Further Adventures with eReader on the iPod touch

For some reason I’m getting more hits on the iPod touch eReader eBook post than anything else I’ve written lately, so I must assume that the iPod touch and eReader are a hit combination.  Since I wrote that post, eReader has come out with version 1.2 that offers many nifty new features and they’re promising 1.3 real soon now.  Also, the eReader.com site, a spin-off from fictionwise.com, seems to be expanding daily, which implies another kind of success.  eReader software isn’t just for the iPod, there’s also versions for Palm, PocketPC, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Windows, Macintosh and OQO systems.

When the Kindle came out stories about it on the blogosphere were more common than stories about Sarah Palin today.  Using the iPod touch and iPhone for an ebook reader hasn’t garnered that much notice.  I prefer the larger screen of the Kindle, but never wanted to carry it around.  The touch/iPhone is designed to commute wherever you go, and wherever you go you can now read your book when you get there.  That’s pretty cool.

The screen of the touch/iPhone is better than PDAs and most other smart phones, so for a portable reading device it does very well in the visual department.  The screen is physically about one fourth to one third the size of a paperback book page, but the number of words varies because you have several font size settings.  Even though the screen is smaller than the Kindle, it’s brighter and sharper.  Overall though, the Kindle’s screen is much nicer to read from because of it’s perfect size.

Flipping pages is much nicer with eReader on the touch/iPhone than with the Kindle or the eBookman I used to have.  You can set eReader to swipe or tap for page turning.  I set mine to tap, so I just touch the right side of the screen to page forward, and the left to go back.  Having a touch screen greatly reduces the need for buttons.

My 1st generation touch has 2 buttons, and the newly released 2nd generation touch has three, adding a volume control and tiny speaker, something I wanted.  I’m quite anxious for another button though, an on/off switch for the Wi-Fi for the iPod touch.  The wireless system drains the battery fast.  My touch will drain in 1-2 days even doing nothing if the wireless is on.  I now have to go through several taps to turn the wireless on or off.  An even more sophisticated solution would be software that turned the wireless on when I sent a request out on the Internet and turned it off after a set period of time.

The iPod touch is about four times heavier than a Nano, and much bigger, so it’s more of an effort to carry around, but still just 4 ounces, or 120 grams.  It fits in my shirt pocket like the Nano, but its very noticeable there, whereas the Nano is unfelt.  I’ve started carrying my touch some, but I’ve got to admit I’d rather carry the Nano.  Whether I carry the touch all the time will depend if I get completely hooked on it.  99% of my use is for listening to audio books, so unless I start using the touch more, I might go back to my Nano.  I think I’ll need several months to grow into the iPod touch, to know if I regularly need all of its features.

The frequent low battery message is what keeps me switching back to the Nano.  I can get a lot more time if I shut off the Wi-Fi, but that’s annoying to keep up with.  Another way to improve battery life is shut off the screen.  This is only good for listening to music and audio books, but eReader does have a feature for showing white text on a black background.  I wonder if that saves energy.  The claimed battery life improvements in the 2nd Generation iPod touch makes me wished I had waited a month to buy a new iPod.  I certainly wouldn’t buy a 1st generation touch now unless it was very cheap.

One way to adapt to the touch’s battery weakness is to buy a cradle and leave it on it whenever I’m not using it, but with the battery supposedly only good for 400-500 full cycles of charging, would that be good for it?   The iPod touch loses it’s charge so fast when the Wi-Fi is on that I’m thinking mine is either defective or it has a serious flaw.  The Kindle, even with the broadband on lasts four or five days.

The iPod touch also does not seem as robust as the Nano.  Upgrading to iTunes 8.0 crashed it completely and I had to do a restore, which took a bit of fiddling to get done.  I kept wondering why the touch was always backing itself up, well now I’m glad it had.  The restore loaded my upgrades, settings, eReader books, and extra applications, but not my music and audio books.

I bought the iPod touch because I wanted walk-around access to the Internet.  I was also thinking of buying the Asus Eee PC for the same reason.  After a few weeks of ownership I’ve learned that I don’t actually need to access the Internet that often when I’m away from my work or home computer.  It is fun to play with the touch while reclining in my La-Z-Boy, but weirdly the best function I’ve found for those idle moments is cleaning out old email.  Browsing the web on the touch’s 3.5″ screen is the coolest I’ve seen on a small device, but it’s not any fun in practicality.  Good for emergency searches.

When it comes down to it, the real use I have for an iPod is audio books.  I spend hours and hours every week listening to audio books, and the Nano is far superior for that task.  The best thing I love about eReader is getting free classic books, but not to read.  When you listen to books you never know how many names and words are spelled.  Having the text on eReader makes a great supplement to audio books.  It’s not something I use often, but it’s very nice.

Audio books have ruined me for reading printed books, so when I do read with my eyes it’s mainly email, RSS feeds and the web pages.  That makes the touch good for email and RSS feeds if they are nearly all text.  HTML email is better read on a big screen.

The iPod touch is a novelty that I may or may not get addicted to carrying around.  Buying it made me glad I didn’t rush out and buy the iPhone.  I love the Internet as seen through my 22″ Samsung LCD.  But anyone who grew up carrying a Gameboy around will probably find the touch a fantastic device.


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