Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review of eReader Apps: Kindle App



I’ve blogged before that I read a lot of eBooks on my iPad. I had an iPad 1 for almost two years, and it served me well. However, since Apple decided it would no longer support the iPad 1, meaning there would be no more software updates for it, I decided to upgrade.

I sold my 32GB iPad 1 for $250 to a local guy and bought a refurbished 16GB iPad 3 from Apple for $400, with tax. I didn’t come close to using 16GB on my iPad 1 so I opted for the 16GB model. No sense spending money for unused storage.

I’m nearsighted so I don’t need glasses to read, unless what I’m trying to read is farther than about a foot from my face. The iPad 3 has retina screen, the iPad 1 didn’t. I could read fine in day-mode but when I switched to night-mode the text became fuzzy and I had to switch to a sans-serif typeface, which are not designed for reading large amounts of text.

The retina screen makes reading easy for me. The characters are sharp and clear, even when reading in night mode—no typeface change needed.

Over the years I’ve used four eReader apps: Stanza, Kindle, Bluefire, and lately, Marvin.

I downloaded Stanza because I first published to Smashwords, which supports Stanza. Thing I liked best about Stanza was, I could read in Courier, which I like to do when I’m writing a draft or editing a manuscript set in Courier. Only one other eReader app I know of does this. Unfortunately, the Stanza app has been abandoned by its developers and has become somewhat unstable.

Kindle App

The second app I downloaded was the Kindle app. Kindle is, well, Kindle. I’ve read people complaining about the MOBI format but as an eReader, it’s always worked fine for me. And I’ve done a lot of reading on the Kindle app as most of the books I download are from Amazon.

As an eBook creator, I know Amazon’s proprietary MOBI format isn’t as flexible as ePub, but I can still make great looking MOBI books. This is a necessity for an eBook creator.

What I like about the Kindle app

It’s customizable. The Kindle app gives you three margin sizes to choose from, several good typefaces to display text in, a night mode, a screen brightness slider-bar, and the choice of displaying text in two-columns when in landscape mode. That last feature alone makes it a good app for reading. I read a lot in landscape mode and shorter lines of text are easier to read than longer lines.

It’s stable. At least it has been for me.

I can email documents to my Kindle app. This increases the app’s usefulness. You have to set this up online in your account by telling Amazon what email addresses to accept files from, but once that’s done sending Word files, PDFs, and MOBI files to your Kindle app is a breeze.

What I don’t like about the Kindle app

It displays text with lines fully justified, meaning the right side of paragraphs align. This is how print books are set, and how this paragraph is set. Having the page be a nice rectangle is pleasing to the eye and it’s fine for a screen the size of an iPad, about 10 inches diagonal. It doesn’t work so great on a screen the size of an iPhone.

Here’s the problem with justified text on smaller screens: it creates awkward line lengths and breaks. Since the Kindle app doesn’t hyphenate books, long words are often shoved onto the next line, leaving the first line too short to be stretched across the length of the screen. This creates ugly gaps in the text.

I’m not a fan of eReader-hyphenated text because the hyphens more than likely show up at incorrect locations, like between a ‘t’ and an ‘h’. But that would be preferable, to me at least, than having one line with two three words, and not justified, adjacent to lines that are fully justified and are filled with words.

The Kindle app does not allow the user to view the text in ragged-right mode. It should. Ragged-right text is easier to read because the spaces between words are equal, which helps us read faster. Ragged-right text isn’t as pretty as fully-justified text is, though.

As I wrote, I read a lot in the Kindle app and it’s a pleasant enough experience. And to my knowledge it’s your only choice if you want to read MOBI books.

In my next post I’ll review the Bluefire eReader app.