App alternatives to Kindle

Amazon’s single-use e-book reader no match for iPhone’s free reader apps


Oranges, knives or torches, maybe – but juggling expensive gizmos is the hobby of no one.[rssbreak]

That’s the secret to the iPhone’s success: it’s two devices, cellphone and iPod, in a single gadget. No fumbling required.

Add the zillions of applications available for the iPhone, and it does way more than just play music and dial phone numbers.

We’re reminded of all this by Amazon’s Kindle, which recently launched in Canada. It’s more or less a single-use device: you can read electronic books on it.

But why would anyone want to carry around another electronic gadget when the smartphone already performs its functions?

Here are four electronic reader applications that do exactly what the Kindle does, only for free.

BARNES & NOBLE’S E-READER

In comparison to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, another ginormous U.S. book retailer, has the superior e-reader, called the Nook. But that’s not available in Canada. What is available and close to $300 less is the B&N e-reader application for the iPhone and BlackBerry. An insane number of books are available – more than 700,000 – and most are free via Google. Uses the near-universal epub format. Download here.

STANZA

You know those people who lick their finger before turning a page? Strange, isn’t it? Lexcycle Stanza is an app that allows you to flip though books with your finger without the saliva. Its interface allows for digital page-turning and displays a more elegant font than other readers. Around 100,000 titles are at your immediate disposal, but any book available in the epub format will work. Download here.

FICTIONWISE EREADER

Fictionwise.com is an e-book library owned by Barnes & Noble. It’s the largest e-bookstore, but also has an iPhone app. The oldest of the mobile e-readers, it’s nowhere near the best. Stanza has access to its titles and is an easier-to-use app. Download here.

SHORTCOVERS (RECENTLY REBRANDED AS KOBO)

One of the most user-friendly of the free mobile e-readers. Choose between scrolling straight down or flipping pages, select font size and style, read the first chapter of any book before buying and, when ready, purchase is easy. There are tons of free books every week, though overall fewer titles than the giant bookselling competitors. The best mobile e-reader regardless. Download here.

Most importantly, each of the above readers supports the open epub format, which is the same as Google’s mammoth library and most other e-book sellers. The Kindle does not, at least not without a conversion process. But if it’s the Kindle name you want, save your e-bucks until its mobile application comes to Canada, most likely after the shopping season.

joshuae@nowtoronto.com

Twitter: @nowtoronto

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