REVIEW: The Apple iPhone as an Ebook Reader
Even before the iPhone was released, we were told that by Jobs it would be a closed system. A closed system prevented third party applications from being developed and installed on the device. This changed slightly as Jobs invited developers to create Safari based widgets. While it was not impossible to read an ebook on the iPhone, it was highly inconvenient because you a) had to have internet access to be able to view your books and b) because if you were not on at a WI Fi hotspot, it would take F O R E V E R for your book to load.
Then the hackers began. I can’t tell you how much I adore hackers. Initially, the hack was so complicated I felt I would need a Computer Science degree to even begin to understand it. I think the first hacks also required some hardware (and maybe even soldering). Suffice to say I was intimdated.
This section is no longer useful with the newer firmwares. Please read this post for the One Click Hack for firmware 1.1.1.
Then I found out about iBrickr for Windows users and Breezy for Mac users. This was an easy software hack. And I do mean easy. iBrickr requires the user to know how to use a mouse and to hold down two buttons on the iPhone. Seriously. That is it.
The developer has a video on Gear Live Blog that explains this process.
Once iBrickr “frees” the iPhone, you install a program called Installer App on the iPhone. From the iBrickr program, click Applications.
At the next screen, click the button that says “Browse Applications.”
Scroll down to the program that says “Installer”. Click it and iBrickr will handle the installation and re-start the iPhone.
This is the end of the deprecated (no longer useful) section.
Installation of the eBook Application.
Once Installer is, well, installed, all your program installation takes place on the iPhone.
The programs are listed for you and everytime you refresh, if there is an update to an installed program, you are given an alert. The installation of a program involves touching the name of the program you want to install. It downloads, unpacks, and even restarts the iPhone without your involvement. My 3 year old tot can do this. I kid you not.
The Books.App was the first one I installed. The program is free (as are all the iPhone hacks) and is in its 8th udpated iteration. The program is updated by its developer, Chris Born, almost every other day. Currently the book application reads htmls and txt files which means that if you use software programs to convert your lit files or pdf files into htmls, you can read any book on the market.
The Book App is a streamlined program that I think is missing only two key features to make it perfect. First, the ability to make your own bookmark and second, a “jump to” feature. These are features that Born has indicated he is working on. I put in the request for a notes feature.
So what can the application do?
It uses basic file structure of the iPhone. You can make folders and subfolders to your hearts content. I’ve made four folders right now:
The blue dots signal books not read.
Books.app features global persistence which means that the program remembers the location you are in every file and returns you to the last known location when you access the file. Essentially that means it remembers where you stopped reading.
Currently, the Books.App only reads txt and html files. With the html files, hyperlinks do not work so if you have chapter marks via hyperlinks, they won’t be useable. According to the WIKI, Born has started on developing support for palm docs.
You can choose between a white background and black text or black background and white text. The book is Grimspace by Ann Aguirre. It comes out in February and you’ll want to start reading early in the evening else you’ll be like me, up to 3 am because you can’t put the thing down and you’ll be all bleary eyed and non functional the next day.
It takes about 10 seconds to make the change. There are three different fonts: Georgia, Helvetica, and Times New Roman. The font size can be anything you care to input. I like 14.
There is a bottom toolbar with arrows that you can use to navigate your book. You can drag your finger down the screen or you can tap at the bottom to move one screen down or tap at the top to move one screen up.
Deleting is easy. Simply drag your finger across the book that you wish to delete and you will be given the option to delete it.
Adding books requires you to use iBrickr or another program. iBrickr is fairly easy to use but it is not a drag and drop. Below are the screen shots. From the home page of iBrickr, click the “Files” button. Move over to the picture of the iPhone and start navigating. Scroll to the bottom and click on “var“.
Look for “root” and click on it.
From “root”, choose “Media“.
Click on “EBooks“.
From here, you can create folders. I have four right now.
Click on the folder where you want your ebook located and then click file upload.
This may seem complicated at first, but it really becomes second nature.
Greg Joswiak was recently asked about the iPhone hacks and said that Apple was aware of them and that it is maintaining a neutral stance. It isn’t going to stop people from doing the hacks, but neither is Apple going to support it. That’s good enough for me. With the iTouch coming out later this month, I think Apple has a great ebook reader on its hands.
It would be great if they would provide a supported eBook reader but I am more than happy with the free one developed by Chris Born.