For those new to the world of the iPhone, the discovery that you can easily and comfortably read on that little screen is a bit of a revelation. Suddenly, you can carry entire volumes of prose in your pocket, as easily as your contacts list. App developers are keen to this, and so the iTunes App Store is flooded with e-readers and e-books. Some are better than others. Read on to discover the very best of bunch.
Stanza is an e-book reader app so good, Amazon snatched it up before it could pose a threat to their Kindle iPhone app. Thankfully, you can still download Stanza for free and use it to read Kindle files, or any other e-book files, for that matter. Stanza has a gorgeous, easy-to-use library view, access to online book repositories like Project Gutenberg, and a clean, distraction-free interface for reading. You can also annotate chapters, dog-ear pages, and get word definitions without ever leaving the app.
For indie literature aficionados, McSweeney’s needs no introduction. For everyone else, McSweeney’s is the brainchild of award-winning author Dave Eggers: an empire which includes a publishing house, quarterly journal, magazine, and a free website for daily doses of humorous lists and irreverent essays. The McSweeney's app brings it all together. Read free dispatches, advance stories from Believer or the Quarterly Concern, even purchase or read e-books that have been beautifully typset specially for the iPhone.
If you’re into comic books (and maybe if you're not), Comic Zeal is an app that is not to be missed. Comic Zeal makes uploading, organizing and reading comic books on the iPhone not just easy, but fun. The library view automatically places comics from a series into their own "boxes," and the reading screen has a clever touch-to-zoom interface. Comic Zeal can handle the common CBR, CBZ and PDF filetypes. And, if you don’t have any comics in your collection yet, you can also download some from right within the app.
Anyone who has tried to listen to an audiobook with the native iPod app knows it's an uphill battle. Books that are broken into smaller files often won't play in the right order, and if you take a break to listen to music it can be a hassle trying to resume playback where you left off. This is why the iPhone gods created Bookmark. This app will tidy up all those little audiobook files and give you precise control over playback. There's not room here to get into all the awesome features, so download Bookmark to see for yourself.
Google Books is Google's attempt to take a piece of that sweet e-book pie that Amazon and Apple are hording. While the reading screen feels an awful lot like Kindle or Stanza, there are a few features that set this app apart. First, your place in the book is automatically synced in the cloud, so when at your desktop or laptop, you can read the book online in an attractive browser layout. Second, Google has been scanning archives full of books for years, so there's a huge number of free, public domain works just waiting to be downloaded.
Goodreads is a social network for people who love books. Disproving the stereotype that booklovers are anit-social, the Goodreads app is a great place to see what your friends are reading, how far along they are in the book, and what reviews they've written. It's cross-listed with the database of books at Amazon.com, so finding and adding books is a breeze. Beyond the social features, Goodreads has infinite value in its ability to track what you've read by category or in "shelves," as well as a handy "to-read" list for the future.
To call GoodReader an e-reader app is to sell it short. This app will display just about any filetype imaginable, and allow you to organize it all into folders and sub-folders. You can zip these folders, e-mail them, upload them to Dropbox, or send them off to Google Docs. In other words, you can use your iPhone to manage your entire digital library. And, underneath it all, GoodReader is a top-notch e-reader. If you've got a wonky PDF or DOC that Stanza or iBooks can't figure out how to display, chances are GoodReader can do the job.
Are you a book worm? What are your favorite reading apps? Let us know in the comments.