We’ve mentioned before that the iPhone seems to be outpacing the Kindle in e-reading popularity. Now no less a publication than Forbes has taken notice.

Write Andy Greenberg and James Erik Abels:

Stanza, a book reading application offered in Apple’s (nasdaq: AAPLnewspeople ) iPhone App Store since July, has been downloaded more than 395,000 times and continues to be installed at an average rate of about 5,000 copies a day, according to Portland, Ore.-based Lexcycle, the three-person start-up that created the reading software.

By comparison, Citigroup estimates Amazon will sell around 380,000 Kindles in 2008. Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey expects Sony’s (nyse:SNEnews people ) Reader will sell only a fraction of that number. In other words, Apple may have inadvertently sold more e-readers than any other company in the nascent digital book market.

The article highlights the growing popularity of the iPhone platform compared to the Kindle, and it even-handedly points out the pros and cons of the iPhone’s smaller but faster-refreshing LCD screen compared to the Kindle’s e-ink. This is all to the good.

But in basing their comparison only on Stanza’s public-domain library of titles, with no mention at all of Fictionwise’s eReader or the Bookshelf/Baen Webscriptions collaboration, the Forbes writers are comparing, well, an Apple and oranges.

The article seems to imply that there are no commercial booksellers for the iPhone platform yet, and will not be until Lexcycle’s “deals with several major publishers” at the end of the year. This is, in fact, very far from the truth.

As Steve Pendergrast of Fictionwise said, the iPhone eReader app had been installed almost 250,000 times by the end of August, with over 300,000 titles downloaded by its users. As a current commercial publisher for the iPhone, with ten years in business and thousands of titles available in a variety of formats, Fictionwise/eReader is a much better subject for comparison to the Amazon Kindle store.

And even that leaves aside the Baen Webscription e-book store, which has been going almost as long as Fictionwise, and offers automatic download of its e-books directly into the Bookshelf iPhone app.

Still, it is good to see the iPhone and iPod Touch getting this sort of positive comparison to the Kindle in a major Internet news source even if the coverage is a bit lopsided.

Related Coverage: MacDailyNews also has some decent commentary on the article. Plus the line, “Plus, as an added bonus, iPhone doesn’t look like something John Dykstra superglued together back in 1975,” which is worth linking just to quote.

And oddly enough, even a Sony Insider blogger waxes enthusiastic about Stanza.

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TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows has been writing for us--except for a brief interruption--since 2006. Son of two librarians, he has worked on a third-party help line for Best Buy and holds degrees in computer science and communications. He clearly personifies TeleRead's motto: "For geeks who love books--and book-lovers who love gadgets." Chris lives in Indianapolis and is active in the gamer community.


  1. I hate to say this but most iPhone/iPod Touch users will probably download most every free App out there. I know my son does. I know he has both Stanza and eReader on his Touch. I also know he doesn’t use them… and he doesn’t buy eBooks. (I do).

    Anyway… I don’t think this is a fair comparison. Every person that buys a Kindle is reading eBooks or eNews on it, that is why they bought it. however, I would quess that over 90% of people that have downloaded stanza did it because it is listed as a FREE app in the app store.


  2. Two comments:

    1: Not everyone who downloads Stanza does it just because it’s free. I agree that a lot probably do, but I for one read full books on my iPod Touch. We probably can’t get an accurate count of people who really use it.

    2. It’s also somewhat of a misnomer that there isn’t any commercial content for Stanza.
    There isn’t any as such, but Baen sells it’s books without DRM. Those books are easily loaded into Stanza.

  3. I have an iPhone, and have eReader and Stanza both loaded on it. I have a collection of eReader books from when I used to carry a Palm, and it’s nice to be able to access those books again. I use Stanza more often than eReader, simply because of the online catalog. I also have a Kindle, and I use it more than I use the iPhone to read. The online store through Amazon is absolutely amazing, and the full access to Feedbooks content is wonderful. I use the Kindle for reading most of the time, but it is very nice to have the iPhone to pull up Stanza when I happen to not have my Kindle with me. While I do think it is natural for an application to be more widely used on a device as ubiquitous as the iPhone, the target market for the Kindle is the dedicated reader, whereas the iPhone iteration of Stanza is much more broadly based.

  4. Lots of good comments on this one. I agree that it’s great that the iPhone/iTouch eBook readers have been downloaded a lot. Given the relatively small screens, I think many readers will see the iPhone/iTouch as an entry into eReading rather than the ultimate approach to eReading. That said, I’m sure many will, as I do, end up reading on multiple platforms–the one you have with you plus the one you make sure you bring along when you know you’ll be reading.

    With the market still in its early stages, it’s way early to be calling final winners. I absolutely believe that multifunction devices will be used for reading. For the next 5 years at least, I suspect most serious (more than one book per week) readers will do most of their reading on dedicated devices rather than small-screen multifunction devices (or large-screen multifunction devices like computers).

    Down the road (5-10 years), I’m looking for a unified display (perhaps a heads-up display on eyeglasses) that provides a high-quality display environment no matter what application you’re using.

    Rob Preece
    Publisher, http://www.BooksForABuck.com

  5. I’m with Pilotbob on this. My reaction to reading the article the other day was that this reminds me of shareware authors who whine that a gazillion people downloaded their app but only a dozen paid for it.

    Lots of folks download stuff that they never even install; install but never use; install but used just once or twice; installed and use occasionally; whatever.

    It is silly to try and draw any real conclusions from the data proffered.

    Will some folks read stuff occasionally on an iTouch/phone? Sure

    Will lots of folks read lots of books – specifically non-public domain offerings – on an iTouch/phone? Maybe, but probably not.

    In the coming months perhaps we’ll see some numbers on how many folks have purchased current commercially available books. Maybe that will turn out to be a big number.

    Regardless, I think the markets for the Kindle and the iTouch are probably different enough that the iTouch is not likely to poach too many buyers that might otherwise buy the Kindle.

  6. There’s one other e-book platform for the iPod Touch / iPhone — the AppEngines Reader, with lots of public domain and commercial titles. The reader bundles the book with the software, and takes full advantage of the user interface.

  7. I use eReader on my iPhone every day. I commute to work on public transit, and listening to music and reading an eBook on my iPhone is a natural thing to do. Yes, the screen is small. Yes, the iPhone eReader application is still relatively new. But the benefit of being able to carry hundreds of books around in very small package is very appealing. Kindle is nice, but much larger. Larger screen would be nice, but I’m just fine with the smaller screen on the iPhone.

  8. “Most iPhone/iPod touch owners”


    You’re generalizing from one specific instance. It’s been too long since I took statistics in college but I’m sure there’s an official term for making an assumption based on a sample size of one.

    Personally, I’ve downloaded very few apps to my touch. 8 so far ( 3 free games, 3 that cost me money, and Stanza and eReader.) I’ve purchased more ebooks since getting eReader on my touch than I have in the last few years.

    Unfortunately, unless Stanza and eReader have some sort of tracking mechanism (like iTunes) that records how often an ebook is read/downloaded all we’re going to have is an educated guess for this.

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