First look: 'Classics' aims to kindle iPhone reading surge

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
E-books are just beginning to gain traction with consumers today, a phenomenon that seemed to start quietly with offerings from Sony, then taking another large step with Amazon's Kindle. However, the iPhone -- a device not meant for dedicated reading -- is increasingly turning people on to digital reading.



Steve Jobs may have been dismissive in January when asked about the Kindle (in-depth review), claiming that "it doesn?t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don?t read anymore."



But when the App Store launched this summer, there was a section dedicated to Books, which has since seen a steady addition of apps like Stanza (free, App Store) eReader (free, App Store), as well as a raft of single books and comics wrapped up as apps. The latter serve as poor solutions, forcing users to maintain an icon on their home screens for each book while lacking a means to encouraged discovery of new content.



And while some of these apps look good or offer a gigantic library to choose from, they lack a certain level of polish associated with the highest tier of iPhone applications.



Classics is the newest e-book reader to make an attempt at solving this problem. While not yet offering an enormous library of content, the team behind Classics has opted to instead focus on enhancing the experience of reading a book on the iPhone, taking up books from Project Gutenberg, and placing them into an aesthetically pleasing wrapper. AppleInsider has managed to get a early first look into the fledgling app.







Opting out of navigation panes and lists, Classics instead goes the way of the visual metaphor, presenting you with a shelf full of books to choose from, which you can drag up and down. There are currently 12 books to choose from, ranging from Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book to Paradise Lost and Flatland, forming a healthy spectrum of tastes from which to choose. You won't find any Stephen King or J.K Rowling in there -- copyright of course prevents this -- but that's why it's called Classics. It's a particularly clever move to package well-established cultural items in a more tempting guise, and there's really no doubt that the books will appeal to a wide swath of users.







Graphically, no detail has gone ignored. Each book has an illustrated cover made especially for Classics by Daniel Goffin, David Lanham and Sebastiaan de With (who I've met before and is a pretty nice guy; check out his blog for a deeper look at the design of this app). The only problem with these covers at the moment is the absence of a view with larger detail, a feature which will be introduced in future versions. Some of the books have extra illustrations inside, such as Alice in Wonderland, which includes Sir John Tenniel's original and wondrous woodcut illustrations (unfortunately also unavailable in higher detail in this version of the app).







The process of reading introduces Classic's main gimmick: simulated page turning, with page turning sound effects. If it sounds like overkill, you grossly underestimate the power such novelties have upon the unsuspecting App Store browser. It looks great and has a solid feel. It's only natural that one would want to turn a page with one's finger, or at least something a little more heart-warming than pressing a "next page" button. There's also a nicely done Chapter navigation pane for skipping through texts more quickly. As for the reading itself, it is a huge relief to see black on white abandoned for the more subdued brown-and-beige scheme, evoking the feelings of real books. The formatting of the text has been completely redesigned for the app, right down to the typography. This lead me to turn page after page and willingly experience the odd sensation of reading a book on a phone.







As it stands, Classics looks to be a compelling purchase. It's all there: the good looks, usability, and the classic literature. With the promise of free updates providing new books, interface improvements, and more, Classics promises to stand out amongst a growing breed of iPhone apps. Classics is expected to be priced at $2.99 when it's released in the coming weeks.



Developers who would like to submit interesting new application ideas to AppleInsider for advance coverage consideration should contact Sam at sam (at) appleinsider (dot) com.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    Looks very nice but it's worth pointing out that this is another Phil (My Dream App) Ryu creation... Looks all snazzy and cool now but will it still be with us in three months time once the cash is in the bank? After My Dream App and other disasters, I'm skeptical...



    If it's cheap enough I'll probably, somewhat hypocritically, give it a whirl anyway though...
  • Reply 2 of 32
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Fotek2001 View Post


    Looks very nice but it's worth pointing out that this is another Phil (My Dream App) Ryu creation... Looks all snazzy and cool now but will it still be with us in three months time once the cash is in the bank? After My Dream App and other disasters, I'm skeptical...



    Indeed. It would be wise to wait and see if books actually do get added after its release to make sure Phil isn't up to his old dirty tricks.
  • Reply 3 of 32
    ytvytv Posts: 109member
    The people who made this have as much of a clue as Steve Jobs as to the mindset of a reader.



    They don't want all that glitz and eye candy and a you would be lucky to get 4 hours of battery life with the backlight constantly on.



    They want something extremely simple that has virtually no options besides turning pages and adjusting font size. Oh yeah and a battery that lasts for 2 weeks too.



    Kindle FTMFW!!!
  • Reply 4 of 32
    [QUOTE=YTV;1332598]The people who made this have as much of a clue as Steve Jobs as to the mindset of a reader.



    They don't want all that glitz and eye candy and a you would be lucky to get 4 hours of battery life with the backlight constantly on.



    They want something extremely simple that has virtually no options besides turning pages and adjusting font size. Oh yeah and a battery that lasts for 2 weeks too.





    I agree.

    It might look good but it's not practical.

    I read using stanza a far bit and I'm pretty sure having white text on a black backgound helps extend battery life.
  • Reply 5 of 32
    For dedicated readers there is a rhythm and cadence to reading that requires more real estate than the iPhone offers. I think if the developers asked frequent readers what they wanted, they would prefer the pages in landscape view rather than the squashed, over-justified pages from the screenshots in this article. It would appear much closer to what one would see on a page.
  • Reply 6 of 32
    mactoidmactoid Posts: 112member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pixelcruncher View Post


    For dedicated readers there is a rhythm and cadence to reading that requires more real estate than the iPhone offers. I think if the developers asked frequent readers what they wanted, they would prefer the pages in landscape view rather than the squashed, over-justified pages from the screenshots in this article. It would appear much closer to what one would see on a page.



    I hate to promote a product without getting a paycheck from the company , but I would point out that eReader has a large available library, and does landscape (as well as portrait view) and has font options. Not as much eye-candy, but then you're looking at it for the content of the book.



    Yes, Kindle has a larger format, may be easier to read, etc...but Kindle is yet another device to carry around. Most people have their iPhone in their pocket most of the time. Always there when you just miss the bus and have an extra 15 minutes to kill.
  • Reply 7 of 32
    pomopomo Posts: 51member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mactoid View Post


    I hate to promote a product without getting a paycheck from the company , but I would point out that eReader has a large available library, and does landscape (as well as portrait view) and has font options. Not as much eye-candy, but then you're looking at it for the content of the book.



    Yes, Kindle has a larger format, may be easier to read, etc...but Kindle is yet another device to carry around. Most people have their iPhone in their pocket most of the time. Always there when you just miss the bus and have an extra 15 minutes to kill.



    I agree. Having to carry a Kindle is kind of cumbersome to me. Stanza has been such a great alternative. They have such a great free catalog available, plus, it has many options that make reading more enjoyable. My settings include 80% black type on ivory paper; it gives it a book-like feel. It also has a coverflowie book picker menu (ooooh).



    I really don't care if I have to charge my phone as often as I already do, so I'm not really losing much. Plus, I've already read books that I would have not bothered reading without stanza.
  • Reply 8 of 32
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pomo View Post


    I agree. Having to carry a Kindle is kind of cumbersome to me. Stanza has been such a great alternative. They have such a great free catalog available, plus, it has many options that make reading more enjoyable. My settings include 80% black type on ivory paper; it gives it a book-like feel. It also has a coverflowie book picker menu (ooooh).



    I really don't care if I have to charge my phone as often as I already do, so I'm not really losing much. Plus, I've already read books that I would have not bothered reading without stanza.



    The issue isn't so much that eReader has a large available library as that it SELLS new books, the same books one might purchase on amazon.com (it's just the Palm eReader format, that's been around for a few years now) and THEREBY are the direct competitor to the kindle.



    The other readers are good with varying beneficial features, but what I'm most interested in terms of the "ebook war" is which one has the most potential to capture new ereaders away from the printed book market for newly published books.
  • Reply 9 of 32
    kreshkresh Posts: 379member
    Classics only reads the files that are inluded with it. They are formatted by hand to provide all this eye candy, and an AppStore update has to be done if and when the coder releases new titles. Even then they are public domain works of art that are avaable for free.



    I much prefer "Bookz" since it reads Mac & Windows native text files and will even download titles through the app from Project Gutenberg with the built-in web browser, or any file from the built-In Apache server in Mac or built-in http server in Windows. It is the fastest book reader around! Plus All the others like Stanza or eReader use non computer editable formats like .pdb; which means you have to use a program like PordiBle to translate all your files before putting them on the iPhone or iPod touch and yes it IS a pain!



    There is even a free version named "Bookz Demo" to try.



    Without a doubt it is "Bookz" FTW!
  • Reply 10 of 32
    This is the problem I have with eReaders:

    1. There is absolutely no way to transfer the books you already have on the device itself.

    3. It's nice being able to scan your hand across hundreds of books and find one that you may like.

    4. Before purchasing a book to read it I flip through a few pages to make sure I like how it's written.

    5. I like working to the lounge room and seeing my collection of books on the bookshelf.



    The only positive thing I feel about eReaders are that you don't need to carry huge text books around to class. But then there is the cost. $300-$400 on the device itself than the cost of purchasing said text books. It just doesn't make financial sense. Unless a laptop doubles as an eReader I just don't see eBooks as a huge market.
  • Reply 11 of 32
    irelandireland Posts: 17,671member
    Google it. You flick left or right with your hand and the page flips just like this. But if you say flicked with four fingers four pages would flip all at once. Making it easy to quickly jump back 10, 20 or more pages without the need complex file menus.
  • Reply 12 of 32
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Well, as a book reader, book collector and writer I can't believe everyone here is so certain that they know the minds of all other readers of books.



    For starters, anyone who really appreciates books, *doesn't* (IMO of course), want a simple e-reader with no options and adjustable fonts. This application is the first book reader application I have seen that actually feels like reading a book, and there is much more to a book than just the text.



    Sad to learn the guy is some kind of a scam artist (if that is even true), but a lot of people will love this application and all those who think they speak for "all book readers" are full of sh*t if you ask me.
  • Reply 13 of 32
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pixelcruncher View Post


    For dedicated readers there is a rhythm and cadence to reading that requires more real estate than the iPhone offers. I think if the developers asked frequent readers what they wanted, they would prefer the pages in landscape view rather than the squashed, over-justified pages from the screenshots in this article. It would appear much closer to what one would see on a page.



    i read about 100 books a year, and i love using Stanza (which has a landscape mode, but i almost always use portrait, as i find holding and flicking the pages easier that way, when used one handed). i just wish i could buy lots of new books off Amazon, or something.
  • Reply 14 of 32
    I'm a publisher ( iPulpFiction.com ) who chose the AppEngines eReader concept to publish our stories. Here's why:



    Although we gave away one public domain title to introduce readers to pulp fiction, iPulp publishes original fiction by active, award-winning writers. (13 titles so far.) We aren't drawing on Project Gutenberg for our material like Stanza and the others. This means I need to pay royalties and protect our intellectual property rights. By packaging each volume as a separate easy-to-use application, AppEngines protects our product better than an eReader that pulls in any old external file that that can be easily pirated. The only improvement I would like to see in the appEngines reader is full text justification and a limited selection of font choices.



    Also, the original article complained about the number of icons this requires. That is true, but those icons - your library - sit on the shelf in iTunes. think of your iPhone/iPod as your book bag. Do you keep the entire library in your book bag? Simply "check out' the book you are currently reading to your iPhone/iPod book bag and remove it when you're done.



    The high resolution iPhone/iPod screen actually presents remarkably clear type and reading is rather enjoyable. I am on the iPod/iPhone now to be in a better position when these apps can be delivered to the larger touch-screen mobile devices that are on the horizon.
  • Reply 15 of 32
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post


    Well, as a book reader, book collector and writer I can't believe everyone here is so certain that they know the minds of all other readers of books.



    For starters, anyone who really appreciates books, *doesn't* (IMO of course), want a simple e-reader with no options and adjustable fonts. This application is the first book reader application I have seen that actually feels like reading a book, and there is much more to a book than just the text.



    Sad to learn the guy is some kind of a scam artist (if that is even true), but a lot of people will love this application and all those who think they speak for "all book readers" are full of sh*t if you ask me.



    Uh, yeah. Readers love 1) the text and 2) the feel of a good book. This fails on all sides as the length of text available before you have to scroll / turn a page is miniscule, it has a touch gimmick that does nothing to enhance the actual tactile sensation, and it burns through battery life like no tomorrow (backlight always on) meaning you can't actually USE it for very long.



    I'm not sure where you're coming from, but a lack of options is exactly what most people want - they want a book, which gives you practically none! The optimal device would have the dpi of print, be as comfortable to use as a book, and as simple to use as a book. While I'm not really a kindle fan (the lack of kindle available books is what deters me), it does much better than this thing in terms of dpi, battery life, and comfort level. The only thing missing is the tactile nature of a book...
  • Reply 16 of 32
    I'm sure it'll be kept up to date with super support after launch. Just like MyDreamApp.



    Pffffthaha!
  • Reply 17 of 32
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    Amazon would be smart to transition out of the hardware business and make the kindle content available for the iPhone and iPod Touch using a similar business model. Using a finger to turn one pager and four fingers to turn four pages, cover art, etc. are great features that Kindle cannot offer. However, the biggest problem with Kindle is the need to carry another device.



    How many iPhone + iPod Touch devices are in use? How many Kindle devices are in use? Even if we assume that only 1% of iPhone and iPod Touch users will buy eBooks from Amazon, I expect that's already a larger market than Kindle.
  • Reply 18 of 32
    johnqhjohnqh Posts: 242member
    The battery life issue is a good point. Nobody would want to read the iPhone/iTouch for two hours with the thing plugged in.



    Does anyone know exactly how long iPhone would last with little activities (CPU almost idle) but backlight on at 100%?
  • Reply 19 of 32
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mcarling View Post


    Amazon would be smart to transition out of the hardware business and make the kindle content available for the iPhone and iPod Touch using a similar business model. Using a finger to turn one pager and four fingers to turn four pages, cover art, etc. are great features that Kindle cannot offer. However, the biggest problem with Kindle is the need to carry another device.



    How many iPhone + iPod Touch devices are in use? How many Kindle devices are in use? Even if we assume that only 1% of iPhone and iPod Touch users will buy eBooks from Amazon, I expect that's already a larger market than Kindle.



    I don't think a lot of people here understand what makes the kindle so great, and pretty much everything else literally look terrible in comparison - its resolution, or more accurately, the DPI, which is 170 (this is pretty much the minimum DPI that matches print quality). Even modern monitors / LCDs don't even come close to that, let alone the piddly screen of an iPhone (or any handheld device for that matter). So placing the software onto an iPhone automatically negates one of the best aspects of the kindle - its screen. If you've never seen eInk in person, you have no idea how nice it looks, and how it makes reading on a PDA-esque screen or monitor painful.



    When the iPhone (or another device) can match the appearance of print (which the kindle does), then you can bring up replacing the kindle/print/amazon licensing out the software.
  • Reply 20 of 32
    Hello all. I'm the co-creator and programmer behind Classics. Thank you for your interest in our app! I thought I'd drop in and answer some of your questions.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by johnqh View Post


    The battery life issue is a good point. Nobody would want to read the iPhone/iTouch for two hours with the thing plugged in.



    Does anyone know exactly how long iPhone would last with little activities (CPU almost idle) but backlight on at 100%?



    I don't have any numbers for you on that, but out of curiosity, why would one read with the backlight on at all? You'd probably enjoy reading on the device a lot more with the backlight completely off. That's how it is for me, at least.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lidofido View Post


    I don't think a lot of people here understand what makes the kindle so great, and pretty much everything else literally look terrible in comparison - its resolution, or more accurately, the DPI, which is 170 (this is pretty much the minimum DPI that matches print quality). Even modern monitors / LCDs don't even come close to that, let alone the piddly screen of an iPhone (or any handheld device for that matter).



    E-ink is nice, but for what it's worth, the iPhone's screen actually comes quite close to the Kindle in DPI -- it weighs in at 163 dpi versus Kindle's just slightly better 167.
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