makers Cory Doctorow’s latest book, Makers, is available for free download in a number of e-book formats under Doctorow’s usual Creative Commons license terms. (I gather it has been for a while.)

One of the available versions is a Webkit web appbook that Peter Wayner created for the iPhone (or other small-screen devices). It is a set of webpages that have been specially formatted to read in Mobile Safari.

The idea is that you use the “+” button in Mobile Safari to send it to the launcher, where it drops the Safari interface and looks and acts just like any other app. It even gains a splash screen.

I have tried this, and the app looks good on my iPod Touch. It reads well; the text is a little small in portrait mode but just about the right size in landscape. There are a couple of glitches in the formatting—the “Dedications” page lacks a “Next Section” link, for example—but all in all, it is readable. Unlike a Stanza book, however, there are no options for customizing the interface.

There is only one fundamental flaw: since it is hosted on Wayner’s website, reading it requires Internet connectivity. Not so much a problem for iPhone users, but iPod Touch users will have to be near a hotspot or they will get an error message when they try to load it.

Since Makers is also available in ePub and eReader formats, among others, I see no reason why iPhone users should want to tie themselves to a remote website at the moment.

However, as more computer functions migrate to the cloud, it is possible this approach might gain more acceptance in the future. Charlie Stross thinks that mobile phone companies will have turned into “dumb pipes”—pure bandwidth providers—within ten years.

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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.


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