AP Stylebook for iPhone vs online subscription

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AP Stylebook for iPhone vs online subscription
As someone who cares about words, I have been considering signing up for the AP Stylebook Online ($25/year, all prices listed are USD) or buying the AP Stylebook for iPhone ($24.99) but had trouble deciding which one would be the better deal. You can also pick up a printed version of the 2010 stylebook at the AP website for $18.95. (The 2009 version is available on Amazon.com for $12.89, but the 2010 stylebook is not yet available on Amazon.com as of this writing).

I contacted the folks at AP and asked if I might be able to review the iPhone app and get a trial for the AP Online to compare them on the iPhone and iPad.

The quick and dirty summary is: if you want access to the AP information on your iPhone frequently, without having to rely on the availability of an Internet connection, get the iPhone app. For any other use case: get the online subscription.

Read on for more...

Each version comes with benefits and drawbacks. The AP provides a comparison chart which illustrates some of them: only the online version is updated throughout the year; the iPhone app is updated annually, as is the printed version. However, the printed version and the iPhone app don't expire, so you can continue to use them after a year, whereas your online subscription must be renewed or else you will lose access to the stylebook and any notes that you have made.

The iPhone app will run on the iPad, but it is not a universal app, meaning that you will either have to upscale it (which, as with most apps, does not look good) or run it at iPhone size on your iPad. If you have the online subscription, you can access it from any computer with a web browser, including the iPad, which works fairly well, but of course requires an Internet connection. Accessing the online version of the stylebook on your iPhone would work for very light, occasional usage, but the design is not conducive to the iPhone's small screen.

It's the "universal access" part of the online subscription that won me over. I have a printed copy of the Chicago Manual of Style which always seems to be at home when I want to use it at the office, and at the office when I want to use it at home. Although the printed AP Stylebook is much smaller than the Chicago Manual (1 pound instead of 3), it's still unlikely that I'm going to carry it around with me everywhere that my iPad goes. Both the app and the online version allow you to make notes, but I would worry that the iPhone app notes might get lost or corrupted, whereas I put more trust in the online version. (To be clear: I did not experience anything that makes me think the iPhone app would lose its data; it's more of an issue of knowing that backing up and restoring iPhone apps via iTunes doesn't always seem to preserve data. So if I'm distrustful of anything, it's Apple and iTunes, not the AP app itself.)

An iPhone app is going to be a lot less useful to me when I'm working on my iMac, because it means pulling out the device that I'm not using in order to access the information. Being able to pull up the website is a lot more convenient, and even though I did not see many recent updates to the online version, I like knowing that I'd have access to the latest information available.

That being said, I think an iPad version of the Stylebook might win me over, for the same reason that I use the Amazon.com iPad app even though Amazon.com works pretty well on Safari on the iPad: speed. If you are working on a deadline and need to check something quickly, the speed of a native, local application is going to be hard to beat. In fact, I might be tempted to pull out the iPad even if I was working on my iMac in order to get just the information I needed at just the right time. (The AP does not currently have plans to make an iPad version of the app.)

I came away from my trial thinking that the ideal might be for the folks at AP to offer some sort of bundle for owners of the iPhone app to be able to purchase an online subscription at a reduced price. While the App Store doesn't allow for developers to offer discounts to specific users, if those who purchased the iPhone app were able to get access to the online stylebook for around $10/year, that might be a really attractive offer. Right now to purchase both would be $50/year, enough that I'm sure most people opt for either one or the other.

I have included screenshots of the AP online as seen on an iPad and iPhone below to give you some idea of what it looks like.

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