iPhone as an E-Reader

Forbes calls the iPhone “more popular than Amazon.com’s Kindle” as an e-reader:

Stanza, a book reading application offered in Apple’s iPhone App Store since July, has been downloaded more than 395,000 times and continues to be installed at an average rate of about 5,000 copies a day, according to Portland, Ore.-based Lexcycle, the three-person start-up that created the reading software.

By comparison, Citigroup estimates Amazon will sell around 380,000 Kindles in 2008. Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey expects Sony’s Reader will sell only a fraction of that number. In other words, Apple may have inadvertently sold more e-readers than any other company in the nascent digital book market.

I just don’t see it. While more people might be downloading the Stanza app, reading books on the iPhone seems unlikely — the screen is just way too small to do any serious reading on it.

The Kindle, on the other hand, seems like a much better form factor. But while there are some nice features to it, the real problem is that it’s a closed system, and even getting PDFs is a terribly inept process. I’ll give the iPhone credit, though — despite my previously pessimistic view of the whole idea of an e-reader, using the iPhone has at least somewhat changed my mind to the idea of this. It’s nice to have something to read on-the-go, like when you’re sitting in the periodontist’s office waiting for an appointment (as I just was…).

Even more, using Skim on the mac, with it’s ability to add highlights and notes, has convinced me that a markup-able e-reader that’s open, and supports PDF and other common file formats, would be a really useful tool, especially for students, who increasingly don’t read books, but rely on web pages and PDFs of works throughout the semester.


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