A Comparison of three Ebook Reader Apps: Kindle, eReader and Stanza

Three of the more prominent ebook reader applications on our favorite platform are Stanza, eReader, and the Amazon Kindle App. I’m a big book reader, the type ‘bound with real paper’, but I’m not against reading on my iPod Touch as well, especially when faced with some content that is only available as an ebook. So, I’ve downloaded each of these apps, along with a few books for each, and figured I’d give you all a look at each one, and what I think the positives and negatives are.

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I’m going to start with the newest, Amazon’s Kindle. Amazon has its own portable device, the Kindle, but they wisely decided to not limit their store sales to only that hardware by introducing this app for the iDevice. Ease of downloading books for your Kindle App falls somewhere in the middle of the three I’m going to look at, as you must first go on the internet (through Safari or your computer) to the Amazon store. From there you purchase the Kindle book, through whatever means you have set up with Amazon. The good news is, the book you’ve ordered will then wirelessly download to your Apple device, and within moments you can begin reading.

er4The Kindle App has a nice main menu, with various sorting options for the books stored in the application. Within the book itself, there are three background color/text color choices, plus multiple text sizes. I found that at my reading pace (when the device is held vertically) I needed to set the text at the second to smallest text size (shown in the picture above) if I wanted to be able to read each ‘page’ on the screen before the device starts to go dark (as if shutting down, because you haven’t touched the screen in too long). The Kindle App allows you to switch to a horizontal screen, as well as to lock the screen so it can’t move. I personally want to get as much text on the screen as possible, without having to hit the screen unnecessarily to keep it from going dark (in other words, only hitting the screen when I’m read to turn the page). You can retrieve a menu that shows chapter marks as well as any bookmarks you may have put into the story you’re reading. It’s a clean app, but it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the others.

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Though the App is fairly new, eReader itself has been around the longest; it’s the way most people have been reading ebooks for years. There’s a fairly wide selection of free books available on eReader, but in some ways, this is actually the most difficult app to order or purchase books from. Again you must first go on the internet (through Safari or your computer) and select one of the stores that sells eReader books. You must also have an eReader account, and then go through the process of purchasing and downloading. On the up side, there are a few more choices in stores you can purchase from (as opposed to Kindle, which is just the one store).

er7The eReader App itself has a serviceable main menu. It’s not as pretty as the other two apps I’ve checked out, which is also true of the main body of these books themselves. Again, I had to move the text setting up from the smallest size (allowing the most text on the screen) to the next level up (medium – as shown in the picture above) in order to be able to read a page without the screen starting to go black. In eReader you have a lot more options for font type, line spacing, margins – and eight different color combinations for background and text. Again you can switch between horizontal and vertical orientations for viewing the book, but you have to go into the menu to lock it in place (unlike Kindle, where that option pops up on the screen as you move from one to the other). Ultimately, eReader, even with all the additional options, feels more bare bones than either Kindle or Stanza, the last app I’ll look at.

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Stanza has the easiest options for purchasing ebooks, as it’s all done directly through the application itself. From the main menu, you access the Online Catalog, which gives you access to a number of different stores and free book sites. From each of these, you select the book you want to purchase, it charges your iTunes account, automatically downloads the book requested, and you’re ready to read.

The main menu I found to actually be the easiest to navigate, as it presents multiple options up front (purchasing, books sorted in multiple ways, even the things you’ve read most recently). Stanza isn’t doing anything that the other Apps can’t do; it’s just presenting it in a little more straightforward way. I will say there is a noticeable lag as the App loads the book you want to read; a book you’ve already purchased and downloaded, it already resides on your device, but it seems to take a few moments to format it. This same lag crops up when you switch from horizontal to vertical viewing, as the App adjusts what page you’re on. That said, there are again a lot of options in choosing font size (literally a sliding scale, as opposed to preset size options), a near endless variety of color choices for background and text. I could actually set the font size much smaller in Stanza (as shown in the picture above) and still be able to read to the end of the page before it went dark.

So, each eBook reader App has its pros and cons, but I found all of them to be easy to use and read books on – and that’s really what it’s all about. Still, if I had to choose just one, Stanza is the one I most often use and would recommend. As a summary:

Kindle [Amazon.com, Free]

Pros:

  • Large store backed by Amazon
  • Nicest looking App

Cons:

  • Only one store to purchase books from
  • Limited book viewing options

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eReader [Fictionwise, Free]

Pros:

  • Most selection due to being the format in existence longest
  • Lots of book viewing options

Cons:

  • Bare bones application
  • Most difficult to download book purchases

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Stanza [Lexcycle, Free]

Pros:

  • Multiple stores to purchase books
  • Easiest to download purchases
  • Most straightforward menu
  • The most options for book viewing

Cons:

  • Noticeable lag when loading books

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