In the main, I’m not much of an early adopter. I like someone else to pay the high prices, get the buggy hardware and software, shake out all the problems. I like to sail in at, oh, revision 3 or so. If I’m really hot for something, revision 2. Because let’s face it: early adopters bang into some weird problems.
Well, it was my turn to chuck my knee on software, I guess.
A wonderful eBook reading device!
So given my eBook love, I’ve installed a lot of eReaders. Stanza, Kindle, Eucalyptus, Masterpieces . . . a lot. I’m not in our Carly’s class, but it’s still a love of mine. And when the Nook came out, although I’m not a big fan of eInk devices, I did go ahead and download their iPhone reading software. And honestly, I was really happy with it. It was much like eReader’s software–Barnes and Nobel purchased the company that developed the software, I believe–but had an added feature that I absolutely love: the ability to highlight and look up words and phrases not just in a dictionary, but in Wikipedia or Google. Cool!
Then I wanged my knee on an early adopter problem.
Although the eReader software that the B&N eReader is based on is solid, Barnes and Noble obviously made some changes to it, both visually and functionally (did I mention the Wikipedia thing?).
Unfortunately, the bug I hit is this:
I like big books. Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Dan Simmons’ Drood and Carrion Comfort. Stephen King’s uncut version of The Stand. Things like that. And when you load one of these books into the B&N software on your iPhone, well, it has trouble. If you click the Home button on your iPhone with your big juicy book still open, the next time you open the software, it thinks for a minute or so, and then closes.
And the only way to re-open the reader software . . . is to reinstall it.
Yes, you can get around the problem. If you exit from your large book back to your list of books, you can exit the program with impunity.
The booklist screen in B&N’s ebook reader
But if you forget, and hit that home button while you’re still reading about Captain Trips in Chapter 21 of The Stand, then it’s back to reinstallation.
It’s a strange bug, and it’s only going to bite you if you like big books–my Dave Barry books are working just fine, thanks–but it’s still weird, and a bit frustrating. Your intrepid Gear Diary team is On the Case, trying to get hold of the appropriate people at B&N and find out what the heck is going on. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, just be cautious.
And don’t get me started on the fact that I can’t read my Fictionwise/eReader books in this app, either …
Our beloved eBook goddess Carly Z verified that the same bug existed on her version of the B&N eBook reader. So, armed with indisputable proof that this is indeed a bug, and not another in a long line of “Doug’s Corner Cases that No One Else Can Verify” (don’t get me started), I sent the following note to the support eMail address of B&N (including my purchase ID# for the books that cause this problem):
Running the eReader on my iPhone. Download my purchase, “Quicksilver.” Open the book. Exit the application. When I try to reopen the application on my iPhone, the eReader application opens to the splash page, and then after about a minute, quits. In other words, if I open “Quicksilver” and then quit eReader, I *cannot open it again*.
The only way to get eReader working again is to delete the application from my iPhone and reinstall it (forcing me to download all my books again). The only way to read the book “Quicksilver” is to *exit* from the book–i.e., go back to the book list–prior to exiting the eReader application.
My suspicion is that the size of the book–it is over 1000 pages long inhardcopy–is what is causing the problem. To test, you might consider loading other books of equal length into the reader and trying it. I would test it myself, but the only other book I have of comparable length is in my Fictionwise library rather than my B&N library, and I can’t load Fictionwise books into the B&N iPhone eReader library. (Unless you’ve changed that.)
(Don’t get me started on that, either.)
A couple of days later (your eBook mavens at Gear Diary had a pool on it; I think Judie won), I got the following email back from B&N about this bug report (ignoring the usual “we got your email and you’ll hear from us soon” email):
Dear Mr. Moran,
Thank you for writing to us abouteBooks.
We truly appreciate your taking the time to share your feedback concerning the Nook software.
Customer feedback is critical to the success of our business, and we rely on suggestions such as yours to help us determine what our customers value most. We have forwarded your suggestion to the individuals responsible for eBooks for consideration and possible
Once again, thank you for your email.
As you might imagine, I was now a wee bit irked. (If you know me at all, you’ll have some idea of what “wee bit” means when combined with the words “Doug” and “irked”. I responded:
Um. It wasn’t a suggestion; it was a bug report. This same bug has been verified independently by other people who write for the same technology review site (www.geardiary.com) that I do. This bug *only* exists in the B&N version of the iPhone software; the eReader (www.ereader.com) version–which is almost exactly the same software–does not exhibit this behavior. Therefore it is clear that this bug was introduced during the process of modifying the eReader software to be Barnes and Noble software.
I want to be clear: this is *bug*, not a suggestion. It happens with books over a certain size. It has been verified independently. It did not exist in the source application that Barnes and Noble used to produce their iPhone ereader software. This information should make reproducing and tracking down the bug fairly straightforward.
I would like very much to know when it can be expected for this *bug* to be fixed, as it forces the application to crash and requires a reinstall to make the software function again. As any bug that causes an application to crash and require reinstallation is generally considered a high-priority or priority 1 bug by engineering and support teams, I would very much appreciate some kind of time estimate for when this bug will be addressed; a priority level of the bug; a note from the engineers; some indication that the bug has actually been reported to the appropriate people; something.
Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter.
Well, I dunno if they’ve been getting a lot of bug reports on this–maybe a lot of people downloaded Ulysses or the uncut The Stand or something–or if the Fear of Gear Diary Retributiontm scared them into action, but I was pleased to find this email in my inbox a day later:
Thank you for your email regarding theapplication unexpectedly closing issue.
We are aware of this problem and are working diligently to resolve it. Please check back often as we hope to correct this situation shortly. Tomorrow remove the application and try to download the app again. We hope to have an update pushed tomorrow.
Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.
That was on the 9th. I have since diligently checked iTunes every day for a new version, even to the point of removing the current version from both my iPhone and iTunes library, syncing, resetting the sync history, downloading the app, and installing it again. (I have OCD–what can I say?) Unfortunately, the promised fix didn’t appear. But then, today, at long last, I saw that the B&N app had been updated. Was the fix in? (rim shot)
Alas, no. I’ve noticed a bug in iTunes that, for whatever reason, makes iTunes crap out when you try to download an updated version of software. This bug came into being with the new version of iTunes, and bothers me constantly. Usually I just have to wait a day or two for the problem to clear itself, and all is well. But right now, I appear to be having that very problem with the B&N eReader app. Urgh! (A desperate man, I even tried uninstalling, resetting my sync history, rebooting, and downloading it again. No soap.)
So that’s where we are. So if you’re a Big Book reader (do you like Neal Stephenson, for example?), you might want to wait until your humble eBook lovers here at GD give you the High sign. Because right now, we’re still down for the count at 8 days and counting.