Stanza vs. Classics: Maybe I Can Save You $3

I read a lot, and have been very impressed with Stanza for the iPhone as an ebook reader. Like many, however, the idea of Classics was appealing, and upon release I purchased the app.

So how does it compare to Stanza? Would I recommend it? The answers, in my opinion, are that it doesn’t, and I wouldn’t. Not now, anyway. 

Classics primarily touts two things: special book cover art and a pseudo real-book page-turning experience. But the former could be more hindrance than help when you’ve got a lot of volumes, and the latter’s novelty wears off quickly, though it seems to be the primary reason Classics has received a lot of praise. 

Classics

The books’ cover art, sitting on virtual “shelves”, are lovely. And since there are only 12 they present no problems scrolling through them. But if you get 50 or so on this thing it’s likely to be an awkward list. Too bad we don’t know how quickly we’ll get that many, since it’s not under our control. Currently it’s a dozen, and we have to wait for more. I believe content should be a lot higher priority than that. 

When reading, the Classics page is quite nice. A very light beige background with dark brown text. It looks great. And yet I have to see the menu at the top of the page all the time. Why? Further, I have to see the iPhone’s info bar above that. Why? 

It’s kind of hard to get immersed in reading when you’re staring at two menus that painfully remind you you’re not in any kind of book. It’s also an issue because the screen is small, so why waste space showing items that aren’t necessary? 

I’d talk about the rest of Classics’ features, but it doesn’t have any. You can drag the books in the order you want (again, that’ll be a lot of fun when you have 50 of them) but that’s about it. No control over how the page looks or any other visual aspect of the program.

And no searching! How could they leave this out in an ereader? When you’re in Classics, forget about finding that quote you’re looking for. 

In short, version 1.0 of Classics is a one-trick pony consisting of a really cool page-turning interface. 

Stanza

Stanza lets you download public domain content directly to the iPhone. There are magazines, high school text books, Feedbooks.com content, and more.

But the biggest source is that you have all of Project Gutenberg to choose from. That’s 25,000+ books! You can browse these by several categories, such as author or subject, or even by popularity as shown below. Clearly, unlike Classics, content is front and center with Stanza. 

And so is the reading experience. You have the option to hide everything so the entire screen is the book page. You also have full control over what the page looks like. The font, leading, margin, size, background and font colors are all customizable. See below for the same page above in Stanza.

As you can see, I’ve chosen a background similar to what Classics uses, though I prefer my font closer to black than brown. Without a menu bar and the iPhone’s info bar, I do get immersed in reading. When you need to navigate via a table of contents, or get back home, or search, etc., just tap and the menus come up. 

As for page turning, Stanza doesn’t have Classics’ cool animation, but it has a couple of options to go back and forth. I prefer page swiping (like Classics), which uses a slide animation. While the slide may not be as cool as Classics, its duration is configurable and I get a very nice “turning” experience. You can use left and right taps instead of swiping if you prefer.

Aside from the nearly limitless customization and thousands of books to choose from, Stanza also has much better navigation through your library:

  • Scrolling List by Title (with or without book cover art) 
  • List by Author
  • List by Subject
  • Cover Flow view of book covers
  • You can create your own “libraries” and add books there. For example, I have one called “Sherlock Holmes” with all nine volumes in it. 

When your library gets up to 50+ books, the above will make it a lot easier to find and organize it than a shelf that can only show nine books at a time. 

Oh, and Stanza allows you to search through your book, highlighting each found occurrence.

On top of all this, Stanza is free. 

There is no question my major gripes with Classics can be added later as enhancements, and we’ll see if the developers do so. Still, some of them are obvious enough I wonder why they’re not there now. If the developers provide a lot of content (from which I can choose), and better navigation, and searching, and control over the page, then they’ll have… Stanza. OK, not really, but it will be better able to compete. 

As it is, my impression of Classics is that it’s a really good page-turning animation with a minimal book reader and content wrapped around it.

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