I’m a great fan of Stanza, as regular readers may have gathered. Stanza, for those who don’t know (so, how is life under that rock, anyway?), is an application which lets you read books on your iPod Touch or iPhone. It, and applications like it, is at least partly responsible for the surge in ebook reading being reported by industry lately: it has two million users (well, downloaders, anyway) and more trying it out all the time.
The little screen may seem off-putting to some of those new users, so here is my best tip for getting the most out of reading on the iPhone/iPod Touch.
One, turn off your wireless access. This seems to make the battery last longer.
Two, open Stanza, load the book you want to read, and adjust the font a couple of notches up (or down). You can also optionally fiddle with other settings.
Three, turn the Touch on its side so that the screen rotates. This best replicates the page-line length of a printed book and eases the eyes.
Keep reading this entry for more detailed instructions. If you want to know more about ebooks in general, check out this page. If you’re all over ebooks and have a tip for me on reading on Stanza, let me know in the comments.
All right. Now for the step-by-step instructions. I’m assuming you’re totally new to not only Stanza, but the iPhone/iPod Touch in general. Note these instructions are for an iPod Touch 2.x, so they might not quite match the iPhone or the 3.0 update.
One, turn off your wireless access. Skip this step if you’re not fussed about battery life. You can find the wireless under the Settings icon, which is grey and has cogs on it. Touch the icon to open it, and the first setting will be Wi-Fi. Touch the > sign on the right side, and you’ll be in the Wi-Fi Networks settings. First choice is to turn it on or off – if it says On, slide it to the left to make it say Off.
Exit Settings, and go find your Stanza App. The Stanza icon is blue and pictures a blank book lying open.
I’m assuming you’ve already loaded Stanza onto your device. If not, search for it in the iTunes App Store, download it, and sync your iPod Touch/iPhone. If this makes absolutely no sense, go talk to Apple.
So, touch the Stanza icon to go into the application. If you’re in the middle of a book, it’ll open to the page you left it on. Otherwise, it’ll open on your library page, which lists your loaded books by title, author, subject, latest read. If you have no books, check out the online catalog or load some via your PC. If this makes absolutely no sense, go talk to Lexcycle.
Select a book by touching the > symbol next to Titles (or whatever category you like) and then tapping the particular title you want to read (if you hit the slightly prettier > symbol on this list screen, you’ll be taken to information about the book, rather than the book itself). If you’re just starting a new book, you’ll get the title screen, so tap the right-hand side of the screen to move through to the first page you want to start reading. Tap the left side to go back if you overshoot.
Two, adjust the font size. You can increase it by putting your thumb and index finger on the screen in a pinching gesture and sliding them open (and decrease by sliding them together); this is known as pinch and spread and sounds vaguely dirty.
However, I find it easier and more accurate to go into Settings. Tap on the centre of the screen to bring up options. At the top, you can go back to all titles or find information about the book; at the bottom, you can view the table of contents, go into the settings, swap the theme, search the text, and view more actions.
Tap the cog symbol to go into the Settings area. You’ll be in the Appearance Settings area and have lots of options, but we’re focused on font size right now. That’s fourth down, tap it, and then bump the font up by sliding your finger along the slider bar. Increase it until it about matches the size of the printed books you usually read or is slightly bigger – or decrease it if that suits your preference/matches your usual printed books.
[You can also change font size point by point by exiting Settings (Cancel or Save up the top) and entering the 'more options' area, represented by the ellipsis (...) in the bottom right corner. You'll get a list, the last two of which are F+ and F- for font size up and font size down.]
Other settings you may wish to play with include the theme, the first option available for tapping under Appearance. The default for me was Basic, black text on a light grey page. I changed it to Classic, which made the background whiter. Other options under the Appearance Settings let you hand-choose background and text colour. Note choosing a pre-set theme overrides any customised settings you made earlier – therefore if you’re going to change your theme, do it dirst – but your ‘custom’ setting is saved as a new theme.
Font is another consideration. The default is Georgia, a serif font. You may have heard that serif fonts are best for print-copy reading, while sans serif is best for on-screen reading. Georgia has been specifically designed to be good for on-screen reading; however, you might wish to switch to a sans serif font such as Verdana or Trebuchet. You can do this by tapping the Font options under Appearance Settings in Stanza. I left mine as Georgia because I am specifically trying to replicate a printed book.
Under the Layout Settings (get there by tapping the Layout icon at the bottom of the Settings screen), you can change alignment, margins, and spacing. You can leave these at the default or tweak them a little to make them better match your ideal printed book. This tends to be justified alignment, single line spacing, no extra spacing between paragraphs, and indents at the start of paragraphs.
Under the Controls tab, you can change how it turns pages (slide or turn or none; I like turn, but none might be better for milking battery life), how long it takes (if you like to start turning the page before you’ve quite finished the line, this is important) and other settings. Note here that if Lock Book Rotation is turned On, you need to turn it Off by sliding. You might also want to slide Disable Sleep to On if you take a long time to read and don’t want to have to keep tapping the screen to turn the backlight back up.
Three, save all your changes and go back out to the book. Hold your device and turn it by 90 degrees so that the screen is horizontal rather than vertical. At this point, the text should rotate so that it too runs length-way along the screen rather than down the screen.
There you have it: a way to make reading a book on Stanza almost like reading a printed book, overcoming the limitations of the small screen and potential eye strain.
An extra bonus of regularly employing Stanza on its side is that it then displays titles in your library as cover icons rather than as a list, which looks pretty.
At this point, you might want to go put Lock Book Rotation on, but once you exit and then re-enter later, Stanza reverts to portrait-orientation, and you have to go turn it off, rotate the screen, and turn it back on, so it’s might be more trouble than it’s worth.
If you’ve got other tips (for Stanza or for other apps/devices), please leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear them.