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iPhone and eBooks: an Early Flirtation

July 29, 2007

Hands On

I played with the iPhone for an extended period yesterday, and it delivered the revolutionary, eye-popping experience that everyone has described. It’s clear that this is the future — not just for mobile phones, but for handheld devices of all types, tablet PCs and perhaps other categories of devices we haven’t yet envisioned.

I took a look at the same ebooks that I posted previously to see how they behaved in real life. The one thing the photographs can’t convey is the extraordinary sharpness, brilliant color and overall quality of the display. Even when the PDFs were reduced to fit the full page on the screen, the text was actually still readable, though at such a tiny size that it was necessary to magnify the page to be comfortable. The pages rendered more beautifully than they do on my MacBook Pro with its high-quality screen.

As I noted in the earlier post, the iPhone has some serious (but very correctable) shortcomings in its PDF and file handling. But even given those limitations, the iPhone is still surprisingly usable for certain kinds of content.

The comic book Lullaby was very readable through the phone’s mail app, given its highly graphical nature and short length. Moving with light finger motions from panel to panel felt comfortable and natural.

The Avant-Guide Las Vegas also worked reasonably well as a reference guide where I might look up short bits of content, though navigating to specific material within the book would be a problem given the limited navigation tools.

The promise here is very real. My previous speculation (based solely on word-of-mouth and a few still photos) is confirmed — a few software updates could make the iPhone (and its offspring, especially the ones that evolve a larger display) the killer devices in the ebook world.

I’ll continue to experiment with the iPhone and I’ll post more thoughts and perhaps a video or two here. Stayed tuned!

Related Posts

iPhones and eBooks: The Video
iPhone Reader: The Long Sessions

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8 comments

  1. […] user-agent-spoofed browser). IPhone Dispatch has a nice review. Gerry Manacsa, a senior designer at WOWIO, checked out a bunch of PDFs on an iPhone to test the platform’s viability as an ebook reader. His results were fairly good, […]


  2. […] user-agent-spoofed browser). IPhone Dispatch has a nice review. Gerry Manacsa, a senior designer at WOWIO, checked out a bunch of PDFs on an iPhone to test the platform’s viability as an ebook reader. His results were fairly good, […]


  3. I guess they don’t make a Mobipocket download for iPhones, which is really too bad, since their downloaded player is really easy, and you can change type faces and dimensions to fit a PDA or smartphone. If they get on the iPhone bandwagon, it would be a real step up.


  4. Oh, I covet that iPhone with (almost) every fiber of my being. Jealous, I am. I’ve never been to big on eBooks (the aesthetic appeal of books and all), the iPhone has a fighting chance of modifying that position.


  5. […] Reader about books, today and tomorow « iPhone and Ebooks: an Early Flirtation iPhone and Ebooks: the Video August 1st, 2007 Still photos can give some sense of the […]


  6. Darvish, I’m starting to think that the iPhone could (once it gets robust reader software) eliminate the need for software like Mobipocket for many users. It would still be useful for people with vision issues that require large text, but for the rest, the display and controls are so good that further adjustment of the book is unnecessary.

    J.S., I with you on that. It’s been a long time since I’ve been really amazed by a gadget or computer. Given all the hype, it’s hard to imagine that anything could actually live up to it — but it really does.

    And certainly, the iPhone has buckets of its own brand of aesthetic appeal…


  7. “I’m starting to think that the iPhone could (once it gets robust reader software) eliminate the need for software like Mobipocket for many users.”

    But.. Mobipocket *is* robust reader software. I’m not convinced PDF can substitute, in particular due to the difficulty with reflowing text. Sure, you can zoom in further, but then if the lines are too long you’re scrolling l/r for every line, which is simply unusable.

    To me, good (cover-) illustrations would certainly be nice, but I prefer *not* having the original typeface, and instead a consistent one across all books and publishers, and I also don’t particularly want the line-to-line layout to be preserved — at least not for the majority of books.

    Very few books exist in which typeface and layout (beyond the gross) convey useful information, IMHO.

    That’s what Mobipocket as a reader does for me on my WinMob5 device, and that’s to a great extent what I would want my iPhone to offer before I could think of purchasing one when my current contract runs out next year.


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