iPad 2The best e-reading app for iOS just got a little bit better. Kristian Guillaumier, developer of the iOS e-reader Marvin, let me know that Appstafarian has just released Marvin 3 onto the iOS app store. Marvin 3 is effectively a new and different app from the old Marvin, which is still available—Guillaumier rebuilt Marvin from the ground up, with a brand new interface.

Marvin 3 comes in two new variations: the basic Marvin 3 app, and a “Marvin SxS” version which supports multiple libraries and viewing two books simultaneously with Split View and Slide Over. Both versions cost the same amount—at the moment, $3.99, an introductory 20%-off price—though Marvin 3 is free to download for trial, with a $3.99 in-app purchase, whereas SxS is $3.99 right from the iOS app store.

CD166375-0E41-479B-B0A3-AB4EC3A8B24BGiven that SxS supports all the same features as basic Marvin, plus side-by-side libraries, at the same price, it seems like a no-brainer to buy that one rather than just the basic one, though certainly the basic one’s good to download and try out. The one annoying thing about the basic one is that, until you make that in-app purchase, you get a red banner along the bottom that blocks off about an eighth of the screen asking you to purchase the app to remove it. I’m not sure why you’d want to pay for both Marvin 3 and Marvin 3 SxS, unless there’s some reason that eludes me.

So what are all those features? According to the iTunes store page:

– Built from scratch with a brand new interface.
– Opens DRM-free EPUB books, CBX, and CBR comics.
– Supports all the latest iOS technologies including Split View, Slide Over, Spotlight, Touch ID, Today Widgets, iCloud, and iPad Pro.
– High-fidelity rendering with the most comprehensive set of customization options you’re likely to use.
– Multi-theme UI with optional automatic light/dark switching.
– Vertical scrolling with auto scroll, guide bars, and edge tapping.
– Text-to-speech.
– Karaoke (speed reading).
– External Bluetooth keyboard and remote control support including customizable key commands for in-book navigation and control.
– Side-load your own fonts.
– Reading statistics.
– Integration with Marvin Side-by-Side.
– New library viewing modes and management tools.
– Quick launch panel on iPad.
– Fully customizable, independent, portrait and landscape multi-column modes.
– Whole book page numbering.
– Substantially improved highlighting.
– Footnote popups.
– Photo explorer.
– Reading journal with photos, tags, and maps.
– Extensive import and export tools.

There are an amazing number of features, and even more of them listed in the multi-page PDF in the downloadable press kit. I note that “Deep Reading” mode has been renamed to “Deep View,” and it still works about as well as it did previously.

“Karaoke” speed-reading mode is interesting, though I’m not sure I’ll use it much. It flashes one word at a time on the screen, with the first letter in each word colored differently to help guide the eyes. It can go up to 720 words per minute, though 300 seemed to be about my speed.

The reading view is every bit as configurable as it was before, even if the configuration options panel is organized a bit differently now. You can still set every aspect of the way the book is displayed, including switching to a “single font size” view in case the book you’re reading has a lot of hard-to-read really-tiny print. Font size and style, margins, line spacing, paragraph spacing, width of first-line indentation, number of columns—you can make the e-reader display look exactly how you want it to.

The page-settings section has many new options, including the ability to switch from page-by-page pagination to web-browser-style vertical scrolling as seen in sibling app Gerty. Another of Gerty’s features, book-journaling, also puts in an appearance here. Given how similar Marvin and Gerty were in other respects already, and considering that the new Marvin app’s logo uses the same multi-colored letter design as Gerty’s logo, this leads me to suspect Marvin 3 has now rendered Gerty redundant altogether.

4911672A-0A27-4CC2-B49C-A687B8B01B5EOther customization options include being able to choose exactly what menu options you want on the home screen menu. Everything in that left-hand sidebar can be removed or added using the red “Customize…” link at the bottom. (In fact, everything in that sidebar in that screenshot is there because I added it. It did give me a bit of puzzlement figuring out how to add books from Dropbox until I found it under the customization options.)

So, not only can you change the way your e-book looks, you can even change what choices you have for accessing them, and remove options you never use. For example, if the only cloud service you use is Dropbox, you could remove the “Cloud Picker” from the options—but if you want to be able to access stuff on iCloud or Google Drive, too, you can keep it there. Or if you don’t use Dropbox at all, you could remove it from the “Get Books” menu, too. And so on.

859A6035-A9A7-43C7-999A-23D31E03D9FDEPUBs aren’t the only thing Marvin reads, of course—it also supports reading CBR and CBZ comic book archives. I tried it out with one of the Transformers comic books I got from a Humble Bundle, and it works pretty well. The wider screen shape of the iPad means it’s more suited to reading a comic book page shape than a narrow Android device screen.

If you already paid for the old Marvin or Gerty, well, those are still very good e-reader apps, and you can go right on using them for the time being. But I doubt they’ll be getting any further upgrades from here on out, so you’ll probably switch over sooner or later. And honestly, four bucks (or even five at full price) isn’t such a bad price for such an amazingly powerful and feature-rich e-reading app. Remember, you can try out the basic version for free, if you don’t mind putting up with the red nagware banner at the bottom of the screen.

The earlier version of Marvin was already amazingly good. With this new, improved version, I have to say the only reason to use iBooks anymore is if you were foolish enough to buy DRM-laden e-books from Apple that can’t be read in anything else. For anything that you can convert into DRM-free EPUB format, there’s literally no better e-reading app in iOS.


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