Addr is a nice eBook reader for the iPad

Software

The other day I was checking the Technology section on my Flipboard and this article on TechCrunch caught my eye, obviously: Addr Is A Nifty iPad Ebook Reader For Those Who Miss Readmill. Now, I still use Readmill despite being discontinued, but I just can’t say no to eBook reading apps on iOS, so I went and downloaded it even before finishing the TechCrunch article.

Everything you need to know about Addr you’ll find at Addr’s website. I want to share a few more screenshots and some initial impressions.

When you open Addr, you’re presented with your Library:

 

Addr library

 

Books can be arranged by Date, Author, Title. Addr links to Dropbox, and after you authorise the application, when you tap My Dropbox, Addr will scan your Dropbox folder for ePub files. Tap on the files you want to import and the eBook will be imported and formatted according to Addr’s design guidelines. The better the original ePub file, the better the outcome (for example, that copy of Orwell’s Essays I own lacks an index, so no index will be created in the app. I didn’t remember, so at first I thought there had been some error during import).

 

Addr first page

 

This is what you see when you tap on one of the eBooks: you’ll be presented with the first useful page after the cover. This eBook has an index, and I can tap on any chapter or section to get there immediately. I really love this kind of presentation and the typography chosen by Addr’s developers, both the sans-serif font used for titles, subtitles, and menus, and the serif font used to render the text. It’s not very clear in this screenshot, but there are different layers at work here. There’s the ‘menu column’ on the leftmost edge, then there’s the first page of the selected section (that “To Sa…” you can make out is the selected Dedication page), then there’s the ‘minimap’ of the selected section — that dark square you see on the top to the left of the book’s title — which is small preview of the whole text of the selected section (you’ll see it better in the next screenshots); then the book’s title and author, and the index.

 

Addr page

 

This is an example of a page. Here you have a better idea of how the minimap works: you can swipe up and down on it to quickly reach a certain part of the text within a chapter/section.

 

Addr add note

 

I really like the way Addr lets you add notes: instead of highlighting the text, you first drag your finger towards the book’s margin to mark the beginning of the passage you want to highlight or annotate, then, without lifting your finger, you swipe down until you reach the end of the passage. At this point you can add your observations in the margin. While this method may look a bit cumbersome at first, I like it æsthetically because it’s exactly what I usually do with physical books — make annotations with a pencil on their margins.

 

Addr notes summary

 

All notes are gathered in a separate panel and can be accessed directly by tapping, or shared using the Send button.

 

Addr page with note

 

Swiping right hides the minimap, and you can see your annotations in full. Annotated passages show up on the minimap as well (if you go back to the previous screenshot and you squint a bit, you’ll see).

There’s a lot to like about Addr. I like the elegant and minimalistic design, which I find to be a nice mixture of modern and traditional approach in the way you interact with eBooks. As I mentioned above, I also like the choice of typefaces used and the colour palette. As for the annotation system, I agree with Romain Dillet at TechCrunch when he writes: While it sounds like a gimmicky feature, it makes sense when you go back to your previous annotations. You will see them right next to your text in the margin. You won’t have to tap on a button or a sentence to open an impractical and ugly popover.

The developers have made a series of bold design decisions, which might annoy some people who prefer a higher level of customisation:

  • Addr works only in portrait orientation.
  • Font size is fixed.
  • Fonts cannot be changed.
  • Colours cannot be changed. There’s no ‘night theme’ or anything like that.
  • It only works with ePub files, as far as I know.

Bear in mind that this is a 1.0 version, so it’s possible that font and colour customisation and a landscape mode are simply features that have been planned for future versions but weren’t ready when the developers decided to ship. Personally, while I find the current settings good enough (the text font is pleasant and sufficiently big), I’d like to have more options available to tweak my reading experience, especially some sort of night theme to avoid eye strain when reading at night.

For now, the only criticism I have is that certain UI elements are perhaps too subtle and one may need to find the right gesture or the right place to tap or swipe after a bit of trial and error. The app’s performance on my iPad 3 isn’t consistently smooth, but it’s too early to say if it’s the app itself at fault here, or if it’s just the occasional poorly-formatted ePub file that’s causing problems. The import process could also use a progress bar: as soon as you select an ePub file to import from your Dropbox, a modal dialog box (“Importing the book”) appears while the book is being imported, but you don’t exactly know when the import process is complete. The dialog box can be dismissed at any time by tapping ‘OK’ but on one occasion I apparently dismissed it too soon, returned to my Library, and the eBook I chose to import wasn’t showing up.

I think that, overall, Addr is off to a very good start. As far as I’m concerned, it just needs some light UI refinements and some basic customisation options. I’m not sure if I agree with Romain Dillet at TechCrunch about the need of an iPhone version. True, now we have iPhones with bigger screens, but I don’t know if Addr’s gestures and annotation system would work as well on the smaller iPhone screen compared to the iPad’s. We’ll see.

At the time of writing, Addr is free on the App Store and has no In-app purchases.

The Author

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