Literary iPhone apps: bite-sized, pocket-sized and with Shakespeare to go

As someone who takes every opportunity to read, I’m usually distraught when I’ve forgotten to put a book in my bag in the morning. Not anymore. I got my iPhone a few months ago and have discovered plenty of cheap, quality reading material to peruse on lunch breaks, on public transport, and at home in bed.

My favourite literary app so far is the American journal Electric Literature. I bought Issue 1 ($5.99) because I love the work of Michael Cunningham—and there is an extract from his upcoming novel in the issue. The other authors I hadn’t yet heard of, but enjoyed their stories. They are T Cooper, Lydia Millet, Jim Shepard and Diana Wagman. Looking at my phone now, I discovered that along with an update for the app, Issue 2 has found its way onto my phone. Colson Whitehead—woo! And Stephen O’Connor to round it out. Issue 3 is also available.

American journal McSweeney’s also has an app, which updates itself with bonus material from the website and print journal. McSweeney’s content is highly entertaining. I recently read a conversation between author/artist/film director Miranda July and actor/aspiring writer James Franco. Available also is a short story by Wells Tower, an interview with Francis Ford Coppola, comics, and plenty of digestible nonfiction and humour titbits.

What’s it like reading on the iPhone? After a few pages I don’t notice the weeny screen. That said, I don’t think I’d read a whole novel… Short stories, which I love anyway, are perfect for reading on a device. The apps remember where you’re up to in the text, and you can make adjustments to the screen with text and colours, depending on the app, to make it easier to read.

As we reported in the Weekly Book Newsletter this week, Torpedo is the first Australian literary journal to have a Kindle edition. There is an Amazon Kindle app for the iPhone. I downloaded Issue 3, and have thus far enjoyed a couple of the stories (from Aus and overseas writers). You can buy and download any Kindle ebooks available to the Australian market through the Amazon store, directly to your phone.

While on Australian journals, Sleepers Publishing is developing an iPhone app for the next issue of the Sleepers Almanac, as well as the print issue. I’m looking forward to carrying that one around.

Another app like the Kindle, that doesn’t so much restrict where you buy the books from, is Stanza. Through Stanza you have access to books through ebookstores, publishers, and even Project Gutenberg (for free public domain works—though the formatting can be a little odd on these). My library contains Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll), A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens), Dubliners (James Joyce), Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka) and just about all of Kafka, poems by Keats and Emily Dickinson, and the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe. With the longer works—they’re either books I’ve read (and love to revisit passages of) or they’re books I’d trial first on the device before buying a print copy.

I read a James Joyce story on the tram the other day: ‘Araby’. Have you read it? It’s available on the 100 Stories app. Also on this app are classic stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, Dylan Thomas, Anton Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, Roald Dahl, Herman Melville… I could go on.

And then there are the complete works of Shakespeare, with an app simply titled ‘Shakespeare’. Looking at it now I see I have recently been revisiting Hamlet, Act I, Scene II (side note: in the app, Hamlet is shortened to ‘Ham’—ha!). What better way to commit a soliloquy to memory, than by bookmarking it in your phone and reading it over and over again? O that this too too solid flesh would melt,/Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!

Have you discovered any I should know about?

This entry was posted in Fancy Goods, It's all about us and tagged , , , , by Angela Meyer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Angela Meyer

Angela Meyer worked for Books+Publishing from April 2008, to March 2010, as editorial assistant then acting editor. Angela is now completing a Doctor of Creative Arts through the University of Western Sydney. She has had fiction, articles, reviews and interviews published and broadcast. She can be seen on panels at various writers' festivals, and she blogs regularly at

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