In my quest to find a one-stop ereader program for my iPhone, I’m finding myself nothing short of frustrated. Some programs look nice, but have little functionality (Classics, for example, which I will review later this week) some have better functionality but are buggy and ugly (Stanza and Bookz; reviews are also on the way), and others come close, but ultimately stumble over their own feet. eReader fits squarely into this third category.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty, let me lay out my basic criteria for what I would consider a worthwhile (and possibly worth my money) ereading program for the iPhone:
- It should be able read just about any ebook file I want to load on it. At the very least it must handle PDF and TXT files.
- I should be able to manage my ebooks from my computer, at least in some rudimentary way (such as loading books I buy from various ebooks stores or that someone emails me).
- It should at least attempt to dampen the eye strain that comes inevitably when staring at the iPhone for long periods by changing background colors; more importantly, it should look good and allow me to customize viewing options.
- It shouldn’t crash or freeze with any sort of regularity.
- I should be able to easily connect to various online services to download books. I should be able manage these, and choose the services I want.
- There should be bookmarking and note taking tech built in. Text searching is also necessary.
That’s really not asking a lot. For the most part, the readers I’ve tried hit all but one of these, getting so close, but yet remaining oh so far off from winning my favor.
eReader has a fair but not great amount of customization options. You can change text size, choose from three fonts, read black on white or white on black. Alas, there is no zoom pinch gesture, but it does switch to landscape with the accelerometer (and, a nice touch, there is a lock button to prevent the accelerometer switching view modes, which is nice if you are laying down). The ability to search text is there and seems to work nicely. The bookmarking definitely works nicely, just tap the upper right corner and the page dogears. You can flip between these marked pages through a quick menu. The notes function works well too, you simply highlight text with your finger then type in notes corresponding to what you highlight. The only downside to this is that too often I accidentally highlight text when I’m trying to gesture a page turn, and vice versa. (You can switch page turning from gestures to tapping the side of the screen to get around this, but I don’t want to have to do that; I prefer the page turning finger motion.)
There are quick links built into eReader that bring you directly to the two ebookstore sponsors eReader.com and fictionwise.com , where you can buy ebooks directly from your phone. You can also manage bookshelves though these sites to sync up your program. Be warned if you try this though: if you want to access the bookshelves on both the sites at once, make sure to use the exact same login info when you sign up, as the program can’t handle two separate logins at once. There is also a quick link to manybooks.net which is handy and works well, and if you wish can add you own site to pull books from. This last button is near useless, though. Why?
Because this is where eReader shoots itself in the foot: you can only use the Palm PDB format. PDF? Nope. Text file? Nope. It sucks. Luckily PDB is available from manybooks or I would have scrapped this program a while ago. It baffles me that they don’t open it up. It might be because they don’t want to program the bookmarking and highlighting technology for other formats (in which case I’d rather have limited functionality with some formats then be flatly denied), but I suppose it’s to force you to use their bookstores, which have a decent selection of second tier novels, but nothing I really want to read. If you’re big on Nora Roberts or Star Wars novels, or anything else you’d get from Publishers’ Clearing House you’re in luck. If you’re not, you’re right back out of luck.