Wednesday, 25 April 2012 10:45
As the days grow decidedly shorter and chillier here in the Southern Hemisphere, I have an overwhelming urge to curl up and lose myself in a great eBook... on my BlackBerry.
Not that one ever needs an excuse to read – I read whether it's hot, cold, or anywhere in-between – but since this is World Book Week, I've decided to lift the cover off an app that helps me to fulfill one of my favourite pastimes.
Sadly, Amazon has not made its popular Kindle reader app for BlackBerry available to users outside the United States yet. Luckily, there is an excellent solution for all of us BlackBerry-toting bookworms; something that will satiate our need to read anytime, anywhere. It is a free app and website called Wattpad and with more than a whopping 100 000 eBooks in its ever expanding library, it truly lives up to its tagline of "Unlimited stories. Everywhere".
Founded back in 2006 already, Wattpad might not be new, but those of us who are late to the party get to reap the benefits of a service that has been tried, tested and perfected. It has since grown to be the world's most popular eBook community, even becoming the number one eReading app in BlackBerry App World in 2010.
Known as "YouTube for eBooks", and "Facebook/Twitter for writers", Wattpad not only gives users free access to the classics and works by published authors across the full spectrum of literary genres (from vampire fiction all through to horror, romance and fan fiction), but introduces them to new authors too. Writers can showcase their own work, interact with readers and acquire new fans. There is even a contest in which authors around the world stand a chance to win cash prizes.
After downloading the app and deeming it trusted, you'll reach a home screen where the menu includes options such as "My Library", "Settings", "Help", "Quit", and "Wattpad.com". Upon selecting "My Library", I noticed that there were already works for those keen to get started immediately. However, if you don't find Wattpad's choices appealing, you can easily search for something to read by clicking on "Get More". From this menu, you will be able to select among featured works, see what others are currently reading ("What's Hot") or search for an author yourself. Perhaps it is because I am using a brand new handset with BlackBerry OS 7, but when I typed in a word I've been looking for, nothing happened when I pressed enter. I ended up having to go back and scroll down through the "By Category" menu and select a work that way.
Once you click on a work, you have the option to read it now, read it later, or download it to read offline. I selected read now and tucked into "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", the classic short story by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you accidentally click the back button on your BlackBerry, it saves your place and tells you how far you've progressed percentage wise. You can then resume reading, share what you're reading on Twitter (a feature that did not work for me, perhaps again due to the fact that I'm using a new phone and latest version of the BlackBerry OS 7), vote on the story, remove from your library, or quit reading. Alternatively, you also have the option to go to the end or the start of the text, or enter a percentage amount to drop you somewhere in the text.
If you leave the app while you are reading, and click on it again, you will be taken straight back to where you were in the text. Once you have selected a work, it automatically appears in your library and will remain there until you decide to remove it.
Despite those few minor glitches, I'm really having fun with this app. So much so, in fact, that I have been offering to run errands that will require me to stand in long queues where I will be able to snatch a few precious moments of reading.
This app was reviewed using a BlackBerry Bold 9790, courtesy of BlackBerry South Africa.
Good: Easy to use; clean user interface; wide selection of works including all of the classics; ability to interact with other users and with authors; being taken straight back to where you were in the text.
Bad: Some of the features (posting what I was reading to Twitter, for example, and searching for a specific work) did not work for me, possibly due to the fact that I'm using the still very new BlackBerry OS 7.
Price: Free (BlackBerry App World)