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Is the iPhone the Ultimate eBook Reader?

“People don’t read anymore,” said Steve Jobs last month. Try telling that to users of his company’s iPhone and iPod Touch devices, many of whom seem to be using the device as an eBook reader. Our network blog last100 theorized that what Jobs’ really meant was, who needs the Amazon Kindle when you’ve got an iPhone that does a lot more? “Will a developer write an app to read books on the iPhone or Touch?” asked last100’s Daniel Langendorf. Actually, a few developers already have, and at least one is doing very well.

The TextOnPhone app launched last August, and with strictly organic growth now has 50,000 registered users. This week they announced a partnership with International Thriller Writers to bring fiction from the organizations members to the app, including top writers like James Patterson and Lee Child. TextOnPhone gives readers access to over 20,000 books and is planning to expand to support other phones later this month.

Another application, Readdle, gives users 50mb to store eBook content in a plethora of formats, include Plucker, which is the defacto mobile eBook reader format for Project Gutenberg, which houses over 20,000 free eBooks.

There are other iPhone book readers, including Free iPhone eBooks, which houses a limited selection of classics, and Scrollbox, which has a large public library and allows uses to upload their own content. With 4 million iPhones sold, and baked in development platform on the way, that begs the question — why buy a Kindle when you could buy an iPhone or iPod Touch?

The Kindle does very few things with its black and white screen. It reads books, it checks some RSS feeds and gets the news… that’s about it. The iPhone, on the other hand, lets you do all of that, and pretty much anything else you can do on the Internet. And it’s a phone. And a portable media player. With sites like eBooks.com out there, which sells over 100,000 books, most in the PDF format that Readdle supports, theoretically the same content available on the Kindle is available on the iPhone.

The only things the Kindle has over Apple’s device is speed (books are automatically downloaded wirelessly), and cost (you’re not paying monthly for a phone service subscription but still get a constant EVDO connection). The former could theoretically be tackled by a company willing to sell eBooks directly to iPhone users, and the latter isn’t a big deal since most people are paying for a phone anyway.

The only other reasons I can think of why someone might choose a Kindle over and iPhone or iPod Touch is the form factor — is it easier to hold while reading?, the screen — is it easier to read on?, and the battery life — is it really that much better? Not owning either device personally, I can’t make a determination on any of those points. But clearly, what Jobs meant when he said “people don’t read anymore” was “if people want to read, they should just use an iPhone.”

What do you think? Is the iPhone the ultimate eBook reader, or is there room for the Amazon Kindle? Which would you buy?

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