Amazon's Stanza app in limbo after iOS 5's release

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A popular iOS ebook reading app owned by Amazon won’t run under iOS 5, causing some users to fear that its days may be numbered.

Stanza was last updated in February. That version—3.1—is barely useable on iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads running the iOS 5 updated released by Apple a month ago. And Amazon, which owns the app, has yet to indicate whether an update is in the works; the company hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comment from Macworld.

Stanza was originally developed for both the Mac and iOS platforms by Lexcycle. However, Amazon bought that company in 2009. At the time, Lexcycle wrote, “We are not planning any changes in the Stanza application or user experience as a result of the acquisition.” Given the lack of recent updates—especially since iOS 5’s October 4 release—that statement seems more pessimistically prophetic than perhaps was planned.

Stanza is just one of the e-reading options Amazon offers to iOS users. The company’s own Kindle app also runs on iPhones and iPads; it was updated as recently as October 8.

Stanza originally beat Kindle to the iOS platform; the Kindle app launched in May 2009, just a month after Amazon purchased Lexcycle and Stanza. The Stanza app included links to more than 100,000 books from the built-in Lexcycle Online Catalog. The app couldn’t read Kindle books, but it could handle ePub, eReader, PDF, Comic Book Archive, and DjVu book formats.

Now, however, Stanza can’t really handle any of its tasks well if you’re running iOS 5. Instead, it crashes frequently—when downloading books, when reading books, and when browsing. Unless and until Amazon updates the app, that won’t change.

Macworld reader Chris Johnson has been a Stanza user since mid-2008. Johnson told Macworld via email that he prefers Stanza to Kindle, iBooks, and other e-reader competition because of Stanza’s “UI, formatting, and access to the text.” Earlier in his career, Johnson actually worked setting type for books, so it’s “something I’m extra picky about… [and] no other reader has let me set the text in such a readable format” the way that Stanza’s plentiful text options allow.

“It was a great app written by people who clearly loved reading and paid attention to the details,” Johnson said. “It seems to have been purchased simply to remove a small competitor to the Amazon Kindle behemoth… Was Amazon that jealous of mindshare that it has to kill a competitor that led people to read content that it didn’t control or profit from?”

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