What's the best e-book reader for iPad2?
October 13, 2011 3:40 AM   Subscribe

So last night I upgraded my iPad2 to iOS5 and discovered that my favorite e-book reader app, Stanza, doesn't work anymore. The ´net seems to think it will no longer be developed, so now I need to find a new reader. Dropbox connection is essential. I have (just now) settled on Bluefire, which is OK but laggy compared to Stanza. Any better suggestions for e-book reader apps for iPad2?
posted by chavenet to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: also ran into this problem this morning after upgrading to ios5. I've been looking around for replacements and have found (but not tested): Megareader and ubooks. But i'd really like Stanza to come back!!
posted by alchemist at 3:48 AM on October 13, 2011

Best answer: The developer of Megareader shows up here (search for Patrick Thompson) and is apparently willing to update his apps to make them better replacements for Stanza. His contact details, as linked in that thread. In light of this, I suggest keeping half an eye on Megareader; I know I'm going to.

I have never used Megareader; planning to try it out tonight.

I've yet to successfully update my Touch to iOS5, and at this point I think I'll leave it until a proper replacement for Stanza can be found.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:08 AM on October 13, 2011

This broke my heart last week when I found this out.

I've tried Bluefire (it's okay); Kobo (also okay); something else that I forget (it was also meh/okay), and have finally settled reluctantly on MegaReader, which has the most Stanza-like features in that you can fiddle a lot with the fonts and such. But it's no Stanza. Dropbox works like a champ on it.

One thing MegaReader doesn't do (and I am going to go beg the developer to do this) is to put author names (and book titles) into collapsible alpha sorts - as it is now, if you're looking at your books in author mode, and you have all of Agatha Christie's work, you're doing a *lot* of scrolling to get to your authors who begin with D. Same is true for title sorts. Good luck, and let us know if you find anything as fantastic as Stanza.
posted by rtha at 6:01 AM on October 13, 2011

I just use the (Amazon's own) Kindle app and manually add (non-Amazon bought) books via iTunes. I'm not sure if it supports all the formats these other apps do, but it's handled every ebook I've dropped into its folder so far.

So maybe that's an option?
posted by rokusan at 6:10 AM on October 13, 2011

I'm a big fan of GoodReader.
posted by nomisxid at 8:09 AM on October 13, 2011

GoodReader is a very solid document reader with DropBox integration. It's known as a PDF reader, but it can handle a lot of formats. The reading UI is a bit geeky for me, but once you get a document loaded and flowing it reads pretty well.
posted by Nelson at 9:21 AM on October 13, 2011

If you believe in protest votes, you might want to avoid using Amazon's Kindle app considering they apparently bought Stanza for the sole purpose of letting the competing ereader die on the vine.

I would recommend Megareader as a replacement, if only for their integration with desktop ebook manager Calibre.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:03 PM on October 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I have downloaded Megareader and will try it out. Bluefire on the iPad at least makes the texts look very nice. None of them are as easy to use as Stanza, or as versatile. Oh well.
posted by chavenet at 8:37 AM on October 14, 2011

On this thread someone recommends an app called ShuBook. I haven't tried it yet myself, but it might be worth a try.
posted by klausness at 4:01 AM on October 15, 2011

Also, I found a list of e-book readers here.
posted by klausness at 5:51 AM on October 15, 2011

So I tried Megareader, and I'm hopeful for it. I love the ability to import over wifi from Calibre, but it's annoying not to be able to bulk copy my library to it; a problem that I guess is only a problem once.

Once in the book the reading experience is nice enough, but features I particularly miss: indented text at the start of paragraphs; paragraph height separate from line height; proper handling on in-line images.

It's promising. Not upgrading to iOS5 yet, but I'm going to chuck the app author an email with these comments.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:25 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, don't forget iBooks. Any ebooks on your computer can be synced to it with iTunes.

I've just been comparing a few of these apps, and I may end up sticking with iBooks or Bluefire (though Megareader does have some pluses). I was not impressed with ShuBook (which I mentioned above). Megareader seems nice (although I'm not sure I like some parts of the UI), but it doesn't seem to have any way of transferring files from your computer. Bluefire does allow you to transfer files (via the App file sharing feature in iTunes), but it doesn't let you download directly from Project Gutenberg (though you can get a lot of Project Gutenberg books via FeedBooks, which it does support). iBooks doesn't support Project Gutenberg download, either (though there seem to be a lot of free Project Gutenberg books available from the iTunes store), and that's probably the main advantage I see in Megareader. No perfect substitute for Stanza, though, so any additional suggestions are welcome.
posted by klausness at 9:41 AM on October 15, 2011

The biggest pain in the face is going to be sitting there with Stanza's library open and tracking down all the stuff I epub'd and then lost. It's full of web stuff, articles, fanfic, reference guides and about a quarter of them are still in my Calibre library.

Hell, I may just never upgrade to iOS 5. I twitter more on my phone anyway.

Given that I keep running into people surprised and disappointed by the Stanza-fail in unexpected places I wouldn't be surprised if a jailbroken iOS5 shows up with Stanza compatibility hacked in, assuming that's possible. The demand is there.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:50 AM on October 16, 2011

The MegaReader guy shot me an email just saying he's working on everyone's suggestions!

I'm also trying out i2Reader. It's a Russian app natively, so not all the instructions have been translated, and those that have could use work. But it seems very customiseable and powerful so far.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:21 AM on October 19, 2011

Preliminary impressions of i2Reader: pretty damn great. Good enough to deal with the slight extra jankiness over Stanza and upgrade to iOS 5.

What it has that I want:
  • Control over layout, to the extent that you can define your chapter heading, sub-heading, pullquote, body, etc. fonts and paragraph formatting separately if you like, and if you don't want to use any of the default sets. You can set overall margins. You can define as many layout styles as you like and switch between them at will.

  • Bulk import. You can import one-at-a-time over Calibre sharing, download from public libraries, FTP to it, and also just open the app in iTunes and copy books directly to it. For each book the app appears to need about a second of processing time (gen 4 iPod Touch).

  • A pop-up menu while you're reading that allows you to control in-app brightness.

  • What it doesn't appear to have that I want:
  • A quick "night mode" switcher, although you can define alternate styles with black backgrounds easily enough, and I guess you can also just triple-tap the ONE BUTTON IS ENOUGH FOR ANYONE button and invert everything.

  • So yeah, I'm upgrading to iOS5.
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:07 AM on October 19, 2011

    The MegaReader guy shot me an email just saying he's working on everyone's suggestions!

    Yay! (I have been too lazy to email him, but you seem to have covered all the stuff I want in an ios ereader that isn't *sob* Stanza.)

    On preview, having just visited their iTunes page: Five bucks! Holy cow! Hmmm. Does it let you set paragraphs so they're indented? Can you make a night mode that's green on black? Can you lock the screen rotation?
    posted by rtha at 9:35 AM on October 19, 2011

    "...their iTunes page..." meaning the page of i2Reader.
    posted by rtha at 9:37 AM on October 19, 2011

    Off the top of my head I'm certain you can lock the screen rotation. You can set any number of styles and switch between them in-book by touble-tapping the screen, so a green-on-black night mode would be trivial to set up (like five minutes if you want to customise every font choice) as well as a pink-on-blue or purple-on-picture of a kitten if you want; it's very customiseable.

    Paragraphs are indented by default; I'm not sure if there's a way to turn that off or adjust the indentation; I'll check after work.

    I'm open to MegaReader definitely, but so far i2Reader seems more complete. It has a sort of charming homebrew jankiness to it, like running an Android app on iOS :)

    Oh, and if you FTP like 200 books to it or bulk-copy in iTunes you have to force quit the app and restart it before it adds them to the library.
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:19 AM on October 20, 2011

    But yeah, the documentation for i2Reader is hopeless. I expect to keep finding features -- like the double-tap to select style one that effectively gives you a night mode switcher -- more or less accidentally.
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:21 AM on October 20, 2011

    Yes, you can change the indentation settings: in the paragraph view on the style customisation page, drag the black mark at the start of the paragraph.
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:00 AM on October 20, 2011

    Thanks! I will consider it...
    posted by rtha at 5:37 AM on October 20, 2011

    Any more questions, shout and I'll test them out. It doesn't place in-line images properly the way Stanza did, so if you use anything like that you might want to look elsewhere... although tbh I haven't found anything on iOS that does inline images right.
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:39 PM on October 20, 2011

    If you're switching to a reader that allows books to be imported from your computer, you can get your old Stanza books out of your iPhone/iPad backups using the Stanza book restore tool.
    posted by klausness at 4:36 AM on October 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

    Thanks for asking this question - it gave me the advance warning I needed to defer updating to iOS 5. My original use case for an iPod Touch was "one-handed e-reader for a busy train commute", I'm about to find myself back in that situation again, and Stanza suits my purposes better than any of the other e-reader apps I've tried.

    Another thing... Has anyone with iOS 5 got any of the O'Reilly standalone e-book apps? I have a ton, and since they use the Stanza Reader engine, I have a nasty feeling... Luckily, O'Reilly are happy for people to extract the content to ePub form for import to any e-reader, but I'd rather not have to go to the trouble.

    For what it's worth, there's a new Facebook group "Revive Stanza for iOS 5", which someone's started in hopes of pushing Amazon into doing the decent thing.

    Lastly: for anyone who reads exclusively books from Project Gutenberg, Eucalyptus is a very nice app - but I can't vouch for it on iOS 5, obviously, and it's expensive. (And of course, my must-have features are probably not your must-have features.)
    posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:04 AM on October 23, 2011

    Just got a bulk email from the MegaReader guy pointing to a new feedback amalgamation tool on his website, with votes. You can reach it through "feedback and support" on the MegaReader site.

    Direct link.

    I'm still using i2Reader as it's very powerful, but I do prefer MegaReader's relative lack of clunk and more Stanza-like interface so I'm keeping an eye on it. Cost me less than £5 to buy both anyway :)
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:51 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

    One of my two "must haves" for an ebook reader is a no-hassle way to switch to white-on-black Night Mode. I just discovered that you can force iOS 5 to do it for you:

    • Go to Settings: General: Accessibility.
    • Scroll down to Triple Click Home, and click on it.
    • Choose "Toggle White On Black."

    Now, triple-clicking the Home button causes the screen to display a "film negative" display, where all colors are reversed. If your ebook app is set up to show black-on-white, it'll automatically switch it to white-on-black.

    The other must have--being able to customize the screen so that a left tap goes to the next page--isn't so easily overcome.
    posted by Ian A.T. at 3:14 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Ian A.T.: "The other must have--being able to customize the screen so that a left tap goes to the next page--isn't so easily overcome."

    I'm going to sound like I'm shilling for them now, but i2Reader can do that. Preferences -> Reading Method (Tap Zones), then Preferences -> Define tap zones, and you can move the forward and back tap zones anywhere you like, and resize them. Just tested it and you can definitely set it up such that a left tap goes to the next page.

    Only down side is that you can't have tap zones and drag-and-slide, like Stanza. Eh.
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:52 AM on October 25, 2011

    I don't think of iBooks as a tricked-out ebook reader, but weirdly enough it offers different tap zones, too. Just FYI.
    posted by Ian A.T. at 3:51 PM on October 25, 2011

    MegaReader just updated:
    2.4.0: This is the first of several small, but regular releases to add features from the Stanza app that folks are missing.

    In this release we've added a swipe gesture brightness control, tap-zone configuration, zero-margins, a sepia color scheme, and bug fixes.

    The brightness control allows you to change the brightness of the reading screen by swiping up and down on the screen with your finger. Swiping down decreases the brightness and swiping up increases it.

    You can modify the brightness control behavior in settings: turning it off, or setting it to "System" or "Overlay".

    The System brightness setting uses an iOS API to change the screen's brightness. This overrides the device's brightness setting for the duration of your current lock session; and will stay in force, even when you exit the app. To restore the brightness level to it's normal level, lock and unlock the device.

    If you don't like how the System brightness setting works, you can choose the Overlay brightness option. This works the way the Stanza brightness setting did, by overlaying a semi-transparent black layer on top of the reading screen. Decreasing the brightness makes the overlay less transparent and increasing the brightness makes it more transparent. The advantages of the Overlay option are that it only effects the reading screen and you can make the reading screen darker than is possible with the screen brightness setting. The disadvantage is that it doesn't save battery life as the System brightness control will.

    The tap-zone configuration setting allows you to configure what happens when you tap the edges of the screen. Before, tapping on the left side would always go to the previous page, and tapping on the right side of the screen would always go to the next page. Now you can configure all 4 sides and the 4 corners to whatever you want: bring up the menus, go to the next page, go to the previous page, do nothing, or even turn on and off the rotation lock and the heads up display. The default configuration is: tapping left, left top corner, or top center goes to the previous page; tapping right, right bottom corner, or bottom goes to the next page. Tapping center always goes to the menus.

    You can now go all the way down to zero-pixel-width left and right margins.

    And there is now a Sepia color scheme.

    We've also fixed a few bugs, including:

    A multitasking bug where if you left the app for a while, visited some other apps, and then returned, the app would skip forward a page and then repeat a page.

    A bug that prevented logging into username/password protected catalogs, such as the Calibre catalog.
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:25 AM on November 2, 2011

    Best answer: Looks like an update to Stanza just popped up in the App store. Update information indicates IOS5 compatibility fixes.
    posted by backwards guitar at 9:10 AM on November 10, 2011

    It sounded to good to be true from Amazon, and it is:
    “We will no longer be updating or supporting Stanza… We would like to thank you for your interest in Stanza, and let you know that Amazon is committed to providing the best reading experience on iOS though the Kindle for iPhone, iPod and iPad apps."
    The best experience, despite buying out the company with the better experience, leaving it fallow, and then implementing none of their innovations in your own product. Well, here's hoping this last pity-update survives the next OS.
    posted by Rhaomi at 12:33 PM on November 10, 2011

    Best answer: Stanza has been made ios5 compatible!
    posted by rtha at 9:03 AM on November 11, 2011

    Late to the party. Sorry!
    posted by rtha at 9:05 AM on November 11, 2011

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