Friday, February 27, 2009

A review of the Shortcovers app for the iPhone

Shortcovers launched yesterday. Being extremely interested in mobile publishing, I dropped everything to take a look at their iPhone application. It’s not bad, but there are certainly some rough edges. Here’s what I think:

  1. UI elements take up too much space: On a tiny device such as the iPhone, I expect to be able to make use of the whole screen for reading. The app needs a fullscreen-mode. As it is at this time, a solid chunk is removed by the status bar, a navigation controller and a translucent toolbar. The translucency doesn’t help.

  2. Flipping pages is too much work: In Shortcovers parlance, a ‘page’ is a multi-screen sequence where your only option to go from screenful to screenful is to flick or track across the screen with your finger. There are ‘previous page’ and ‘last page’ buttons, but these go to the next multi-screen chunk and not to any text contiguous to what is on the screen currently, unless you’re at either end of the ‘page’. Not only is this an unnecessary break from convention, I bet it’s more tiring to go through a whole book so physically. Not only are you flicking every few seconds or dragging a fingertip constantly, you must track your ‘point’ visually to resume reading and finally suffer the distraction of the bounce-scroll at page ends.
  3. Connection problems: I have not been able to purchase a book at all; I’ve tried a few times. I get a ‘Shortcovers Error ...’ alert.
  4. Autocorrection in Search should be off.
Finally, a non-complaint: the following screenshot shows Shortcovers approach to CoverFlow that is not CoverFlow, i.e., something in the category that has no chance of being mistaken by Apple as an instance of the use of their private frameworks.

I’m sick of the whole thing. The obsession with this class of silly gimmick has me perplexed. What’s wrong with a nice table?

Anyway, I hope they add a fullscreen mode soon (and support for Urdu?) because I have every intention of using this all day.

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