Apple will be ballyhooing new iPod-related products on September 9.
The unlikely possibility at the top of my dream list? It’s a tablet with a six- or eight-inch screen that’ll run iPhone/Touch apps, including Stanza, the e-reading program through which public domain books are Kindle-easy to download.
Stanza can’t read DRM-infested books. But it seamlessly offers spiffy-looking ePub books from Feedbooks. Feed provides public domain and Creative Commons titles and has handy categories such as "Most Popular" and "Recent Additions."
These days you can find yet other choices within the Online Catalog option of Stanza—for example:
–A well-chosen list of free English-language classics for high school students: everything from My Antonia to—well, I won’t mention all the others, given the Hollywood-bought legislation that extended copyright terms here in the States.
–More public domain and Creative Commons books, including, now, titles from Munseys.com.
–Newspapers and magazines, apparently picked up via RSS even though it’s more or less behind the scenes. You can download "full content" from the Web sites of the Atlantic, the BBC, Wired and Tech News—no, I haven’t checked to see what "full content" means. I doubt it means a free issue of Wired magazines, for example. That said, you can still enjoy a generous helping of high-quality material in one swoop—for example, 82 screens of Atlantic items. Summaries are available from the New York Times, the Economist, Le Monde, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and USA Today.
The latest e-reader rankings with the Books category of the App Store: eReader, apparently, followed by Stanza. I’m reading left to right in iTunes with the sort in the "most popular" mode). An interactive children’s book called Shadows Never Sleep seems to be the biggest title, then Security for People and Companies, A Princess of Mars and La Divina Commedia (yes, in Italian even though the description surrealistically says "English"). Remember, of course, that via eReader, you can read thousands of of DRMed books, which wouldn’t show up on the list. And of course Stanza can read nonDRMed books—in a number of formats—from sources that are not listed within iTunes.
Reminder: Stanza can handle italics and other format wrinkles in ePub, which, I understand, is the native rendering format. Trimmings for more formats will be on the way. But meanwhile it’s great to see ePub catching on, even among the more obstinate defenders of the Tower of eBabel.
And related: Futurismic Magazine, which you can read via Feedbooks’ RSS capabilities and which is one way to keep up with new SF writers. I don’t see it available on Stanza’s list, but maybe Futurismic and other not-so-well-known publications can make it in time. I’d also like to see a way of easily toggling in quick descriptions of Stanza’s listed items.
One big question: What does Stanza mean commercially, when the free material appears without ads or the native layouts? As a user I love Stanza; as a content-provider I hope that people can work out the business issues in a user-friendly way.
Update on Feedbooks: Hadrien Gardeur, a fellow ePub booster, tells me of some 20K books a day downloaded from his site through Stanza—in other words, the number of ePub downloads just by that route alone. By comparison, Project Gutenberg’s download count through the ibiblio sever for September 1 was 76K. That is far from a complete number and doesn’t include mirror sites, for which stats apparently aren’t available. Still the numbers suggests that Feed, Stanza and ePub are gaining traction in the public domain world.
The Gutenberg angle: Project Gutenberg is providing the original versions of books that Feedbooks and others are positioning in various formats. It’s all the more reason why I’m rooting for Gutenberg to thrive and address issues such as ownership of the trademark, held by founder Michael Hart (last I knew). A conventional, transparent approach would help Gutenberg obtain the funding it needs and richly deserves. I don’t want libraries, Google, the Internet Archive or anyone else to single-handedly control public domain books. The glory of Gutenberg, despite its flaws, is that users can take the initiative in deciding what they want to digitize. These days most Project Gutenberg books originate from another valuable grassroots group, Distributed Proofreaders, but Gutenberg itself is still very much worth preserving. In fact, I wonder if there’s any chance of the full Gutenberg catalogue becoming available through a Stanza/ePub approach. And if other ePub readers can do the same thing, then so much the better!