85 thoughts on “The Next Hot e-Reader: The iPhone”

  1. Phone, music player, gaming platform, e-reader, wow I guess it’s only up to the developer’s imagination as to what they can do with the iPhone…. Medical checkup device, payment platform etc. etc.

    1. Wow, imagine that, developers creating games and applications on what, for all intents and purposes, is a computer. Just like they did with the “real” computers in the past. Those developers… such imagination.

      Sorry for being so short here, but this rear end kissing of the iPhone like it’s some magic box goes a bit beyond admitting that it is a very well built device.

      1. I agree, its a computer platform, but tell me who else has a device that comes close? The fact that this “computer” has a portable form factor has indeed shown some innovation by the developers. Rear end kissing aside, I tend to appreciate innovation where I see it.

  2. Contrary to your argument that it is impossible to read large amounts of text on an iPhone or iPod Touch, I find it is not a problem at all. I have both and have the usual apps on both to download and read books at my leisure. Like reading a book, most folks I suspect read awhile and then put the book over on the nightstand and turn over and go to sleep. With me I just put the iPhone and the Touch over on the bed away from me and go to sleep. Both devices have fine enough resolution to be able to read text with no strain. I suspect if one is older and need glasses to read, they should probably be bi-focals with a short focal distance. Mine are and it is a pleasure to be able to pick up the thing and in moments be reading right where I left off the last time.

    Your argument about the impossibility of reading large amounts of text on these devices sounds like either you have an axe to grind somewhere or you are just making stuff up to keep your word count up.

    I agree with your statement that the iPhone has mutated. Sure and it is many things to many people and it is certainly why it is taking the world by storm and also why there are so many imitators. My wallet and the iPhone and the iPod Touch are the three things I won’t leave home without. Reading material close at hand being the first requirement for the latter two. And yes, I do wear Cargo Pants….

    1. It was necessary to be so rude? It is well known that reading on light emitting devices may be bad for your eyes, that’s why they invested so much in the development of the e-paper.

    2. I totally agree. I’ve been reading on handheld devices since 2004 and have literally read hundreds of books on them till now. I’ve had my iPod Touch for over a year now and I’ve never had a better reading device.

      I’ve read for hours at a time, including the entire 11 book set of the Wheel of Time series and I read a new book on it every week. So it’s not only not impossible but completely doable.

      1. I just bought an iPod touch two weeks ago and was curious what apps you use to read. I have eReader and Stanza downloaded, and of the two I’ve found eReader to be the one I like best. i was just curious as to whether there were any other good apps, or maybe one can allow you to view .pdf files while you’re offline. Thanks.

      2. Out of Stanza and Ereader, Stanza is the better application – for one big, BIG reason – it uses the open format “epub” instead of ereader’s proprietary format.

        This means that books downloaded from say Google Books using epub can be read on the iPod Touch or any other device whatsoever. Existing formats can be easily converted to epub using good software like Calibre.

    3. Hear hear! It’s obviously not impossible to read large amounts of text on a screen. I read all of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall on a Palm Treo, and, since switching to an iPhone (with a better screen) I’ve read a ton of books on it. Currently most of the way through Churchill’s History of the Second World War.

      And to the other poster who wrote “It is well known that reading on light emitting devices may be bad for your eyes” – it’s well known that it *may* be? So in other words, it’s not known?

  3. I just don’t buy (and haven’t) the iPhone as a serious eReader alternative. I can’t see reading anything on it for any length of time (and yes, I have one). Checking something in a technical journal when I don’t have access to something better, perhaps, but actually sitting down and reading – my old eyes just wouldn’t put up with that.

    The tablet OTOH may be a different story. But if the rumors about it are true and it clocks in at $800+ then I may be better off with the netbook + dedicated eReader combo. At least for a generation or 2 until the prices get saner. Personally I buy my technology to solve a problem (which eReaders like the Kindle/Nook currently do) and not to look cool.

    1. Same here. I can’t see myself reading for hours on such tiny device. Poor eyes.

      People already listen to excessively loud music and now this… The generation of deaf and blind, folks.

      1. Audio books take too long – you can read a book *much* faster than listening to it. The only time I like audio books are when I’m doing something fairly mindless (driving?).

  4. I think that when the Apple tablet comes out, this won’t stop the iPhone from being used as an e-reader device, but only increase this kind of use. Most people won’t own both, but probably a lot of the content for the new device will also be available for the iPhone.

  5. The evolution of the platform is to be expected. I tend to think of it as a maturity moving from early adopter entertainment device to a more task oriented device. The same tasks we normally perform with other technologies will ultimately get subsumed by mobile, and even more quickly than on the web. The best ones will be those that never really did catch on in the PC space.

    I bet a tablet comes in at either $399 or $499. And, reading on the iPhone is probably better than the experience I’m getting reading Makers in a PDF…

  6. Om – i downloaded a GPS app for the iphone, and I immediately wanted to short stock in Garmin. I think the iphone will totally undercut the low-end/casual GPS market. I own a Garmin – but i probably won’t ever buy one again thanks to the iphone.

  7. Completely agree. And am waiting for the iTablet to hit the market. Although I read the NY Times and the WSJ every day on my iPhone, it is a bit hard on the eyes. But once the iTablet comes out, reading will be easier on the eyes and also I can take some notes in the margines while I am reading.

  8. I am well into my second book using the Kindle reader for iPhone (on my iPod Touch). It’s a great utility for when you have those 20 minute slogs of time on a bus, waiting to meet someone at the coffee shop or kicking back in the living room.

    Now imagine a Tablet device with that same value proposition but a larger form factor, ideal for reading magazines, graphic novels, classroom-in-a-book apps (Physics anyone?) and/or reference guides

    Overlay on top of that Apple coming out with tools that enable anyone from solo publishers to big publishing houses to create books that are rich, graphical, that leverage touch/tilt/sound/video and are interactive, and you have a formula for Book Industry 2.0, something that I blogged about in:

    Rebooting the Book (One Apple iPad Tablet at a Time)

    Check it out if interested.


    1. I am looking at educational content in this context. The “persistent context.” That can be a quite complex quality, particularly if you are able to track a user over time, and the content and context intertwine with the user in new ways. In education, one could say this is the critical aspect.

      Nice post…

  9. I just think people want to read content whenever and however they can… if they pay for, say, a $4.95 report somewhere 🙂 they should be able to take it with them on the iPhone and read it whenever. Tablet is still too big to fit in the pocket/purse and take out on the train. Sitting at your daughter’s dance class, where they make you wait outside… how many other places to read an iPhone? Lots, I am guessing.

  10. I am a very new convert to the iPhone – but I have immediately gravitated towards ebooks for technical reference content – having all the syntax and reference on your iphone is a huge help. I don’t know about reading long form books – but I fond the form factor ideal for short content.

  11. Wow. You guys are like the slow cousin people pretend not to notice during the family dinner, as he pours beans into his own pants.

    Smartphones have been in use as e-book readers for ages. Welcome to the wonderful year 2000 and the birth of Mobipocket and the likes! Oh, to live in the land of iPhonia, lagging behind an entire decade!

    1. I had smartphone e-book readers for many years but I did not use them very much. With the iPhone I read at least an hour most days. There is a great difference between technology and easily usable technology, I think.

      1. Yes and no,
        There is a difference between technology and usability, but there is a difference between ignorance and knowledge.

        Many folks are ignorant till APPLE showed them the “WAY”.
        Knowledgeable folks knew this long time back , but with a poor usability.

  12. The iphone is insanely overpriced. The actual cost of ownership for the iphone is upwards $4000, which means only nsane rich kids buy an iphone.

    The eink screen is readable for the hours needed to read more that twitter messages (another terrible waste of time), nobody reads ebooks on the tiny low resolution of the iphone.

    Pixel Qi fixes that, but for pocket sized reading, we need 4.8″ of the Archos 5 Internet Tablet with at least 800×480 screen.

    1. The actual cost of ownership is not upwards of $4000. Buy a 3G model for $99, and get the cheapest plan of $69.99 per month, that makes the 2 year contract cost of $1779 plus whatever taxes apply. Where the heck do you come up with $4k?

      Besides, you cannot include the full cost of the cell service as price of ownership unless you’re claiming that you would never have any cellphone at all. The iPhone offsets that cell service by replacing it, and if you don’t want the cell service of the iPhone, you might as well get an iPod touch.

      Cost of ownership FUD type shots at the iPhone have been shot down time and time again; people who throw out those exaggerated numbers either just don’t get the math, or have an axe to grind against the iPhone.

      I probably agree with your point about the screen size of the iPhone as a reader, but if you’ve got an iPhone, and do light reading, why bother purchasing another device? The point of the iPhone is that it can be just about anything you want it to be: phone, text-device, web browser, game machine, portable office, and even an ebook reader. It’s a pretty good jack of all trades, albeit master of none.

  13. How are they counting ebook apps? Lots of companies upload hundreds of titles and sell each as an individual app. Does this survey count that as one or count it as hundreds? Obviously, comparing one book title to one game is not exactly apples to apples.

    1. I believe that it should be that way. It is perhaps a bit different in terms of management, but that facilitates a custom interaction and design with each product. Music will be the same way ultimately. A fan will download an application for an album and it will export music to the library if desired. The strength would be in cross-referencing content. This is the strength of “widgets.”

  14. Even though I am not a Kindle user, I downloaded the Kindle iPhone app, since it was free and I wanted to check it out, comparing it next to some of the other eBook readers on the iPhone.

    I did end up purchasing, and reading 100% on the iPhone, A. Lincoln, an 816 page book. Although the experience on the iPhone is not ideal – with the text being small, it does have many upsides. The book is available anywhere since I always carry my iPhone, unlike the Kindle reader. Also it saves your spot, I found this to be one of the best features. If you own the full Kindle, it will pick up wherever you left off, no matter what device you left it on.

    Although I doubt this will become the main source of reading for serious book readers, it does have its advantages and with the right app (non-Amazon dependent) could really take the literary world by storm.

  15. If it’s “impossible to read large amounts of text on a smaller screen”, why has the ebook category taken the lead over games? What do you think is going on here?

    As one of the developers of the eReader and B&N eReader applications, I can tell you that there are a _lot_ of people reading on their iPhone OS devices. Since you can fit about the same amount of text on the screen as on a paperback book page, and the screen is 200 dpi, what do you think is the limiting factor here? The backlight? Don’t you read text on a backlit screen all day long, from your laptop or computer?

    This is one situation where you’re behind the curve. People have been reading novels on handhelds for the past decade and loving it. It’s finally becoming mainstream, despite FUD about how it’s impossible.

  16. I own both a Kindle (2nd Gen) and an iPhone with the Kindle app. I use them according to circumstance. The iPhone app works great for reading while squeezed into a crowded bus or train. I am fans of both and my best of both worlds view is a deal between Amazon and Apple that would enable the app on a larger format Apple tablet.

  17. >>>mostly because it is impossible to read large amounts of text on a smaller screen.

    Then I must be hallucinating all those books I’ve read on my LifeDrive? Same screen as the iPhone: 320×480.

    Maybe you just haven’t caught on to the fact you should turn off the Automatic Brightness setting and dial down the backlight? Most people do forget — and then blame the “small screen” for such self-inflicted eyestrain.

  18. Thanks for pointing out this data. It does not surprise me and prompted me to write my own post (http://bit.ly/4gPrpj) about how the Kindle and iPhone together have changed the way that I read. It is the combination of BOTH that is what’s most powerful for me. The ability to have all of my books with me wherever I am coupled with the ability to have them on whichever device is best suited to the physical context I’m in in (e.g. I can now read in bed without the lights on) is what has enabled me to start reading a lot more.

  19. Can’t argue with those numbers, but for me, books are meant to have physical pages turned. Yeah, it’s old school. I do so many things with my iPhone, but reading books won’t be one.

  20. I don’t know why it is a surprise that the iphone would be used as an e-reader… On my last business trip, I used my HTC Touch Pro to read Dan Brown’s new book The Lost Symbol. I was as happy as I could be to be able to read the book no matter where I was on a great little portable device.

    Personally I can’t see why anyone would want a Kindle in the first place when they can read on there mobile device. Why carry more ‘things’. 🙂

    Now I just need to find the ereader for my blackberry Storm 2. 😉

  21. I may be misinterpreting this article but I only see the need for a handful of book apps. There should be many many more games than there are book apps. Now if we’re talking downloads of actual book content that is a different story but there is no need for 10,000 book apps.

  22. All these people sayin the iPhone screen is too small to read on must never have read a paperback in their lives. For me it’s exactly the same experience. I’ve read over 30 novels in one yr on my Touch.

  23. There is absolutely no difference in the size of the type on the iPhone readers and a paperback book. I just returned from a weekend away and LOVE being able to read in the middle of the night while my SO is sleeping – no more crouching under the blankets with a book light. The other thing is that there are several e-reader apps for the iPhone – allowing me to shop for price and availability AND to read free books.

  24. This article is like a “no duh!” More papers are coming out with apps which make it extremely easy to read articles on the IPhone. There was an article this past summer in the New Yorker talking about the kindle and the author found the best way to read books was on an IPhone. If Apple does out with their tablet, it will be a major innovation for Publishing; think about it, being able to view content in full color, a possible option to put interactive components in titles such as textbooks instead of having to have a separate online companion. The nook and Kindle will have to change their strategy dramatically otherwise they’ll go the way of the betamax.

  25. Om, are you counting oranges with oranges? The AppStore model requires each eBook to be listed as an “App” – hence each book cannot be counted as an eBook app.

  26. 5-10 minutes reading on iphone is ok. Beyond that my head hurts – but that’s me. If it works for you, i am happy for you

  27. On the subject of reading off the screen; yes you can read off these screens – however, it is limited to primarily tech savy individuals who don’t mind (maybe they even enjoy it!) reading off an IPhone or Touch.
    The vast majority of the users will simply find it uncomfortable; not preferential and will likely stay with paper books or move to kindle.

    I am not saying one is better than the other; only that the masses will not read off a bright screen – they will prefer something closer to the written word on paper/newsprint/magazine.

  28. It’s interesting to see how many books are getting released onto iTunes – we’re at a turning point. It shows a ratio of titles added to the catalog – noting that each book gets counted as an “app” – but it doesn’t show what people are actually buying/using.

    Just saw this – Ben Lorica points to the sales numbers rather than the number of releases – http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/11/games-top-the-charts-iphone-android-markets.html. Games are still dominant (for now).

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