Monday, March 11, 2013

Review of eReaders App: Bluefire


On my last post, I reviewed the Kindle app for iPad. Whether you’re a fan of Amazon or not, and many aren’t, I feel it’s a good app for reading.

However, it’s not a good app for sharing notes and marks you make in a book. Check this post out here if that’s your goal. You can get your notes and marks to sync across your own Kindle devices, but you can’t share them with others. However, if someone reads a MOBI file on Kindle for PC they can share their notes and marks. See the linked post on how to do that.

On to Bluefire.

Last year, or maybe the year before, I received a “perk” from Klout: Stephen King’s short story Mile 81, which is protected with Digital Rights Management (DRM). I needed an eReader app that would handle DRM, so I found Bluefire. I had to create a free Adobe account to crack open Mile 81. When I upgraded my iPad I had to download Bluefire again and so had to log in to Adobe again.

Let me tell you what I like best about Bluefire: if you leave it in its native mode, it displays text in the Adobe Minion typeface, one of my all-time favorite typefaces, and it automatically and correctly inserts ligatures. People complain Bluefire loads eBooks too slow. This is why, it’s applying sophisticated typesetting to your eBook.

Ligatures make text easier to read and more visually appealing. Allow me to explain how.

I had a sister-in-law (she’s no longer my sister-in-law) who couldn’t tolerate food touching on her plate. The mashed potatoes, including the gravy, couldn’t touch the roast beef or the green beans. I always thought that was dumb since it all ended up as a ball of chyme in the stomach anyway, but I kept that opinion to myself. Which is probably why I got along so well with my ex’s side of the family.

Typefaces with serifs, those little extenders at the tops, feet, and cross bars of letters, often touch in set text. Particularly, the dot of an ‘i’ will touch the downward stroke of an ‘f’ set to its left. As my former SIL would say, yuck. A ligature fixes this by combining the ‘f’ and ‘i’ into one character. The crossbar of the ‘f’ joins the top of the ‘i’ and the ‘i’ is not dotted.

All basic ligatures involve the letter ‘f’. Two ‘fs’ are joined, an ‘f’ and an ‘l’, two ‘fs’ and an ‘i’, as in “office” are joined, and two ‘fs’ and an ‘l’ are joined. Here’s an example:

(Image from I Love Typeography.)

Bluefire does this for you whether you want it or not because they know it’s for your own good. Joking aside, you likely don’t consciously notice when text is set with ligatures. But your eye appreciates the aesthetics and you likely will read a little faster and better.

Bluefire has many other options: five margins, pages numbers in the margin, many different typefaces, orientation lock (a useful feature when reading while laying on one’s side), a night mode that works, and options for different effects while flipping pages. Two of my favorite features are, you can adjust the screen brightness by swiping up or down on the screen and you can turn justified lines off and read with ragged-right lines. Refer to my post on the Kindle app for details.

A glaring missing feature is, no two-column reading when in landscape mode. For me, unless I’m sure I won’t need to read a book in landscape mode, I will load the book into Marvin.

Stay tuned for my review of Marvin, the best eReader for the iPad.