08. 15. 2007
Digital Books for the iPhone
One thing I've learned from the dearth of applications on the iPhone is that, despite having dozens of applications on my smartphones and PDAs throughout the years, I must not have needed them quite as much as I thought because I haven't really been missing them too much as I've transitioned to using the iPhone as my main mobile phone and PDA. I think this is primarily because the web browser is so good that I no longer need separate apps for doing things like looking up movie times or tv listings or the weather. You can just use the browser as you would at home, albeit more slowly whenever you're not in Wifi range and have to use the EDGE connection. Oh, how I hate the sight of that big "E" in the upper left corner of my iPhone. When I'm using a 3G phone, I won't even attempt to use the browser or email if there's only EDGE available. So slooowww...
Despite that caveat, I was starting to get used to the idea that perhaps some applications which are browser-based for the iPhone might not be too bad. I haven't found any yet that I've found indispensible (check out iPhone appr for a full listing) but I'm hopeful that they'll get better. And bless the hackers, I'm sure there will be plenty of unofficial 3rd-party, non-browser apps coming along any day now.
But back to the browser. The main thing I've been missing from my iPhone is e-books. I carry tons of e-Reader books with me everywhere because I'm so impatient that if I'm in line for even 30 seconds, I need something to do. I once read some interminable, overrated Jonathan Franzen book on my Treo over the course of a week of extra-long commutes. Harper Collins is attempting to fill that void by providing digital books in iPhone-compatible format. The books are only available in preview now so you can only read 10 pages of the first two chapters of a few new titles, but it's enough to sort of get the gist of the experience.
I take back everything I said about the browser possibly being an adequate platform for outside apps. Even getting to the table of contents of one the books took forever, even on a fast, stable wifi connection at home. While there may be some refinements in the works, there are some gigantic and confusing navigation buttons which go to seemingly random places on the Harper Collins website. When, at last, you've loaded one of the book pages, it actually looks pretty good, although you definitely need to zoom in a few times if you don't want to kill your eyes. Scrolling down a page is easy and feels much more natural than in other e-readers I've used because using your finger just feels more like you're reading an actual book. But when there's a 4 second "LOADING..." on the screen between each and every page turn, you're likely to go insane before you ever get around to clicking "buy" so you can be directed to one of dozens of outside retailers to actually purchase the book.
Once again, I get my hopes up, and once again, I beg Apple, "please please please let people build some non-browser apps". Why must doing anything on an iPhone which requires more than one of the few, very nicely designed iPhone apps be such a sisyphean task, often depending on sludge-slow EDGE data speed? Why do I still love my iPhone, why?
Check out the Harper Collins preview selections on your iPhone at Harper Collins.