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iPoe 3 Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on April 22nd, 2015
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: DON’T TURN THE PAGE
iPoe 3 offers still more creepy animated stories from Edgar Allen Poe, and that’s a good thing.
Read The Full Review »

Why BitLit Could Revolutionize The E-Book Market

Posted by Jennifer Allen on August 13th, 2014
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Avid book readers will appreciate the dilemma. You want to buy a new book but do you want a physical copy or an e-book that you can more easily take with you while you're out and about? Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, making it a tough call.

There's a newly launched service that aims to solve this problem, though. It's called BitLit, and it hopes to revolutionize things when it comes to your ability to read whenever, however. Currently, over 120 publishers have signed up to the service with nearly 20,000 books available through it. A pilot deal has just been signed with HarperCollins, while other publishers such as O'Reilly and Angry Robot are also on board.

The way it works is that you simply take a photo of your book cover, write your name on the book's copyright page, take a snapshot of that, then send it through for your ownership to be validated. Then an eBook comes through in return; one that can be used on all of your devices - such as an iPad, Kindle, Kobo, or Nook.

We took the time to ask the firm a few questions to learn more about the service.

148Apps: How does the funding model for BitLit work? How do publishers gain from this approach?
BitLit: When a publisher offers the eBook for free, then it's free (as in beer) for everybody, we take no commission and the user gets a free eBook (who doesn't like free stuff). About 30% of the eBooks in BitLit are free. If the eBook isn't free, then BitLit takes a small commission from the sale -- that's how we keep the lights on and servers running.

The upside for publishers and authors is twofold: Firstly, print books that include a free/discounted eBook sell almost twice as well in bookstores than books that don't include a bundled eBook. Secondly, for books that people already own, there is the opportunity for an incremental upsale -- less than 1% of readers purchase titles at full price in both print and digital formats, 48% of readers say they're willing to pay slightly more to get both formats. Currently you can only buy print or digital; BitLit lets the author capture value on the reader who wants both.

148apps: Are there any plans for it to be possible to validate your purchase without writing in the book?
BitLit: We ask our users to validate the book by writing in it is so that the book can't be returned to a bookstore. But we know that readers sometimes don't want to have their messy writing in their book. For these folks, there's the option of using an Ex Libris book stamp to mark that the book is theirs.


148apps: How long does the process take before you can download a copy?
BitLit: If you have neat handwriting the process takes about 30 seconds. If the automated algorithms can't recognize your hand writing, then it might take up to 15 minutes for a human reviewer to validate your print edition. We deliver eBooks via email download link, so even if you use BitLit on your smartphone to validate the book, you can be reading on your iPad in less than a minute.

148apps: What plans are there for expansion to cover more titles?
BitLit: We have a dedicated content acquisition team whose job is to get in touch with publishers. We already have some great publishers like HarperCollins, O'Reilly, and Angry Robot on board... and we're in talks with a lot of other great publishers that we hope will be joining soon. Stay tuned.


Thanks to the folks at BitLit for answering our questions. The app is available now and is a free download. To check what books are eligible, you can consult the BitLit website.

Robotslayer - Volume 1 Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Jennifer Allen on December 11th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: INTRIGUING STORYLINE
Some text issues aside, Robotslayer - Volume 1 tells an entertaining story of when good robots go very bad.
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Infinite PDF Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Mike Deneen on November 12th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: CLEAN WITH COOL FEATURES
Business and pleasure collide in Infinite PDF - an app that lets users manipulate PDFs in ways they never thought of.
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Read and Watch Macbeth at the Same Time With WordPlay's Latest eBook

Posted by Rob Rich on October 10th, 2013

Shakespeare is pretty much synonymous with literary masterpieces these days, which is great. However, in all honesty one can only read the same plays so many times before the need for something "different" sets in. Hence WordPlay's Shakespeare series, which has just released Macbeth.

What makes this version different than the rest? It's all in the juxtaposition of text and video. See, what WordPlay does is give readers the ability to read the eBook's text while simultaneously watching a video of the play. In this case it's the complete play, managed by a Juilliard director and sitting right next to the words you'll be reading. Neat, huh?

"Half the Page is a Stage" indeed!

Dynasty of the Magi Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Rob Rich on February 8th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: STAY BURIED
All the clever cross-media integration in the world won't make a poor game good.
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iPoe 2 - The Interactive and Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe Collection Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on December 7th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: BE VERY AFRAID
Another collection of interactive Poe stories is making the rounds. Best not read them alone in the dark.
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Educational Puzzle Fun With Cyberchase: Ruckus Reader

Posted by Jennifer Allen on August 8th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Fans of PBS Kids TV show Cyberchase will be delighted to see the arrival of Cyberchase: Ruckus Reader, an iPad app aimed at continuing the educational fun that the TV show is so famous for.

Aimed at 5-8 year olds, Cyberchase: Ruckus Reader offers a new story for fans to delve into, following an exciting problem that Hacker has left the Cybersquad with. Three hours of puzzles are promised as players set out to save Solaria from being transformed into a garbage dump.

Puzzles range from word hunts, spot what's wrong with the picture, mazes, and create your own story sections. Topics that are taught include things such as alphabetical knowledge, phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition, as well as reading comprehension.

Together, it should prove an educational yet highly entertaining experience for kids.

Cyberchase: Ruckus Reader is available now for free, with an in-app purchase of $3.99 to unlock one story, or $5.99 to unlock both.

Put Your Child In The Story With It's Me! Peter Pan

Posted by Jennifer Allen on May 21st, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Parents know that the iPad is a fantastic resource of storybook style apps, ideal for young children. They've probably already read the tale of Peter Pan to their kids, either through an app or through a traditonal book. So what makes It's Me! Peter Pan stand out? It allows kids to get right inside the action.

Parents are able to customize the app to use photos of their child's face to replace Peter's, thus throwing them right into the story.

It's Me! Peter Pan continues the fun theme with the addition of child friendly puzzles and the ability to explore Neverland by touching and tapping on various objects and characters scattered around the story. The ability to paint and color in images rounds off the package.

It all makes for a cute and beguiling tale that should entertain many a young child.

It's Me! Peter Pan is out now with a free version to try and the full app available for $3.99 via an in-app purchase.

iPoe - The Interactive and Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe Collection is Ready to Spook Unwary iOS Users

Posted by Rob Rich on May 14th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Once upon a Friday evening, as I sat here, email reading,
Over a many quaint and curious letter of reviews implored,
While I perused, nearly napping, all the while my fingers clacking,
Pausing not their steady tapping, tapping on my old keyboard.
“ ‘Tis a slow night,” I muttered, “little use for my keyboard;
Only spam, and nothing more.”

Deep into my malaise drifting, long I sat there, fading, staring
Doubting, seeking apps few mortals ever dared download before;
Then my boredom was disbanded, by the news of an app branded,
A collection handed to a more than willing App Store.
I noticed when I checked the store. And I found, it offered more.

Not content with mere wording, these three stories feature moving,
Not just moving but reacting, with a touch we’ve seen before.
The Tell-Tale Heart,” said I, “has piqued my interest.
“As has The Oval Portrait and The Masque of the Red Death.
Let’s see if interaction makes them better, better than they were before.”

iPoe, with interactive stories, still is sitting, still is sitting
Lurking in the category for books found on the App Store;
And we all can start the reading of this dark and twisted dreaming.
And the price is of a number that in dollars orbits four ($3.99);
And my goal for this here story has been met with much fervor
Download it from---The App Store!

Oceanhouse Media Releases the Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #1 - Thing 2 Sure to Follow

Posted by Rob Rich on February 3rd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Having spent a decent portion of my retail career involved in the children's section of a bookstore, I think I have a solid grasp of what makes for popular literature among parents and their children. There's always one or two "flavors of the week," but there are also those that always sell. Where the Wild Things Are. The Velveteen Rabbit. Virtually anything written by Mo Willems or Sandra Boynton. Sitting proudly at the top of this list are the works of the undisputed monarch of children's literature, Dr. Seuss.

Theodor Seuss Geisel's stories have been adapted for all manner of medium, not surprisingly including iOS. Oceanhouse Media has been offering special adaptations, referred to as "omBooks" for portable Apple devices for quite a while now. These special not-quite-ebooks allow users to flip through their virtual pages normally, have the stories read to them at a set pace (not unlike a movie) or a hybrid of the two that narrates while emphasizing key words.

While individual Seuss classics have been available in this form for quite some time, Oceanhouse has released their first-even multi-title collection. The Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #1 features five of (arguably) his most well-known works: The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The FOOT Book, Mr. Brown Can MOO! Can You? and Fox in Socks. Five classics, no waiting. Well, depending on one's WiFi speed, anyway.

This collection is on the App Store right now for $11.99. I know it may seem like a lot, but buying each of these omBooks individually would cost around $15 or so. And that's after the price drops in celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday. Anyone with an appreciation for all things Seuss should certainly check this out.

My iStory Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Phillip Levin on January 2nd, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: TELL A STORY
A new way to tell a story with photos.
Read The Full Review »

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is Back on the App Store... and It's Hungry

Posted by Rob Rich on October 26th, 2011

I was working in a now-defunct bookstore when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was released on an unsuspecting public. I don't have precise figures but I can say with certainty that the book sold like mad. It was a combination of a small publisher doing a somewhat limited run, and a level of consumer interest that not many predicted. People love Victorian zombies, apparently. Who knew?

A year after the novel's release, a side-scrolling game based on the twisted tale made its way on to the App Store. But Quirk Books isn't done with the iOS platform yet. Oh no. Not by a long shot. Now the literary "classic" has been given new life (*rimshot*) in the form of an illustrated, interactive eBook.

This isn't any regular old eBook, mind. It's full of interactive (and incredibly gory) illustrations and features an original score and sound effects. Sounds awesome, yes? Well there's more. Not only can users enjoy all manner of zombie-centric animated illustrations as they read this unexpectedly popular story, they can also read the entire original Austin text by flipping their device upside-down. Even more interesting (and excessive), tilting the device on its side will simultaneously display both the interactive zombie-infested re-imagining and the literary classic at the same time.

Anyone who might have held off on reading this most interesting interpretation, but still wants to, should definitely have a look-see at Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Interactive eBook. It's absolutely stuffed with content and at $4.99 (for a limited time) it's currently almost half of the physical tome's price.

Dark Graphic Novel App Ill-Fated Relationship Out Soon

Posted by Jennifer Allen on June 16th, 2011

Coming soon to the App Store from iSeeToon is Ill-Fated Relationship, a comic book app that centers around the dark romance between two serial killers. It promises an indie art film style more akin to Western graphic novels rather than the typical brash comic book style of other Manga-esque series.

The app contains 20 chapters in all following the complex and film noir style storyline that iSeeToon promises. We've got two trailers below that ably demonstrate the kind of experience that comic book fans have to look forward to. The videos and screenshots certainly show off a great looking style that will hopefully provide a pretty mature and dark experience. It'll certainly make a change from the more Western offerings of the likes of D.C and Marvel.

iSeeToon is set to be released on the App Store later in the month and will be launched at a sale price of $4.99, to increase later on to $8.99.

eReader Roundup: Hunting for the Best iPhone eBook Reader

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on January 24th, 2011

Dedicated devices like the Kindle remain popular among book lovers—but did you know that you can get your eBook fix on your iPhone or iPod, too? There are a ton of great apps out there, most of them free, which put all that eReading power right at your fingertips.

Which one to use, however? In this roundup, we take a look at some of the top eReader contenders on the App Store. Scroll to the bottom to see which app we like best! Please note that this roundup focuses on the iPhone and iPod, not the iPad, though many of these apps are universal.

Kindle
Amazon's Kindle app has a lot going for it. First and foremost is the Kindle Store, which is probably the most robust of all eBook stores and has relatively good prices. Kindle owners should be happy to know that you can transfer any Kindle eBooks attached to your account straight to your iPhone with this app! Reading ebooks in the Kindle app is also a breeze—the app's interface is clean and simple, with some customizability and quick response times. I particularly like the free sample chapters. Keep in mind that Kindle books have their own DRM, so you can't transfer them to other eReaders.

Stanza
Stanza was arguably the first successful eReader in the App Store, and it remains a contender. Stanza allows you to import your own eBooks from a variety of formats and offers the most customization options out of all the eReaders. (It was the App Store pioneer of the reversed black-screen-white-text option, which is beloved by those reading at night.) Additionally, Stanza makes it easy to access Project Gutenberg's archives of free classics as well as integrating with a number of partner stores. Alas, Stanza lacks the coherency of the Kindle or Nook book stores (and their lower prices!). But if you want total control over your eBook library, Stanza remains the way to go. Note that Amazon now owns Stanza, giving them two strong contenders in the eReader ring!

NOOK
Formerly the B&N eReader, Barnes and Nobles' NOOK eBook app is similar to the Kindle app in that it comes tied to B&N's preexisting eBook store. So, if you own a NOOK, you can access your full B&N library from your iPhone. Barnes and Nobles' store seems to be somewhat smaller than Amazon's Kindle store, but still boasts an impressive selection and low prices. The iPhone app itself is gorgeous, featuring colorful book covers and the usual bevy of customization options for the reader. The reader responds snappily. One unique feature to Barnes and Nobles' eBook approach is the "LendMe" feature, which lets you share books with other users. Nice!

Kobo
Kobo is relatively new, and focuses on new and best-selling books. The glossy interface focuses on being pretty, but there's a fair amount of functionality here, too. The store section of the app works wonderfully, with a number of handy categories. One new book is offered as a free download each week, and the prices are fair. Unfortunately, some trouble comes with the reader aspect. While the interface mostly stays out of your way and feels quite natural, it also suffers from the occasional crash. Ah, well; Kobo remains a nice contender, and it does support Instapaper integration.

iBooks
You'd think that Apple's own pet bookstore would have shown up earlier, right? Unfortunately, the iBookstore leaves much to be desired in terms of both pricing and selection—I don't think it's comparable to Barnes and Nobles' selection yet, let alone Amazon's massive Kindle Store. Additionally, iBooks has a nasty habit of crashing right when you're getting to the exciting part. I complained about many of these issues last June, and yet many of the problems persist half a year later.

The Conclusion
There are many strong contenders in the eBook space, and almost all of the popular apps are very, very good. If you own a Kindle or a NOOK, stick with the corresponding app. None of the eReader apps are sufficiently advanced to warrant giving up your existing library.

Otherwise, it's a much tougher decision. After careful deliberation, I favor Kindle for iPhone. The Kindle app works wonderfully, with few bugs and a consistent history of updates. Additionally, its massive Kindle Store provides more eBooks than you could ever read. It's a close race, but the Kindle app's confident competence makes it the winner in my book.

DECISION: Kindle for iPhone