :(

  4. cleo
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 08:10:33

    @Diana – I read on my phone, more than I expected to. I like it for commuting. At home I’ll use my Nook, but I tend to leave my Nook at home and read from my phone on the train – it’s lighter and for my 40 minute commute it’s not uncomfortable for me. For a serious, longer read, I usually prefer something a little bigger.

  5. Keishon
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 08:39:53

    @Diana: I read on my iPhone. Read this entire article on my iPhone as I typically do most things on the net these days but I prefer my tablet or e-Ink device for longer, more serious reading. Read where it’s comfortable for you.

    I did try the Marvin app long, long time ago and while it sounds great and has great features, I’m entrenched/using something else on my Android device.

  6. jmc
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 09:28:42

    @Diana: I use my iPhone as a reader on my commute, an hour each way daily. I use it as a reader intermittently outside of that but the convenience of a smartphone with reading apps is the primary reason I dropped my old, cheaper phone and converted to several years ago.

  7. Alanis
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 10:04:18

    I have an ipad, an iPhone and a Sony Reader. I usually read on the ipad at home, the iPhone when I’m out and about and the dedicated ereader tends not to get used much.
    The other thing Marvin does, which was the big selling point that kept me using ibooks til now, is allow you to pick up reading on either of your iDevices. I can read all night on my ipad, go to sleep, then to work the next day, pick up my iphone at lunch, sync Marvin then start reading where I left off the night before.
    Marvin is IOS only, so you do have to be pretty invested in your iDevices to take advantage of all the functionality.

  8. Carolyne
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 10:15:09

    I’m glued to my iPhone reading on my long commute now. I used to use the iPad, but there’s much too much peering over shoulders on the train, which makes reading some books ::coff::erotica::coff:: a little awkward.

    Any app that can sort titles into categories and TBR lists, and that I can coordinate with new-discovery-to-me Calibre, would be my best friend.

  9. KSL
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 10:31:39

    The best feature of any ebook reader is simply how it displays the text and Marvin seems great at that.

  10. Charley
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 10:40:43

    Marvin for iPhone is great! :) it’s killer feature is easy of sync (calibre) and customization (everything you can think of)

  11. ms bookjunkie
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 11:03:08

    Marvin sounds good both for the adding of books and the cataloguing possibilities.

    (My most favoritest—for the moment—reading app on the iTouch is Stanza. With every update I bite my nails and hope it still exists afterwards.)

  12. MrsJoseph
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 13:01:25

    I need a new app reader – Kobo isn’t that great and I’m considering getting rid of Amazon 100%.

    I miss stanza.

  13. Pranav Jayaraj
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 13:02:43

    Fell in love at the first sight. This app is that beautiful. A true gem in the App Store. Its miles ahead of the competition. Well done developers. Great work

  14. Belinda
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 13:03:57

    Great review! Believe me when I said I’ve tried nearly every ereader app available in the AppStore, and Marvin is truly the best I’ve used. I read every day with it on my iPad. So highly customizable with a load of really pleasing fonts. It doesn’t hurt either that it has password protection for titles I don’t want people catching me with ;) Does everything I want it to do and tons more fun features to try out. Plus the developer seems (is) really friendly!

  15. Limecello
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 13:09:14

    I’ve looked at the Marvin app and it looks *gorgeous* – checked out the website and everything, but as someone mentioned, the price tag is too steep for me.
    This was a great review – I read on my phone exclusively, so I’m always looking for the optimal ebook apps.

  16. Limecello
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 13:11:01

    @Diana: I read on my iPhone exclusively, and I love it. I use Stanza and I’m clinging to it. I love how easily I can adjust text sizes (unless it’s pdf) and also how sensitive the contrast adjustment is.

  17. Carolyn Jewel
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 13:13:34

    I’ve been using Marvin for over a year — I picked it up when it was offered free. I love this app and the updates since have only improved the experience. What I really, really love is that you can synch it with dropbox. I tell it to go look at my dropbox folders and it will list all the eBooks it finds there and I can choose which ones to download into the reader. LOVE that. This is a lovely app. Highly recommended.

  18. Darryl
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 13:48:28

    I have been using Marvin for iPad and it is definitely my favourite reader since Stanza went down. Highly recommended

  19. Sarah M.
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 13:59:39

    I looked at the Marvin website, and it looks pretty cool. I question whether or not the bulk of my elibrary would be compatible (mainly Kindle books). Currently, I use Amazon and the Kindle app because it is easy and I have a Kindle. Lately, I find myself reading more on my iPhone. I do have books from other e-retailers that I am fairly certain would migrate. I like the tagging features because, as another commenter noted, it can be difficult to remember what is in a particular book when I’ve read so many. I think it would be worth trying out. Thanks for the review!

  20. Robin
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 14:28:21

    The most important aspect of an dreaded is customizability. Marvin gives you control over your ereader experience.

  21. Tabs
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 14:36:31

    I’m really interested in the Calibre syncing features. I use Calibre on a daily basis.

    Also, I can password protect my erotica titles? Oh holy crap I would gladly pay for that alone.

  22. Alanis
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 15:15:29

    There does seem to be some confusion in the comments.
    1. Marvin ipad is still free, marvin iPhone is £3/$5
    2. Marvin only works with iDevices. No android at this time
    3. Marvin only reads DRM free epub. No kindle files, no apple epubs. It is possible to convert your kindle files to DRM free epubs using Calibre, but I have no idea of the legality of it.
    4. You do need to be mildly technical to use the syncing functionality with Marvin/Calibre, but there are clear instructions on the MobileRead forums. It’s not intuitive, though, you do have to follow the steps.

    If anyone has any specific questions, I’m happy to answer them as a user.

  23. Ros
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 15:21:32


    “Marvin only works with iDevices. No android at this time.”

    This makes me smile. I think Marvin the Paranoid Android would find that irony deeply, deeply depressing. Like everything else.

  24. Jorrie Spencer
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 16:19:19

    I picked Marvin up for my iPad because of this review. I just love how you can customize to such an extent—spacing between paragraphs! Indentation! I’m sure I have lots more to learn, but this may be my new reading program. Thanks for writing it up.

  25. Cristian Yáñez
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 16:22:48

    I stumbled upon Marvin a while ago, looking for the rare feature of Dictionary *and* Translator, my native language is Spanish and I like to read books in English if it’s its author native language, just to find out it was only available to iPad.
    Now that it’s finally released for iPhone I can’t wait to have it!

  26. Julaine
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 16:59:59

    I am definitely going to have to give Marvin a try.

  27. Greg
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 17:41:16

    A clarification about the calibre plugins supporting Marvin: Install the ‘iOS reader applications’ plugin first, selecting Marvin as your preferred reading application. This plugin gives you the ability to transfer books to and from Marvin when connected to calibre. Second, if you want to be able to do more than simply transfer books, install the ‘Marvin XD’ plugin. This enables synchronizing metadata, calculating word counts, managing collections, among many others.

  28. Doyle
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 21:48:08

    Stumbled upon this app a few months ago on iPad and have been using it ever since. It’s definitely the best reading app on iPad. I’m glad its on iPhone now and with the reading location sync, it couldn’t be better. However, $4.99 is still a bit too expensive for me, I would suggest it lowers to $2.99 then I would totally consider getting it for the phone.

  29. Jacqueline
    Sep 22, 2013 @ 22:26:37

    I love the ability to tag/catagorize the ebooks within an app. However, no matter how good an ebook app is, I wouldn’t be willing to pay $4.99 for one.

  30. Samantha
    Sep 23, 2013 @ 05:56:51

    Any app that removes the barrier between the reader and the device is great. Anything that takes me out of the ‘reading zone’, be it the way that text lies on the page, page controls, brightness etc. is to be avoided. Stanza did this extremely well, and from what I’m hearing, Marvin takes all that and improves it x10!

  31. Castiron
    Sep 23, 2013 @ 13:01:48

    I’d heard enough good things about Marvin that I decided to risk the $4.99 and see if it’d work for me as a Stanza replacement. Verdict: I haven’t opened Stanza since installing Marvin. With the Calibre plugins, it was easy (though not lightning-fast) to load my 800+ books into Marvin; all the categories and tags I’d assigned in Calibre carried over as well.

    There are a couple quirks and bugs, but the developer seems to be responsive; the one I found most annoying has already been fixed for the next update. For me, it’s worth the price.

  32. Mustafa jan
    Sep 23, 2013 @ 13:47:38

    The price IMO is a bit steep, the app is great I use the iPad version all the time.

  33. Jonah
    Sep 23, 2013 @ 14:52:50

    It sounds better than iBooks, except that iBooks will have a Mac app with Mavericks.

  34. Caroline lee
    Sep 23, 2013 @ 15:10:25

    I read all my ebooks on my iphone. After the last update of Stanza I have tried and searched replacement to read my Ebooks. In fear of losing the ability of reading my Ebooks I was very careful with updating my iPhone IOS. Read many good reviews of Marvin. If it can replace Stanza, I will certainly give it a try for 4,50€.

  35. Suz Glo
    Sep 23, 2013 @ 16:42:45

    I do read on my iPhone. It’s never my first choice but when I’m out and about it’s nice to take any down time and be able to pick up my book. Any ereader or app I use must allow me to customize the screen. I quickly get eye strain if I cannot soften the appearance of a stark black on white screen.

  36. Colleen Juniper
    Sep 28, 2013 @ 19:16:35

    I’ve been using Marvin for months on my iPad and was glad to plonk $5 to support the company. I cannot stress enough how much I love it.

    I’ve just seen that Marvin has released a free LITE version for iPhone & iPod Touch which seems to have much of the basic functionality of the full version. I STRONGLY encourage everyone with iOS devices to give this a try, especially if you are among the many who miss Stanza. I now do almost all my reading with Marvin, and resent it when I am forced to use the Kindle or iBooks apps. (I’ve set Marvin up to turn pages forward when I tap the left side of my screen, so I can read and have a cup of coffee in my right hand at the same time!)

  37. Nicole Aptekar
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 21:30:40

    Marvin is phenomenal. Straight up. The notion that 5 dollars is too much for an app that likely took thousands of hours to write is pretty ridiculous. If you loved Stanza, here’s a significantly better app that is likely to be supported forever, since the author is actually getting paid for their time. Cook dinner at home once this week and you’ve paid for it.

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