It seems that e-book readers are going to be technology's next big thing. With the Kindle being named Oprah's favorite gadget and other e-book reading devices battling for pole position, the e-book reader is populating daily culture. But who wants to pay that much money for a dedicated reading device that is admittedly limited and still has no true standard format?
Insert iPhone. We all know that the iPhone does a great job in converging multiple devices, why not add being an e-book reader to its capabilities? Obviously we won't have any e-ink technology in the iPhone but the e-book readers in the iPhone, Classics and Stanza, offer ease of use and a great free selection—plus you don't have to plop down an extra 400 dollars to read a book.
See what we think of Classics and Stanza in our App vs App!
Classics is wonderfully designed. Upon starting the app, a virtual bookcase filled with the covers of popular books gives you your reading options. The interactive bookshelf definitely makes for a virtually pleasing layout—it gives a experience similar to grabbing a book from your shelf, but in this case, tapping will suffice. You can also rearrange the books in any order, though the obvious flaw is when more books become available this design layout may not be the most effective to navigate.
What's great about Classics is that the look of the pages seems carefully designed and well implemented. The pages look like pages of a book, complete with a clothlike texture and instant readability. Another great touch is the flipping of the pages, swipe from right to left to move pages in the most accurate rendition we've seen in an e-book reader.
Stanza makes up for what it lacks in groundbreaking design by offering seemingly limitless customization. If you want the color of the words a certain hue of grey or the background completely black, you have the option to do so. This amount of customization allows you to create layouts that better suit your eyes.
Stanza's library page is akin to the iPhone's setting page—effective and efficient but hardly awe inspiring. It gives you a basic list to select from and it'll narrow your selection from there. Overall, it works but it definitely feels like you have to learn how to use the controls before you read, rather than just get to reading right away.
Classics notable feature is its ability to realistically flip through pages. Because there is no customization options whatsoever in Classics, Classics needed to nail this feature to warrant any type of consideration. Luckily, they absolutely nailed it. The animation and physics of turning the page are extremely accurate and if you're sliding the finger to turn but decide not to, it follows your movement and the page falls back in place. You really have to give it a try, it's the most accurate representation of page turning that I've ever seen.
Also, I found that the overall page design of Classics was fairly easy on the eyes. It uses a tan/brown mix of colors to create a more paper-esque texture to the page. It almost looks cloth like. Overall, Classics did a wonderful job in presenting themselves and I enjoyed reading from the application.
But by no means is Classics perfect. It doesn't have a great selection, offering only a handful of "classic" novels and it offers no customization whatsoever. There is no ability to customize page layout, to change fonts, no ability to add books—you really have to run with what the developers designed for you. You can't even change the font size, so you're stuck turning pages at a pretty fast rate. So though Classics looks great, it is definitely limited.
Stanza on the other hand, is completely customizable. You can add books, newspapers, magazines, and thousands of books from different publishers. The sheer number of books is simply staggering, you can always find something to read.
Also, you can customize the page layout to fit your eyes' preference. The text color, background color, link color, font, font size, alignment, line spacing, margin width, images, and controls—it can really be tweaked to whatever you prefer. Want to read with a black background and white text? By all means! Black Helvetica text on a red background with justified alignment? Sure!
But in the end, I still preferred the overall look of Classics standard page layout over Stanza's customizable options. No matter what I did, and I tried to emulate Classics, it just wasn't as easy on the eyes. Also, turning the page is nowhere near as pretty. It only slides out in Stanza.
But the unarguable advantage of Stanza is its ability to add books. That makes it a much more powerful reader and definitely lengthens the life span of the application. You'll never be able to read everything that the folks at Stanza offers because it really has a library worth of literature!
So I guess what it really boils down to is: do you want an e-book reader that looks good with a limited amount of books or a fully customizable reader with limitless options of reading material?
In conclusion, I think having a greater selection wins out. The fact that Stanza can add a variety of books, newspapers, and magazines to your library makes it the winner in this week's App vs App. The complete customization of the page layout also deserves kudos because it lets the reader decide what he or she wants to see.
It's hard to knock Classics though. As a reading application, it deserves stellar marks for nailing the physics of turning the page and offering such a great, easy on the eyes, page design. Even though customization is huge in e-book readers, the stock look of Classics is still by far the best look in comparison with the two.
But Classics falls short by not offering a wider reading selection. It simply can't seriously compete as an e-book reader when you can only read the same "classic" books over again. I love this application and think the developers did a fantastic job, but the lack of selection makes it hard for me to give my full recommendation. I definitely think it still merits consideration as the most exciting reader app for the iPhone. But as it stands now, Stanza has still got it beat.