iPhone bigger ebook reader than Kindle or Sony Reader


StanzaThat new Sony Reader looks pretty sweet, but there’s an unexpected ebook reader that is far bigger.  That ebook reader has even surpassed the much ballyhooed Amazon Kindle, another dedicated ebook reader with a much larger distribution than the Sony.  What is the device that has achieved a bigger status than the Sony or Amazon devices?  The iPhone, of course.  Now before you issue a big raspberry over that news I will jump in and say I can easily believe that.  I am a big consumer of ebooks and I consume them on my iPhone.  Sure the screen is very small compared to those "real" ebook readers but as I’ve stated before the iPhone is always with me so it wins in the ebook reading department. My ebook reader of choice is the eReader software on the iPhone but recently another reader was released for free in the Apple App Store and that one is changing things.

Stanza is a free ebook reader that handles a lot of different ebook formats and it’s become a hugely popular program. Forbes is reporting that over 395,000 copies of Stanza have been downloaded since its release just a few months ago and over 5,000 copies are downloaded every day.  Since Forbes estimates Amazon will sell 380,000 Kindles in all of 2008 that makes the iPhone with Stanza the biggest ebook reader around.  Throw in my favorite eReader on the iPhone and it’s not even close.  It’s important to note that the ebooks used in Stanza are not paid ebooks, they are free where the Kindle’s and Sony Reader’s are largely paid books.  So are eReader’s ebooks (paid) but I’ll bet the iPhone is still bigger than the other two readers.  And they’re supposed to be the most distributed readers in the world.



I don’t even know why I’m commenting on a month-old article but… the biggest flaw the iPhone has as a reader is the grainy screen. That is also why people complain of eye fatigue so soon – the fonts are just blurry and cause eye strain. Sure, LCD is more tiring than e-ink in any case, but with a screen that had a higher resolution the experience improves markedly.

The iPhone is a revolutionary platform, and pretty darn cool to use, but to really have a shot at becoming the book reader of choice they need to change the resolution to something like that of the HTC Touch HD or preferrably beyond.

Angela Allen Parker

Wow, some of this clamor is so negative. Sorry, guys, I think you two do a great job!

Being mobile does require some sacrifice. I never really liked ebooks in practice — even though I’ve always loved the IDEA of carrying a bookshelf with me. However, when it came to reading, I preferred a physical book…

Until Stanza.

Now, I am actually reading books again — not just blogs and trade webs and industry reports and white papers!

I never leave a room, much less the house without my all-in-one iPhone (and I kept my first gen — I’ll wait for the next version before upgrading, once some of the bugs in the 3G are worked out.)

I love Stanza’s “tap to turn” feature, the fact that I can read (and lock it) into portrait or landscape mode and that I can make the font styles, colors and size whatever I need it to be. No more squinting!

Before, when I used readers that scrolled down, I’d lose my place, the page turning feature on the iPhone makes it easier to read smoothly.

I like that I can download wirelessly from my computer, that Stanza’s desktop is available in both Windows and Mac flavors.

*Just had to respond to the comments before I asked my own question*

What I would like to know (and the reason I actually came here from a Google search) is where does the iPhone store the actual ebook files? Is each ebook a notes file?

Thanks! (And keep giving us all kinds of options guys — some of us want plenty to choose from).


I agree with james that everyone should find the method and product that is right for them and understand what might be great for you may not be favorable to someone else. I own both the kindle and the iphone ereader and i love them both and use them both daily.

I love the kindle for all the items mentioned: clarity, ease on the eyes, ease of downloading new books from amazon, and the tremendous selection available from amazon. but i have also put quite a few of my technical computer manuals on my kindle and i love that i can search through them for some key information with the keyboard and how i tend to use the built in dictionary more frequently to look up words i don’t know instead of skimming past them.

i also love and use my iphone reader because as james has said i always have it with me in my pocket or nearby. especially now that i will be on crutches for the next few months it is easier and safer to carry the iphone than the kindle.

i would hope that people would stop bashing the vendors that try to bring out mobile book readers and instead just support them with suggestions or praise where do. I would hope we would stop bashing each other just because of a difference in opinion or taste. Everyone is different has different needs, taste, and viewpoints dependent apon their environment, upbringing, lifestyle, and personality. I don’t think we need to be attacking someone just because they don’t see or do things the way someone else do. after all variety makes the world interesting and eventually makes the products better.


I have to stick up for James a little bit here. It’s because of this site that I started reading ebooks at all. It’s now about all I read and I’m really dissapointed if a book I want to read isn’t offered on Mobipocket or eReader. That occurs all too often I’m afraid.

Steve, I would use eReader more but when are you going to make it compatible to Blackberrys??

I am also a little dissapointed in this site because I came here for Tablet PC information as well as the day in the life stories and it seems that it’s now more focused around netbooks and iphones. All in all I still visit the site though and appreciate some of the content. Bottom line, it’s his site and he can focus on what he wants to whether its relevant to some of us at the time or not.

James Kendrick

I should add that I read many of these comments on the iPhone and then grabbed a netbook to respond with my comment because the iPhone sucks for text entry. The right tool for the task at hand.

James Kendrick

Good discussion (for the most part) and it’s probably a good idea for me to clarify some things. One message that we have conveyed here on jkOnTheRun from the beginning, and that hasn’t changed, is that choice is a good thing. You will find it stated here many, many times that mobile technology is a very personal thing and that there is no “right” choice for everyone, and you can apply that to anything.

I have been using PDAs and phones to read ebooks for years. I have always stated that I am happy doing so but that is not a good choice for everyone. I know many people who love the Kindle and the Sony Reader because they like the reading experience better. I appreciate that and hope that everyone finds their preferred method for doing things like reading books. I know many people, family members included, who prefer reading “real” paper books and I tell them go for it!

I regret that some folks who visit get the impression that when I write (or talk) about a given device or technology that I am indicating that it is better than alternatives. I may state that I feel it is better for me but I would NEVER say it’s better for others. Like I said, this stuff is a personal choice and each one of us should use whatever we are happier with using. That’s why choices are so important, whether it is choices for a given device or a given program. Whatever works best for the individual is what they should use, and that makes it the “best” for them.

I applaud those who check out the options to accomplish a given task and then settle on the one that works best for them. My choice will often be different because I do the same, and that’s a very good thing.

Pam B.

Having listened to the discussion of e-ink reading devices like the Sony Reader and the Kindle vs. the iPhone on Mobile Tech Roundup and now this post on JKOTR, my main regret about both the discussion and the post is that there seems to me a lack of appreciation for devices that attend to different needs (at least lately by James; less so with the others).

In the podcast, James declared the iPhone the best ebook reader mainly because it is always in his pocket, thus allowing him to read whenever and wherever he has a few minutes of downtime. But he has given little thought to people who do not read this way, nor to people who place a lot of value on the actual experience they have while reading. Recall his argument that so long as one enjoys the content, the device on which one is reading is likely irrelevant. That may very well be true for a certain group of people, but it is not true at all for others. But that is exactly the beauty of having multiple options– paper books, e-ink devices that attempt to approximate the paper book experience in digital form, and devices with a capacity to deliver reading content even though the design of the device is not specifically geared toward reading. Clearly, James is the kind of person who can enjoy reading on the latter device. I, myself, however, never enjoyed reading on my Palm or iPhone even though I really wanted to like it. For me, e-ink readers like the Sony Reader and the Kindle hit the sweet spot– they have all the benefits of electronic devices, but have larger screens, and most importantly, do not strain my eyes. I spend virtually all day looking at backlit displays, and do not want to deal with them when reading for pleasure. Nor do I want to constantly scroll to move forward in a book displayed on a small screen.

In sum, I’d love to see fewer posts/discussions comparing devices across segments and more discussion/comparison about devices within segments (e.g., does the iPhone deliver as good a reading experience as a Palm or WinMob device, then separately, how do the e-ink readers compare to one another).

Despite these criticisms of recent discussions and posts on readers, I still enjoy this site and the podcast very much!


I agree somewhat with Jake on his points. I dont see the point of a bunch of awards on this site from 4 years ago. What drew me to this site was a guy who traveled around a lot and the tech he used in his travels. The name “jkontherun” implies he is out and about. Recently it seems to be “JKinmobletechmanor” with the occasional trip to sbux.

Steve P.

The reporters in the forbes article actually left out that eReader on iPhone does in fact sell all the major trade publisher books, and we have already had hundreds of thousands of paid books downloaded in only 90 days after the app store launch. In addition there are other ebook readers on iphone as well.

In addition, the forbes article was using the debunked “380,000 kindles by end of 2008” estimate. Amazon themselves said that the Citi analyst “didn’t run the number by us” and that it was “extremely high”. Our own private data shows there are now around 50,000 kindles in the field and there may possibly be as many as 100,000 after the end-of-year buying season concludes. These estimates would seem to be in line with Amazons “extremely high” comment on the discredited Mahaney estimate.

In any case, we already have more unique content buyers for eReader on iphone than these more reasonable estimate for kindle. And we’re just one of several ebook offerings on iphone. So there’s no question about it anymore.

So really, this is a settled question: in only 90 days iphone ebook readership exploded past kindle, and it’s growing far faster.

Kindle will be an important niche player in the ebook world, to be sure. But the people willing to spend on a dedicated device when they’re already carrying a perfectly sufficient device in their pocket will be miniscule.

This trend will continue with offerings like Android Dream, Blackberry Storm, and Win Mobile 7. All large-screen, multi-touch smartphones that look an awful lot like iphone.



You’ve got a good point. I was a little shocked at the negativity here – but other people also have a good point and comparing everyone here who thought the piece to be a little *thin* to the err… Nefarious Mr. Ballmer is a little harsh.

The iphone (or ipod touch) is an ok reading device. In fact, i’d go as far as saying it’s quite good given the size. However, for any kind of extended reading it’s no good.

Additionally, consider the average age of Kindle buyers (as an approximation of other conventional e-reader devices) – it’s 46. The simplicity of such a device and the clarity of text on it is probably a much bigger selling point than the music you can play on the iphone.

I’d maintain that while there might be some crossover (an avid reader would probably eschew neither device) – i’d imagine that for the most part, people buying the ebook readers would be a considerably different demographic.

But continuing forth from this, i’d say that the different demographic is more likely to spend cash on ebooks and to continue using the device. I’m sure this isn’t universally the case, but I don’t imagine your utilisation of the iphone is particularly indicative of the normal user.

MJ Posner

I use ereader every day. Version 1.2 allows you to upload free content and read on ereader. I have been using an ebook reader since day one on my cracked 1st gen. I have also read several paid books from ereader. If you like movies, and like to read, go to http://www.imsdb.com and you can download free movie scripts. I then paste them into open office, save as text file, upload to ereader’s web site and download to my iphone.

I have used the RCA ebook devices and spent a few days with the sony, but for on the go reading while stuck waiting makes the iphone the best device for this type reading.


I agree with James. I have read ebooks on many platforms, including the Sony, but my iPhone is always there and many reading opportunities occur unscheduled.

I still smile at how good the iPhone is for reading. Initially I was disappointed by reports of the screen rez and almost got an HTC Advantage instead.

I believe there is a growing market on the iPhone. Initially I got only free stuff, but then I started to weigh the time savings more carefully and began spending more money, feeling I’m getting back time.

The posts deriding James for sampling Apple
are symptomatic of Microsoft’s problem and written by people who are just like Ballmer (minus a few billion dollars). They just can’t stand to look outside their own neighborhood without anger, envy, or resentment.

John in Norway

JK on the Apple. Been sniffing Steve Jobs since he weighed 30lbs.


Another boring iPhone fluff piece from James. Did Om ask you to write this one up too?

As Alex said, this site has gone from one of my top visited to an to the place I come to occasionally to see if it’s still crap. Unfortunately not much has changed.

James, why don’t you go back to doing a proper job so you have something interesting to write about. This site has turned into a poor man’s version of Engadget and has lost whatever made it interesting in it’s own right.

You might want to take down all those awards as well because they’re not really applicable to JK v2.0.


It is simply amazing the amount of applications already available in the Apple App Store. Yes, a lot are junk, but hundreds are not and they are adding many more every week! I think the App Store is going to end up making the iPhone the absolute King of all phones. I noticed all the other makers are now trying desperately to emulate Apple’s awesome store but it may already be too late. I am still in shock how Apple, having never made a phone, is totally punking all those other makers who had years to supposedly perfect their cell phones. There must be a lot of very bad engineers out there to let Apple steal their thunder so very easily. LOL


Sorry but the iphone is a mediocore reading device. I read two books on my ipod touch and while yes it is convienent to carry around with it is not ideal and not a replacement for real books.

I’ve seen the Sony e-reader and I don’t believe that is a replacement for real books either although it is miles ahead of a device like an iphone.

The iphone can also play movies and tv shows and while I occasionaly use my ipod touch to watch a bit of movies and or watch a tv show it is NOT a replacement for eiher a laptop or a home entertainment system.


Stanza is a fantastic tool which allows me to read free books, and so much better than other ereader I used in the past. Most importantly, it allows me to read books in non-Latin alphabets, which a lot of readers out there simply cannot do. Plus, 95% of the stuff I read is free books — why on earth would I pay $15-20 for a proprietary DRM’d ebook? I have to agree with James on this one, proprietary ereaders like Sony’s still have a long way to go to compete with Stanza.


Any idea what the percentage of those who downloaded it used it more than once? I’d guess less than half used it more than a couple times.

Dave Zatz

The source article makes some flawed assumptions or inappropriate comparisons. And as was mentioned by James, it’s not like you can buy books for Stanza.


This is precisely why I rarely come here anymore. Kevin reports about a great looking ebook reader from Sony which might finally get me to buy one and James only takes 3 HOURS to hype an Apple product to use instead of it.



Downloads of free iPhone apps don’t really translate into regular use (I’ve a few that have never been used).

I used read some books using MS Reader on mobile devices and have read a bit on the iPod Touch but I feel my Sony Reader is much easier on the eyes – as techies we’re need a break from backlighting….


Shouldn’t we also check out how many copies of Microsoft reader have been downloaded to WM/PocketPC devices over the years? I know I’ve read many books on my PDAs.

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