Apple done did it. They have finally, officially announced what almost every tech-head from Singapore to Salisbury has predicted or pined for since...geez! It seems like forever.
The reviews thus far are mixed, and that’s as it should be. After so much wild speculation for so long even James Cameron couldn’t have delivered anything that would live up to the hype.
I am going to reserve my judgement until I can actually get one in my hands and play with it. I will say that I am excited, but not giddily so, about the prospects of Apple’s new device, and that they have a full 3 months to make all sorts of other announcements relating to it, the iPhone, and the iPod Touch.
I will also say that I am not a fan of the name. Feminine hygiene jokes aside, the name Apple chose does little to get people thinking about what this device can really do. The name could be a reference to Apple’s first commercially available tablet device, the Newton MessagePad, and I get that, but I think a better reference may have made to the eMate, Apple last personal portable computing device. They likely won’t, but I hope they change the name before they deliver them in March. I’m sure I’ll be use to the name by then and the only people still making jokes will be those who still think the iPhone is a fad.
Anyway, if Apple’s tablet has done nothing else, it has stirred the buzz-pot, and one of the things that people are buzzing about is iBook.
Like most folks, when I saw iBook demoed I immediately thought of an app that has an interface that looks very much like iBook’s. Classics has been in the Apps Store forever it seems, and it’s a great app, but the interface is hardly new.
Delicious Library, a media cataloging application for the Mac made by Delicious Monster, also has an interface the looks almost exactly like that of Classics’ and iBook, and it could easily be argued the one was borrowed from the other.
Delicious Monster's Delicious Library
Even so, I’m sure conspiracy theorists and pointy-heads will tell us how evil Apple is for ripping off the little guy, and wonder aloud why they couldn’t have come up with something more original, and blah, blah, blah.
If nothing else, iBook has drawn attention to the Classics app, which I have featured in Free on iTunes before, and that’d a good thing because Classics is a good app. That’s not to say that the can’t be improved. For instance, Classics does not support reading in landscape mode. I’m not really sure why. You also are limited to the books that Classics has on its shelf. No going out and finding free books and loading them up.
Classics does update often and those updates usually include new books. Also Classics looks nice. Pages turn as fast or as slow as your finger tells them to and the page turning animation is pretty convincing. The pages are off-white, as if yellowed by time. Bookmarks drop whenever you leave a book, but you can’t drop multiples.
The interface of Classics is simple as well; two buttons let you go back to the bookshelf or bring up the index. Tapping on either side of the screen will turn the page forwards or back. You can also arrange books on the bookshelf however you like by holding a finger on a book and sliding it into its new place on the shelf. That’s pretty much it.
If you want an ebook reader with more options then you might try Wattpad. Strange name, but it’s an iPhone version of a popular app and website that host a global community of ebook readers and writers. This means that you not only have access to public domain books that tend to be old, but you can find and read new stuff written by other Wattpad members.
As for the app, it’s pretty standard stuff. It offers a nice list of categories to browse through. When you find something you like you can download it and start reading. It’s just that simple.
Wattpad will let you read in either portrait or landscape mode, but the page flipping isn’t pretty. You can easily adjust font size and screen color to reduce eye strain.
With lots of stuff to read and more stuff being added, you almost don’t care about the ads flashing across the bottom of the screen. Try out Wattpad. It could be watt you need. (sorry)
One other ebook reader app is similar to Classics, but has more content available. 101 Classic Novels uses the Sun Scroll engine to display books and, as the name implies, offers a bit over 100 classic novels to pick from. This a nice engine and books displayed with it look and act great. The page turning animation is the best I’ve seen on the iPhone.
101 Classic Novels offer lots of controls, landscape or portrait reading, multiple bookmarks, search, and more. The only problem is that, like Classics, you are limited to what you can load up and read. Even so, this is a nice app that looks and works great.
So, while you bide your time waiting for Apple’s tablet to appear so that you can load up iBook, one of these apps should tide you over.
That’s a wrap for this week. Tune in next week for more Free on iTunes.
More free stuff below with direct links.