- Excellent interface
- Access to many free ebooks
- Lots of bookstore options
- Popular new releases are expensive
- Multi-step purchasing process is complex
Stanza (Lexcycle, Free) is a terrific ebook app for the iPhone, but it may not be the best choice if you prefer popular new releases. Note: Lexcycle is now owned by Amazon.com.
The Stanza app comes with one free ebook, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. To buy new ebooks, the app links to several bookstores including BooksOnBoard and Fictionwise, and also offers free ebooks from Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks, and Random House’s Free Library. All these options make it easy to find and download ebooks.
The purchasing and downloading process is simple, especially for free ebooks. You can browse and download these books directly in the app, which is super easy. Purchasing paid ebooks is a little more complicated, since you have to launch a separate web browser to purchase books through Fictionwise or BooksOnBoard. Then you have to download the book within the app, which requires an “unlocking” process where you enter your name and credit card number (again). This is rather annoying, but it's tolerable since most iPhone ebook readers don't offer in-app purchases.
If you are a fan of popular new releases, the apps from Amazon or Barnes & Noble probably have cheaper prices. I checked several of Stanza’s ebook stores and new releases were pretty expensive - similar to what you’d pay for a hardcover. Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is $9.99 at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but it’s a whopping $29.95 at Fictionwise. Popular books that have been out for awhile are cheaper. For example, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is $9.99. Classic titles are readily available and usually cost less than $5 at the ebook stores; you also have access to 25,000 free ebooks from Project Gutenberg.
Stanza’s interface is incredibly easy to use - tap or swipe your finger to turn a page or tap in the middle of the screen to launch the menu. When you turn the page, the bottom curls up to resemble the page of a book, which is cute. The tables of contents are well laid out, and you can add bookmarks or annotations. There are also 24 fonts available, and the formatting can be changed so it’s easiest on your eyes. Overall, Stanza’s interface is one of the best available among the current crop of iPhone ebook apps.
The Bottom Line
Your opinion of the Stanza iPhone app may vary based on what type of books you like to read. If the hottest new releases are your thing, Amazon’s Kindle iPhone app and Barnes & Noble’s eReader will probably have cheaper prices. Even so, Stanza has a better interface than either of those ebook apps -- and it offers easy access to free books from Project Gutenberg -- so it’s a great choice if you like classic literature. Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
What You’ll Need
The Stanza iPhone app is compatible with both the iPod touch and iPhone. It requires OS 3.0 or later. One Stanza fan recommends changing the settings to white text on a black background to extend battery life while reading.