Before the Kindle app came along, Stanza was the big dog in iPhone e-book reading. And with good reason.
It’s free. It does what it does with minimum fuss, with easy-to-understand menus and directions. Once you use it once you’ve pretty well got it figured out. And getting books from the Web, from a variety of places, is quick and easy. And it’s free.
The convenience. Download Stanza from the iTunes store and most of your e-book reading is now covered. Stanza can read DRM-free Amazon Kindle files, Mobipocket, Microsoft LIT, PalmDoc, Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format, HTML, and PDF, as well as eReader files in both secure and unsecure formats. Tap the screen to turn a page and you’re off and reading.
The experience. Once you’re actually in the book, it’s pretty much the same as every other e-book reader. The font is crisp, the page-turning animation can be changed to a sliding effect or turned off completely, it saves your place and lets you add bookmarks, and you can search for words.
The customization. Don’t like something about Stanza, you can probably change it. You can change text size through the settings or on the fly with the iPhone’s pinch and unpinch gesture. You can change the background color, line spacing, margin widths, alignment, you can even change the cover of the book you’re reading if you prefer a different one.
The content. Stanza allows you to connect easily to several major e-books sites such as Fictionwise.com, ereader.com, Manybooks.net, and more. Best might be Project Gutenberg, which has thousands of public domain books ready for you to nab for free, and Stanza handles searching and downloading from Project Gutenberg with ease.
Not a lot, really. Stanza is a well-designed program.
I do have a few gripes, though. Stanza breaks books into chapters (presumably for faster loading) but that means you can’t easily jump around or search inside the entire book, and the scroll bar isn’t always very responsive even within the chapter. Getting your personal content into Stanza on your iPhone is a pain, but that’s the case with every iPhone e-reader app (Stanza offers a free desktop app that works as a server for you to download from, or you can upload your content to a personal space at Fictionwise.com). And I prefer swiping to tapping for my page-turning, not an option here.
But other than that, I like Stanza. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, so will you.