Saturday, 22 November 2008

Classics makes it better for eBooks

A Kindle or an iPhone can never duplicate the heft or the texture of a book or the smell of the paper. Is that a fetish? Maybe.

But mark my words: When the lights go out for good one day, and phones stop ringing and batteries die and we’re reduced to torch- and candlelight— when the new Dark Age arrives, I’ll be holed up in a mountain enclave surrounded by books, just like the European monks who saved Western Civilization during the Middle Ages.

I believe that. Mostly. But Classics from developers Andrew Kaz and Phill Ryu shook my belief a little. It dawned on me the other week, as I spent a solid hour reading—and actually enjoying!—Paradise Lost on my iPhone. I hadn’t read Milton since college, and then it was a real slog. Classics made reading Milton’s epic pleasurable in ways I hadn’t considered or taken seriously before.

The 1.0 version of Classics blew people away with its gorgeous GUI. Classics certainly looks beautiful. But the earlier version was plagued with typos and had a huge bug: A few of the books, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Hound of the Baskervilles, and Paradise Lost, were missing vast swaths of text. The last four chapters of Twain’s masterpiece were left out of the app, leaving readers to wonder if Huck Finn defeated the robbers and made it home. I could just imagine what Mark Twain would say.

Upon learning that his printer’s proof-reader was “improving” his punctuation in Huckleberry Finn, Twain later recalled: “I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray.”

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