iPhone as bookphone
May 12, 2009 by cynthia
Morning chores: Shower, dress, feed and jab the cat,* do the litter and breakfast (with a handwash in between), make the bed, get at least a quarter of yesterdays’ email answered and download a book to read on the train.
I am, apparently, drinking the Kindle koolaid, albeit with an iPhone, not a Kindle.** This is probably the dozenth book I’ve downloaded onto Gigi-the-iPhone in the last couple of months. eBooks, which didn’t appear to me to be of much real use, have suddenly become a significant new way to acquire new reading material. There are several reasons for this:
- Convenience. I’m a voracious reader, which means carrying at least a couple of books around with me at all times. Bytes don’t take up as much space as paper in your purse, and you save a lot of time that would have been spent in building new bookshelves.
- Cost-savings. Many classics are in the public domain and already translated into free ebooks using Stanza and other iPhone apps. They’re not quite as convenient to use as the Kindle, but they come awfully, awfully close. And a Kindle book is usually cheaper than its paper version (with free shipping).
- Control. eBook software gives you automated bookmarks, the ability to change the size of the text on the fly, and–in some ebook software–the ability to search for a particular passage or phrase. Open the application, and it automagically starts at the last page you’ve read.
- Speed of acquisition. Sort of hand-in-hand with convenience: an eBook is instantly acquirable. I can be reading the book about 60 seconds after clicking the “buy” button.
- Ethics. As someone who makes a living with words, I have a deep and abiding sympathy for authors (and even publishers) who’ve been disastrously impacted not only by the recession, but also the burgeoning used book market. More and more people are buying used books instead of new, yet not one penny of those purchases goes to the guys who did all the work. An ebook (at least until it’s pirated) ensures that the author gets a share.
Mostly, though, ebooks are about convenience. I can timeslice with an ebook, read a couple of pages when someone’s 15 minutes late for a meeting. I’m a big fan of reducing the weight of that house I carry on my shoulder–my purse–and have been determinedly eliminating purse-held gadgets for years. eBooks let me empty out the books in my purse as well.
There are downsides, of course:
- The reading field (i.e., the page) is relatively tiny on an iPhone, and if you read fast you’ll be paging a lot. Curiously, this hasn’t bothered me as much as I thought it would.
- Illustrations and photographs are a bit problematic. Gigi doesn’t do them in color and they are undoubtedly smaller than they would be in the book, so it’s not an appropriate format for, say, a book on contemporary glass artists. And if the book is designed to be beautiful, with lots of nice whitespace around the type and a thoughtful layout to help you havigate, well, all that is lost.
- Gigi-the-iPhone is not Gigi-the-great-multitasker, unfortunately, and she takes a while to spin up the Kindle application. If the phone rings (or I see an interesting shot and want to use the camera), I must ditch the book, do whatever and then wait for Kindle to restart before I can resume reading. A paper book is much, much faster.
And there’s the power complication: Gigi is probably the most underpowered mobile device on the planet, fully capable of using up her entire charge in about two hours. A whole array of battery charging things has sprung up to remedy this failing, and I’m currently trying out the Mophie Juice Pack. It’s a black case protector with a lime green lining that looks to Gigi like a plugged-in power source.
The Mophie, $99, extends Gigi’s power by about five hours from the looks of it, giving her a total of seven or so. That’s enough to mostly get you cross-country, or at least to get you through the air until you can find a power outlet.
You lose the sleek, thin look and feel of the iPhone–it nearly triples the thickness and changes iPhone’s center of gravity. One-handed operations require two hands when Gigi’s on the Mophie–my hand doesn’t quite reach far enough to snap a picture, for example–so I tend to leave the Mophie in my purse unless Gigi’s running low on juice. That’s sort of a bummer; after buying Gigi to get rid of all the electronic gadgets cluttering my purse, I’m now refilling the space with Gigi-related gadgets.
Yet the Mophie it does give me enough juice to get through a day of listening and reading and talking on the phone when I’m not near a plug. And if I’m gonna get into this ebook thing, it’s a necessary evil.
*Rajah the cat is a diabetic hypertensive who, curiously, enjoys his medication and yowls every morning until he gets it. Either he’s a masochist with fur, or simply puts up with the insulin injection to suck up the blood pressure stuff, which is immersed in tuna oil.
**And yes, brand police, I’m aware that I lowercased a trademarked product name. Think of it as a viral marketing boost.