Category Archives: iPhone

Two eReader Apps You Should Check Out

Here are two iOS ereader apps that I think you should try. Both Readmill and Marvin read ePub files and offer features that iBooks is nowhere close to rolling out.


This app has quickly become my favorite app to read in. The design of Readmill is fantastic and they have pioneered many of the highlighting-type features that kindle and iBooks have adopted.

readmill ereader appsWhat really makes Readmill great is the community and sharing aspects. Basically, (if you turn on the features) it turns any book you’re reading into a book club. You don’t necessarily “follow people” (though you can), but while in a book other people’s highlights and comments pop up, just as if they were scribbled in the margins of a paper book. In Readmill you can reply to their marginalia or highlights and then others can respond to you, etc. You’ll have a full blown discussion before you know it… all centered on this shared experience of that very book you are reading. Of course, you can also ‘@’ people not reading the book to help promote the book or spur interest/discussions among your friends, but the idea of a group of people gathering around the shared reading of a book is fantastic. I really like the notion of discovering people to follow based on their ideas and observations alone.

readmill ereader appsI have always read business books in paper. I need to scribble and make notes in non-fiction books. But I recently gave Readmill a go for a business book and can honestly say I was better for it. I stumbled on a few people, in the Readmill community, who had read it before me and made some fantastic connections inside that book. These were ideas that  I may never have come up with on my own. It was a cool experience.



Marvin is a fun app to read in as well, but for totally different reasons. You do have amazing controls over the color, brightness, etc. and the design is solid. Plus, they have some nifty features to help folks with dyslexia or near-blindness. Marvin also allows one-click downloads from free eBook sites, Dropbox, Readmill, ODPS, and Calibre integration.

marvin ereaderBut my favorite feature of Marvin is the Deep View. Once you click ‘OK’ the Marvin app will quickly read your whole book in about a minute. It will then offer you a list of every name in the book with external links and how the names appear to be related in the book. It will also offer you a summary of the book (free Cliffs Notes!) if you’d like one. It will also compile a list of articles about that book, article about the author, and other internet content related to the book. It’s like setting your own private wiki-pedia for the book you happen to be reading.

marvin appOnce you integrate that with IMDB, etc. it gets to be very very fun. I’ve found I enjoy reading older books in this app as I’m always amazed at how many author “from the days of yore” knew each other, hung out together, berated each other, or mentioned each other in their books and reviews.

For every Brat Pack in Hollywood, there were at least 10 groups of authors paying attention to each other.


While neither Readmill or Marvin have direct access to a robust bookstore like iBooks or kindle, these two ereader apps are worth the extra two clicks to getting an ePub side loaded to read. Check them out. I’d love to know what you think.

Browse iBooks in Flipboard

Flipboard has integrated Apple’s iBookstore into its app. So now you can subscribe to any of the iBooks category listings. You simply add the “channel” (face it – it’s a catalog you’re adding) via the usually content panel. You can tell what is an Apple iBooks feed by the icon given.

Flipboard on iPad

Once you’re in the category page you’re able to flip through like any other Flipbook section. All of the images and copy match up with what you would see in iTunes and iBooks.

Flipboard ibooks on ipad screen shot

At any point you can click on the catalog and buy the eBook. Flipboard has everything that sells via the app under their affilate program. So Flipboard will get  3%-5% of the final sale. It’s a smart move for Apple as it gets their books and platform in front of people who are already readers. But I’m not feeling it just yet. . .

I mean – it’s a catalog. I use Flipboard daily (sometimes it feels like hourly). I subscribe to a gazillion RSS feeds, in Google Readers and then sort through them in Flipboard. It’s wonderful. All of the cool online book-related content Flipboard has gotten good at surfacing for me is now under the Entertainment category with a couple listed under Cool Curators category.  I guess as long as it’s always made clear as to what is catalog and what is sourced from all of the cool online stuff Flipboard has gotten good at surfacing for me, I won’t be too upset. I mean everyone has to make a buck.

I wonder what it would take to set something up so all the local bookstores could feed their new books into a reader like this? Seems simple enough, if you could get all of the bookstores to agree on one system of entry. But it would be very cool to wake up every morning and see what’s new on shelf at the book store down the street.

Apple’s Wall gets higher

Yesterday Apple announced their latest plans for the iBooks platform. The event focused on textbooks and education. There were three main takeaways. All of which have their pluses and minuses.

First, there is a new iBooks app for iOS devices. It looks slick with video, sound and other rich media embedded in the books. It’s inline with where ePub3 and HTML5 are going. But it’s still not available on the desktop, just iOS. I was dissappointed in this. I do have a few reference books that I like to look things up in. If I am working on the desktop it is sooooo much easier to just open the Kindle reader or Nook reader apps and find what I need, rather than having my iPad next to me. And isn’t this what textbooks are used for? Reference? Looking things up? Multi-tasking and note taking aren’t strong points of having a tablet. So rather than have the one device we’re back to two devices. Not cool.

Second, there is the partnership with textbook publishers coupled with the efforts to make textbooks available at the $15 price point. That sounds good to me. If anyone needs a price break, it’s students. My fear here is that it could be a “Netflix-like” situation, where if a publisher doesn’t like the revenue flow situation or wants to renegotiate terms and Apple digs its heels in… where does that leave all the students, their notes, school libraries, etc.? Which brings us to the third takeaway…

the new iBooks authoring tool. It sounds pretty easy to use and the seamless integration is cool, but there are so many other limits and ramifications. Liz Castro did a good list on the concerns around the authoring tool. My big concern is that whatever you make in this tool Apple will not let you sell anywhere else. I was so excited when Apple embraced the ePub format with the rest of the world. But now it seems they have taken a page from Amazon’s playbook (or maybe the iTunes .m4a strategy) and will start building their own walled .ibook garden. It’s a shame. Because these strategies are not about creating the best user experience (which I do believe has been a driving force at Apple), but it’s about controlling parts of the supply between content creation and the reader.

OverDrive Announces December App Release

I’m a fan of the ebook lending program the JCLC has going. It’s great. But I also would like to have the ebooks to go and not have to lug the laptop everywhere. I’ve tried txtr and BlueFire Reader both of which say they work with Adobe Digital Editions, but have had no luck (apparently the snag lies with something called “transferred” loans). So I was very excited to see over on The Digital Reader (a blog you should follow) that Overdrive has announced their app lineup. Releases start in December.

This is going to be BIG!

Here’s the YouTube video that Nate dug up: