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Dusan Dragovic mentions a new Web application to let readers read ebooks. BooksoniPhone.com. He says:

It is a Web site optimized for reading books on iPhone. It is native iPhone application so it supports all iPhone commands (tap on screen to go to next page, share button, virtual keyboard etc.) You can access thousands of books for free. It supports different setting for font size, speed of reading, reading multiple books, adding (and sharing) notes and much more. Next version will allow users to upload their own texts, poems, books or whole e-libraries. TextoniPhone.com will (for FREE) prepare them to iPhone so it could be read on iPhone immediately.

Important note: The booksoniphone.com site will only be accessible to people surfing there on iPhone (I haven’t checked with a Safari browser on Windows).

Fun TeleRead fact: Despite the fact that W3 stats show only 1% of web surfers use Safari, apparently 7.5% of TeleRead readers are Safari users. We came across this fact while learning about a Safari-related css bug. We at TeleRead are now taking notice (though I personally can’t understand why people would prefer Safari to Firefox).

Technology writer Dwight Silverman is becoming jaded about the iphone:

The iPhone’s Safari browser is one of its strengths, but it’s also a big weakness. Yes, it displays most Web pages better than any other hand-held device browser. But Safari is notorious among Web developers for its glitches in the way it handles coding such as Javascript. For example, I was unable to edit or compose in chron.com’s blogging software — Movable Type, a popular platform — because scroll bars for the composition windows were missing. When I tried to write an e-mail in our Outlook Web Access page, I saw the text, but it was often blank for recipients.

Web pages must be designed a certain way for Safari’s cool zoom feature to work properly, but many out there aren’t. As a result, when I zoomed in, I often had to do a lot of side scrolling to read it, or use the iPhone’s two-fingered “pinch” motion to reduce the size of the page. That got old quickly.

Silverman continues:

I lived with the iPhone for about a month, and as an experiment, I carried both it and my Samsung BlackJack, my own PDA. My goal was to see which device I preferred for which tasks. For example, when I wanted to access the Web online, or check e-mail, which would I reach for first?

I started out using the iPhone more, because using it was an adventure. But by the end of my experiment, I was back to using the BlackJack for most serious tasks.

Related: On Silverman’s Techblog , here are 15 Geek Novels to read before you die. These are all print books. Someone should compile a comparable list of publicly available e-books.

The Web browser vs. e-books debate is reminiscent of the Why Ebooks? Why not Web Novels? discussion we had a year ago. This issue is becoming more important with the addition of the iPhone. In a thread about Cybook’s support of Mobipocket images at the mobipocket forum, I wrote:

It is difficult to talk about ebooks to friends and coworkers about e-books because they expect jpg color graphics and more visual possibilities. And it’s hard for publishers and Web designers to become interested in producing content for the e-book platform because they perceive it as a specialized platform requiring a different work process.

E-books are perceived as “inferior” to the web browser experience by at least five years because of mediocre graphics.

Here in US we have blackberries and now the iphone. The iphone has made lots of improvements in the browser experience on portable devices.

From my standpoint, e-books I create must include visual elements only to compete with the web browser experience. That is a minimum. If I offer ebooks without trying to give it a rich visual experience, then people will only regard it as an inferior kind of browser. Right now e-book platforms offer much better navigation controls and customizability and annotation features than web browsers.

But Web browsers clearly are better in graphics and visual presentation and are making progress with some features people normally think of ebooks as superior at. Even encryption is something you can do with web browsers (with member IDs and passwords, etc).

The issue I raised on the thread was whether mobipocket should support jpeg (currently it does not) and how well-equipped PDAs and cellphones are to display jpeg graphics.

Finally, I received an e-mail from Michael Daheen at Bookeen answering some questions I had. Yes, Cybook will indeed support the hirsc attribute for images (see this info about Mobipocket and images). This is good news even if we are talking about only grayscale gifs.

Daheen clarifies the grayscale support on Cybook. I quote his email:

Vizplex technology corresponds to an imaging film. A vizplex screen looks like a standard Eink screen, except that the electronic ink particles and maybe the substrate are different. The electronics present on the screen, (e.g. the line drivers) remain exactly the same. The element which brings 8 shades of grey instead of 4 is the Metronome display controller which lies on the PCB (Printed Circuit Board). In our case we have changed the screen (our screen is thus brighter and goes faster) but we have kept the previous display controller (called Apollo), we have thus 4 shades of grey.


  1. Having played around will all the current iPhone ebook “solutions”, including the one mentioned here, I’m afraid none of them will really fit the bill for a serious ebook reader. There are two major problems:

    1. Lack of local storage. If the book is stored on a server then the reader is pretty much out of luck in areas of poor cell or wifi coverage.

    2. Inconvenience. Reading a book in a browser doesn’t work well because you can’t bookmark your page. Several times I’ve had Safari quit on me and then had to re-open the book and scroll through 250 pages to get to my place. Storing the ebook as part of the url solves the local storage problem, but doesn’t solve this one.

    Without a dedicated reader and local storage I have come to the reluctant conclusion that the iPhone is not a suitable ebook reader in its current incarnation.

  2. Robert:

    I think web browsers will win because they pervasive and typically (hopefully?) optimized for readability on various mobile devices.


    IRT your first point, http://scrollbox.org allows ebooks to be downloaded as bookmarks to iPhone and other devices. Another site is manybooks.net that allows content to be downloaded as a bookmark. I agree that saving where you left off is important, and that current browser solutions are not satisfactory.


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