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Wear Reader Apple Watch Review

iPhone & Apple Watch App - Designed for iPhone and Apple Watch, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on May 28th, 2015
Our rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar :: MAYBE NEXT TIME
Wear Reader is a nice idea that's hampered by its interface.
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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.
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Johnny and the Doomsday Machine Review

By Lucy Ingram on November 28th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: DELIGHTFULLY EDUCATIONAL
Screenwriter David Titcher and Writeur Films release the first interactive story for iBooks - an enjoyable fictional adventure aimed at children of all ages.
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Marvin Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Jennifer Allen on September 16th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: DELIGHTFUL READING
Marvin offers a fantastic reading experience for those who regularly view DRM-free eBooks.
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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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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.

Amazon Launches iPad-Optimized Kindle Store Web App

Posted by Jordan Minor on January 11th, 2012

Between the Amazon Kindle App and Apple's own iBooks store, the iPad has firmly established its place as a major player in the e-Reader market. Amazon, also being a very major player, is continuing to secure their own position by making it as easy as possible to get their content anywhere. The latest example of this is their new, touch-friendly, iPad-optimized Kindle Store.

To access the store iPad users must simply enter www.amazon.com/iPadKindleStore into their Safari browsers. From there they can shop for books in the new, touch-screen compatible layout with genres, editor's picks and top 100 paid and free books easy to search. Amazon encourages adding the site to the home screen for even easier access.

The site also supports the Kindle Cloud Reader function. Any books purchased are stored on the cloud, ready to the accessed on any Kindle device, including this new website. Readers can keep going even if the internet connection is lost. As more mobile versions of sites crop up, it's good to see that tablets are getting their own sites too.

[Kindle iPad app pictured above]

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.

NOOK, Kindle and Google Books Back on the App Store

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on July 26th, 2011

Worried about losing those eBooks from the iPad, due to Apple's insistence on a 30% cut from all items sold as in-app purchases? Well, fear no longer, as all four big eBook apps have it covered, according to John Biggs at TechCrunch. NOOK, Kindle, Kobo and Google Reader have all been updated this past weekend to remove in-app sales buttons. This allows the booksellers to avoid paying Apple the 30% commission, and may or may not confuse readers who use the apps to buy eBooks.

NOOK: "You can read any NOOK Book you have purchased on this updated NOOK for iPhone app, however the Shop link has been removed so to buy NOOK Books from your iPhone, open your Safari browser and go to nookbooks.com. "

Kindle: "This update removes the Kindle Store button from the app."

Kobo: "We have removed the Kobo Store from within the application. You can continue to shop at our website."

Google Reader: No app store description, but the sales links are gone from the app.

In a nutshell, all this means is that folks who relied on buying books via the in-app purchase option in these eBook apps will now need to either use their dedicated device to purchase books, or head to their favorite web site to buy. Not too horrible, right? Time will tell, of course.

We did, however, note that NOOK for iPad is not yet updated in the app store, leaving only NOOK Kids in the Apple tablet space, until a promised update occurs soon, according to a Barnes and Noble press release sent out yesterday. The update will also include "access" to over 175 periodicals, bringing the app into parity with the dedicated NOOK Color reading device. Kobo, Kindle, and Google Books continue to be found in the iPad section of the App Store.

The Atavist Brings Long-Form Nonfiction to iOS

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on March 17th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

One side effect of the App Store is that we tend to take our entertainment from "small" sources, like a few minutes of Angry Birds or skimming a Twitter feed. But the folks behind The Atavist hope they can persuade us to take the time for a more in-depth experience. The Atavist is a new app, for both iPhone and iPad, that aims to present readers with unique, engaging long-form nonfiction.

The Atavist offers a new kind of nonfiction storytelling and narrative nonfiction, with a series of original stories designed specifically for the iPad and iPhone. More sustained than a magazine article but shorter than a book, each Atavist story is original -- reported and written by skillful, award-winning nonfiction authors.

Each Atavist story includes an audio recording of the author reading their work aloud; multimedia elements such as an accompanying soundtrack, videos, and maps; and "smart timelines" that orient the reader without giving away plot twists. Additionally, half of each purchase goes towards the author. And yes, you do have to purchase each individual story, though the app is free. Each story costs $2.99.

Unfortunately, at the moment The Atavist's library is limited to a mere two stories: Lifted and Piano Demon. That's hardly a broad enough foundation to stoke a reading revolution in the App Store. Compounded by the cost per story, which is a tough sell in the App Store's often ruthless market, and it's easy to see why The Atavist has yet to take off. Until the app gains more content, it'll be hard to shake the "demo" feel. And then the Kindle app and its rivals have done a good job of keeping reading alive in the App Store.

Regardless, if you're curious about what forms literary journalism could potentially take on the iPhone and iPad, The Atavist is very interesting. Download the free app (and, if you wish, free previews) from the App Store at the link below.

Google Officially Launches Google Books App

Posted by Brad Hilderbrand on December 6th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Just in case you needed another eReader option for your iOS device, Google has officially launched its virtual bookstore. Called simply Google eBooks, the cloud-based service is promising to be a more open-source offering than the offerings from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or even Apple's own iBooks.

"We designed Google eBooks to be open," said Google in a statement. "Many devices are compatible with Google eBooks—everything from laptops to netbooks to tablets to smartphones to e-readers. With the new Google eBooks Web Reader, you can buy, store and read Google eBooks in the cloud. That means you can access your ebooks like you would messages in Gmail or photos in Picasa—using a free, password-protected Google account with unlimited ebooks storage.

"In addition to a full-featured web reader, free apps for Android and Apple devices will make it possible to shop and read on the go. For many books you can select which font, font size, day/night reading mode and line spacing suits you—and pick up on the page where you left off when switching devices."

Those interested in purchasing new reading material can grab a book from the official Google eBooks store, or buy them from independent retailers such as Powell's, Alibris or any store listed in the American Bookseller's Association. In total, Google eBooks claims to provide access to over 15 million books from 35,000 different publishers. Not a bad library at all.

It seems like Google is setting out to do to e-reading what it did to search engines, basically kill all the competition and drive everyone into the massive Google tent. It's not a bad thing by any stretch, but it's sure to annoy the other online booksellers and potentially change the way we consume digital reading material. Furthermore, this new model could well be a threat to the traditional brick and mortar booksellers and even libraries. If you can read any book on any device at any time, why ever go to Borders again? Put another way, why buy a standalone eReader from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Sony when you can get these books on every device you can possibly imaging, including these very same eReaders? It's an interesting time in eBook history, and you're right here with us.

[via Google]

vBookz Reads Classic Novels to You with Text-to-Speech

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on June 16th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Here’s the thing about audiobooks: they’re great, especially since you can’t always be holding or looking at a book, or eBook. But they take up a lot of space, and are often irritatingly expensive. Enter vBookz: a text-to-speech app for the iPad that takes the Project Gutenburg library of over 30,000 freely available titles (mostly classics) and makes them all available for your listening pleasure.

Text-to-speech is an imperfect process, too, but you can’t beat it for sheer convenience. Because vBookz reads the books aloud using text-to-speech, it doesn’t need to store massive audio files or convert the eBooks. Instead, it simply stores the eBooks and reads them aloud, providing a handy magnifying-glass cursor that tracks the current locations—leaving you free to just listen, or to read along. Mindex International, developer of vBookz, suggests that it’s especially useful for those learning a different language or for children learning to read.

The vBookz app currently costs $4.99 for the US English version, with other languages unlockable for an additional fee of $4.99 per language. The current library includes the classic suspects: Dracula, Huckleberry Finn, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and so on. Given vBookz’s text-to-speech capabilities, I am disappointed by the inability to import your own files, but Project Gutenburg’s archives are extensive enough. If you want to dive into some classic literature but want or need audio versions, vBookz is an interesting option. I mean, honestly—Steve Jobs’ “magical” tablet reading to us. Whatever will we have next?

The folks over at Mindex International say they’re working on iPhone and iPod Touch versions of vBookz, too, but for now vBookz is only for the iPad owners.

Calibre: iBooks' Ideal Desktop Companion - Convert and Organize Your eBooks

Posted by Zach Sims on June 15th, 2010

The iPad is, along with the Kindle and the Nook, one of the first devices to bring the pleasures of eReaders to the masses. Unfortunately, it has brought the struggles of digital media along with it, casting users into a sea of confusion with new acronyms like ePub and mobi, among others. The most basic users will undoubtedly simply stick to Apple's included solution and purchase all of their books directly from the iBooks store. This remains an incredibly simple and turnkey solution that even advanced users should consider. Other book sellers, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, each include similar storefronts, allowing purchases from the desktop on their websites and simple delivery to the iPad. Each of these interactions requires little more than several clicks and files never need to be transmitted from the desktop to the iPad itself. But what's the more advanced user to do if the iBooks/iTunes combination isn't enough?

[caption id="attachment_39307" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Calibre\'s Conversion Dialog"]

[/caption]Those that dare to wade into the more advanced waters of eBook reading will need a quick primer on their device's capabilities. The iPad's native reader, iBooks, currently only supports the open ePub format, although support for PDFs is promised in a forthcoming version showcased at WWDC alongside iOS4. It's important to note that eBooks downloaded from any of the aforementioned stores (Amazon, B&N, and iBooks) may come in the ePub format, but each is locked down with its own proprietary digital rights management system, making files from one online bookstore unreadable in another company's reader.

Yet there are a multitude of sources for unencrypted eBooks, including stores who sell books without DRM. Formats may become an issue in this case, with lit, mobi, and more serving as the defaults for several other popular mobile readers. In this case, a user's best option for books management is Calibre, a terrific open source program that works with a wide variety of eBook formats and readers. I'd say Calibre is the iTunes for your digital book library, but I like to think of it more as iBooks' desktop companion.

iBooks' Best Friend

Calibre, available free of charge, deftly converts eBooks from most formats to ePub, PDF, and more. It's as simple as dragging and dropping into the app and selecting an output format. Calibre can also download metadata and covers so iBooks properly organizes your book when it's displayed on your iPad. The app also centralizes your books on your hard drive so there's always somewhere to go to find the original eBook, just as iTunes attempts to centralize your music library in a folder on your hard drive.

Calibre offers simple solutions for moving these books to your iPad, with a recently unveiled "push-to-iTunes" feature that will seamlessly add books to a connected iPad. Otherwise, users have to go into their Calibre library folder and drag the books to iTunes' iBooks panel (when an iPad is syncing). If you're not an iBooks user, Calibre works perfectly with Stanza, one of my favorite apps.

Like to Read? You'll Love Calibre
Calibre does what any good app does - removes the strictures of formats and medium and instead leaves the text itself as the most important part of the reading experience. A simple drag and drop enables users to convert books from any format to any other format with ease. The developers are great and the app sees frequent and innovative updates. Like most open source projects, it makes me want to donate - the software's almost too good to be true. It does much more than converting eBooks, though, and it's worth a look for anyone interested in reading, whether on your iPad or off. Get it here.

Stanza Updates for the iPad

Posted by Zach Sims on June 7th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED :: Read Review »

[caption id="attachment_38764" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Stanza\'s Options and Reading Screen"]

[/caption]Lexcycle, acquired last year by Amazon, released a version of their popular iPhone/iPod touch eReader Stanza for the iPad last week. Stanza was my eReader of choice on my iPhone and I'm thrilled it's finally been ported to the iPad. It's a terrific reader that's compatible with a wide variety of different formats. Before Stanza for iPad was released, I used Calibre to convert my eBooks to iBooks' required ePub format. Stanza allows users to read in a whole bunch of formats, and the 3.0 release adds PDF, DjVu, and Comic Book Archive support to Stanza's already extensive library of readable files.

Stanza includes the most customizable reading interface I've seen on a mobile application. It allows you to customize nearly everything, from the page turning animations (a slide like the Kindle's or a page turning animation like iBooks') to the background and color of the text. Stanza really does make the experience all about the text - the user is able to customize everything about the way the book is viewed. Barnes and Nobles' app was lauded earlier this week for including the same customization but their application locks you into using their bookstore. Stanza lets you load your own books onto the iPad or iPhone. It also, however, allows you access to a variety of other eBook stores directly from the phone.

[caption id="attachment_38765" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Stanza\'s Text Descriptions"]

[/caption]Perhaps the application's best feature is Stanza's Detail views for text. Highlighting text using the traditional copy and paste mechanism in iBooks yields a tooltip that lets you bookmark (highlight) and look things up in the dictionary. It's a more complicated scenario in Stanza but one that offers one additional option - the ability to share text on Facebook, Twitter, and through email. The detail view pulls up the paragraph in question in an iPhone-sized window and makes it easier to select text.

Stanza works perfectly with Calibre, my app of choice for eBook conversion. It now allows for a really simple workflow to get eBooks from the desktop to an iPad. It's possible to move books by utilizing a computer as a wireless server, or by pushing them from Calibre into iTunes. It's also possible to drag books into iTunes and into Stanza.

Stanza is the ideal reading experience, with customizable colors, animations, and more and compatibility with dozens of different formats. The Lexcycle team has succeeded in bringing the great iPhone app to the iPad and I, as an avid reader, am glad they did so.