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2222 short stories in your pocket with the Colossal Short Story Collection

David Winograd

Update: This app was just released this morning in the app store and can be found here: [iTunes Link]

I've done quite a bit of testing of eBooks, and quite honestly I've had a problem with the concept of reading a whole book on an iPod touch or iPhone. At a normal font size, an eBook can display about 75 words on a single screen. This requires even a rather short book to be hundreds and hundreds of screenfuls. My well worn copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer comes in at 218 pages which in the app Classics2Go [iTunes Link] translates to 813 screens of iPhone/iPod touch text. I know that this isn't a problem for a great number of people, but I haven't finished a book yet. There is too much flipping, and no matter how pretty the presentation, it just doesn't feel right to me. Your personal preferences may vary, of course.

The Colossal Short Story Collection app, currently under Apple review, solved my problem almost entirely. Contained in the app are over 2222 short stories, all in the public domain, that can be read in 15-20 minutes each. The vastness of the collection assures that you'll always find something that you want to read by authors ranging from Hans Christian Anderson to W.B. Yeats. An average story is around 30 screens. If light entertaining/distracting games can be referred to as casual gaming, this would be an app for casual reading.

I found that reading short stories on an iPhone/iPod touch is very enjoyable and not once did I get frustrated by the page size and number of pages/screens. Nothing got in the way of the story. Reading short stories seems like the perfect use of an eBook. Everything is in byte-sized pieces and I never had to make the considerable commitment that comes with starting an 800 page novel.

This app is built along the lines of Classics [iTunes Link] and Classics2Go [iTunes Link] in that all content is contained in the app so no Wi-Fi or cellular connection is needed. The downside is that with so much content the download is around 62 MB.

The interface is different from any other eBook. There are no numbered pages and no page flipping animation. To progress through a story you can use page up/page down buttons found at the bottom of the screen, or similar to eReader [iTunes Link], there is an auto-scrolling feature that turns the display into a teleprompter, where you can set the scrolling speed to suit your reading speed and never have to touch the screen. You can also swipe upward or downward to scroll the story backward or forward.

Finding stories is a cinch. You are presented with long scrollable author listing and tapping on one brings up a list of that author's stories. Clear and simple.

The feature set is smaller than in many other eBook apps. There are no pretty cover pages, no changeable backgrounds, and no changeable fonts. The options that you do get cover the basics and maybe a bit more. Bookmarks can be set in any story to get you back to where you were if you decided to read another story before finishing the first.

The font size can be adjusted using a sliding bar on the reading screen. You can set whether or not the app will remember the last place read, jump to the last place read upon startup, and lock auto rotating so that the screen won't go into landscape mode when tilted. Of the eBook readers I tested, the only other one that does auto-scrolling and the ability to lock auto rotation is eReader [iTunes Link], which requires you to download books.

In all, it wasn't the feature set that sold me on this app but the overriding simple concept of using short stories and giving you so many of them that if you have 15 minutes to spend, you're bound to find a lot of material you'll like. It's also fun to check out some little known stories from well known authors. Without it I would have never found a great little story by Ambrose Bierce: An Arrest, which was 6 screens. I counted 76 stories by Bierce in the catalog.

Upon release the app will have a promotional price of $0.99 US for a limited time and then be sold for $4.99 US.

Have a look at some screen shots while I'm waiting for someone to create a poetry eBook.

Gallery: Colossal Short Story Collection | 4 Photos

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