Stanza vs. eReader: First Impressions


droppedimage_41Nearly five years and four months ago, I bought my first eBook. It was October 30th, 2003 to be exact. I purchased a Terry Brooks novel in his “Shannara” series for my Toshiba e805 PocketPC and I was hooked on digital books. Back then the electronic bookseller was known as Peanut Press, later became Palm Digital Media, then eReader and in January of 2008, it was purchased by Fictionwise. Regardless of the name or ownership, the eReader platform has been my “go-to” software for electronic books on multiple devices. But times change and I’m open to changing with them. That’s why I’m looking at Stanza on my iPhone (s aapl). Stanza is one of the few applications that supports the eReader content I’ve already purchased. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t even consider it because I have too much invested in the format.

Like eReader, Stanza is a free application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Both applications also support reading on a computer running either Windows or OS X. Device support for Stanza ends there, however. eReader is usable on devices running PalmOS (s palm), Symbian S60, Windows Mobile (s msft) and there’s also a beta version available for BlackBerry (s rimm) handsets (not released yet).

In terms of format support, eReader handles it’s own .pdb format and not much else. Stanza supports that same .pdb format (encrypted or not) as well as nearly 20 other non-DRM formats. If you read content in various formats, then Stanza is going to serve you better. I tend not to, so at the moment, this isn’t a significant advantage to me personally.

I’ve only been using Stanza for a few days of light reading, so here are my first impressions. I’m reading the exact same book on both eReader and Stanza to gather my thoughts.

  • Overall, I’m finding Stanza to be a little more “polished” then eReader. My library in Stanza shows cover images, uses Cover Flow and offers several ways to find books. eReader simply shows a book listing without cover art, although I can sort by Title, Author or Date. I do like how the latest version of eReader shows my general reading progress in a given title.
  • Stanza offers around twice as many fonts than eReader, although I ended up using the same font in both. Georgia, if you must know.
  • Both allow for customized background and text colors, but I find more options in eReader. It offers pre-configured themes, custom themes and the ability to have separate daytime and night-time themes.
  • Page navigation works better for me on eReader because it offers two options to the one I’ve found in Stanza. I can either tap or swipe in eReader; in Stanza it appears that I can only tap. (Thanks to our commenters who pointed out you can swipe a page in Stanza as well.)
  • Book purchasing is a draw so far. Both software titles allow for direct online purchases in under a minute. Again, Stanza appears a little more “polished” in the purchase or download experience, but both accomplish the same thing.
  • Pagination is far better on Stanza, although some would argue that it causes an issue. Stanza paginates each chapter individually as you approach a new chapter. I like this approach for two reasons: It’s quicker than paginating an entire book like eReader does, and the brief pause between chapters tells me where I’m at. Without such a pause, I’ve been known to read for hours and then wonder why it’s 2:00 am.

Some images of the Library and a book in each:

I haven’t really looked into advanced features like bookmarks, annotations and such. For the moment, I’m simply getting a feel for the reading experience with Stanza. After just a few chapters of reading, I’m fairly certain I could make the switch. At the moment however, I haven’t yet found a compelling reason to.

Have you made the switch? Why or why not?



The newest iPhone Stanza version allows some neat formatting features. Adjust/remove paragraph indentation no matter what the original has. Same with blank lines between paragraphs, whether the original has them or not. Pretty cool. Stanza has updated more recently than eReader which seems to be satisfied with their current version.


I’ve been using Stanza, and wondered if eReader would be better. I believe every issue mentioned in the post and comments of what Stanza lacks has been added in updates. You may want to give Stanza another look – and no, I am not with Stanza. :)

Geofffrey M

I was just reading on the Stanza site about the desktop version for Windows. It isn’t yet able to open Fictionwise/eReader files, which limits its use for me. Since I got my Vaio P, I’ve been doing no reading on my iPod Touch.


I used to use Stanza but have recently switched to ereader mainly so that I can see the progress meter at the bottom. There is no way to see at a glance how far along you are in the book with stanza. Also, stanza does not have dictionary lookups. Sometimes stanza book creator or calibre cannot properly put in the chapter markers and the book takes forever to load. ereader loads the whole book at once and quickly too.


I use both on my iPhone, and Stanza does have definite disadvantages. For one thing, the breakdown of books into chapter mini-files makes it hard to do a word search through an entire book. Also, there are far more and easier conversion programs available to turn files into .pdb than there are into .ePub. Stanza’s online catalog is better integrated, but there’s a far wider range of eReader content available if you take the trouble to look.


So now I’m torn. I’ve always been partial to ereader, but Stanza does look good too. I like two things on the ereader – the abilty to quickly swap the screen to my nighttime reading settings and the scroll to read setting. I don’t use the dictionary setting, so that’s not a big determining factor Stanza’s cover flow of books is very nice though – but it’s eye candy more then anything else. I haven’t had any problems with the snappiness of ereader, in fact it seemed snappier to me then Stanza.

What to do, what to do what to do?

Kevin C. Tofel

Since Stanza supports any eReader content you may already own, why not give it a try? That’s the beauty of a free application: you’ve got nothing to lose. ;)

Daniel H.

I use iSilo as a document reader, simply because I’ve been using it for nearly 5 years on my old Treo with a lot of different reference documents and ebooks, and I didn’t get an iPod Touch until iSilo was available for it.

For those that may be “in the know”, it’s the Watchtower Library database files that are designed for iSilo. iSilo handles them with ease.


Daniel H:
I have isilo on my itouch with the WTLibrary on it. Now I have a netbook with window CE :( and can’t figure out how to put the WTLibrary on it. Any help?



(insert standard rant against DRM locking people into specific software just to support their locked-down media here)

Stanza is definitely a polished piece of software. I wish I could get something that nice for my WinMo phone but alas… Granted when one starts to really read, the software is only an issue if it actively gets in your way.

Jon E

I’ve been using Stanza for some time on my ipod touch
It works really well for me. I like that there are so many free books!

You can definitely swipe to change pages though.

Tom Reestman

I love Stanza, and have a couple of comments to add:

– You can definitely swipe pages with Stanza. I hate tapping, and turned it off. In addition, you can set the duration for the swipe.

– I love that Stanza lets me hide EVERYTHING on the screen when I’m reading, even the iPhone’s info bar. Easier to get immersed in reading that way.


After reading this article, I downloaded Stanza myself to try it out. I have never used eReader nor read eBooks before. You can navigate via tap or swipe, as you say you can in eReader. I like the ability to be able to load PDF’s via the also free Stanza Desktop application.


I have used them both extensively. I agree that Stanza has a much more polished feel. It also just feels “snappier” to me. An my version of Stanza does support both tap and swipe for page changes; maybe you need to update your version? Another cool thing is that you can change Stanza’s page change animation to be a page turning curl, which makes it feel more like a real book.

eReader has some nice features that are missing from Stanza (dictionary lookup and note-taking), but frankly, I never use those features.

For content acquisition, Stanza simply can’t be beaten. They have all sorts of built-in catalogs you can download tons of books from.

In the end, I’ve been using Stanza more and more often. The only time I find myself using eReader is when Stanza has some problem with one of my books from Fictionwise, but that is pretty rare.

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