It’s the big news: Amazon has released the second generation of its popular ebook reader, the Kindle. Kindle 2 is thinner, lighter, has more storage for your books (up to 1,500, according to Amazon) and an improved battery life that lets you read for up to two weeks before needing to recharge. It looks really cool, yes, at least until you see the pricetag: $359 (USD).
If you think that’s too expensive – which I do – it’s time to look for an alternative ebook reader. And if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch – which I do, too – then it’s as easy as downloading Stanza (iTunes link) from the AppStore.
Stanza is a full featured application which may not have the same electronic paper technology or New York Times bestsellers catalog that the Kindle 2 shows off, but which works perfectly fine as a pocket-sized ebook reader at an unbeatable price: it’s completely free. Stanza gives you access to a dozen online ebook resources, from the popular Project Gutenberg to self-published works from independent authors.
While Stanza is free, some of the books included in its catalog need to be purchased. The vast majority though are free, usually because they’re literature classics and are no longer restricted by copyright laws. Don’t take me wrong: when I say classic I don’t mean “boring” or “outdated”. There are excellent classic titles such as the novels by Verne, the short stories by Allan Poe and the works of Dickens, Twain or Austen, among others.
All of these and many more are available for you to download right on the Stanza catalog. All downloaded books are automatically added to your personal library, where you can organize and browse them according to titles, authors and subjects. You can read the books with the iPod in portrait or landscape positions, as well as customize several options regarding the ebook’s appearance and functioning. Stanza features a built-in search engine to find any quote or passage in the book and has also support for bookmarks. The only thing I missed was being able to highlight text in the ebook, and add a personal note just like I’d write a note in the margin of a book.
Despite these minor flaws, Stanza is a great ebook reader for all those of us who don’t think it’s necessary to spend more than 350 dollars just to be able to read.