Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reading the iPhone

The iPhone has a wonderfully clear, hi-rez screen, and seems a perfectly usable platform for ebooks -- not as good as the Kindle, but better than the Palm V on which I once read "Don Quixote."

Sadly, Plucker hasn't been ported to the iPhone yet, putting it somewhere behind the 1999 Palm V in functionality.

There are a plethora of eBook readers available for download from the App Store. Most of them cost money; Stanza is one of the exceptions. It's got some decent books available for download, and the library interface is only moderately wonky, but... but. The book reader is TERRIBLE. Rendering takes minutes--not downloading, but rendering--and tilting the screen triggers a complete re-render, meaning that any accidental tilt interrupts your reading for 2-3min. Completely unusable.

The best book reader I've found is the iPhone's built-in PDF viewer, accessed via Air Sharing, an app that was free a week ago but now costs $6.99. Air Sharing allows you to connect to a network share on your iPhone via WebDAV, which initially sounds only mildly interesting, until you realize that files within that share can be opened for viewing on the iPhone.

PDFs rendered this way open fast, rotate even faster, and the viewer state--ie, which page you're on--is saved between Air Share sessions. It would be perfect were it not for the sometimes screen-unfriendly nature of PDFs.

Text and HTML files can also be viewed, and the Text viewer retains state, but render times are prohibitive.

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