Accidentally Great: Apple's Answer to the Kindle

On Sunday mornings my daughter and I like to read together for an hour or so. She’s still small enough to sit on my knee while I read to her, but as she grows it gets more difficult to juggle book, child and coffee cup in ways that make the experience relaxing. Enter the iPod Touch which, since the arrival of the app store in the summer, has turned into my go anywhere, do anything device. It handles everything from email, calendaring and project management, to music whenever and wherever, web browsing, games, audio books, instant messaging, and now reading. I am just staggered at how useful this gadget has become, even in its more limited, non-phone incarnation. I hardly ever put it down. So far I have read two novels on my own this way, but I didn’t expect it to work so well for reading out loud. Still, daughter and I read Grimm’s fairytales this Sunday using the free Stanza app and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I’ll be loading it up with other children’s books and they’ll be there for our regular reading sessions and for whenever there are a few minutes when she needs to be kept entertained.

By coincidence Karen Templer at Readerville has been having a similar experience of reading on her iPhone and has written an excellent overview of how to go about doing it and what makes it so good. As she points out, Apple CEO Steve Jobs isn’t interested in making a reading device because he thinks there is no market for them. It’s odd then that his company turns out to have made such a great one:

I’ve been of two minds about the notion of electronic books. Like any hard-core booklover, I love the physical object. (See Most Coveted Covers for evidence.) It’s hard to imagine curling up with a hard little plastic or metal doohickey instead of ink and paper. On the other hand, the idea of carrying an entire library around in your pocket—the ability to switch between books or buy a new one at any instant—has obvious appeal. Which is a big part of why devices like the Sony Reader hold no appeal for me. Not being a gadget person, the last thing I want is an extra one. The Kindle has the benefit of direct, wireless downloads and some level of web access, which makes it a bit more appealing than those that require you to be at your computer to buy and transfer a new book. But a device of that size, heft and limited function means having to choose to carry it along (or not) each time one leaves the house. I never leave the house without my phone, however, so when it became clear that the sexy, multi-talented, reasonably priced, second-generation iPhone was going to be open to third-party applications (“apps”), and that among them would be reading software, I mapped a course. …

Well worth a read. Here’s the link again.

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