Back to Bluefire

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POSTED: February 8, 2013

I remember that when the Bluefire e-reader first arrived on the iPad I downloaded it to see what it was like. Not as good as Stanza, I thought to myself, and deleted it again. Since then a lot has changed.

Firstly Stanza was purchased by Amazon and allowed to languish. When iOS arrived it not longer worked, and it was several months before a fix was posted. During that time I had looked at iBooks and decided to use that instead. I used it fairly happily until the end of last year.

Secondly, while I wasn’t looking Bluefire leapt ahead by leaps and bounds.

Last December, when we went to India for Christmas, I carefully loaded a lot of books onto the iPad to read on holiday. Many of these were work-related and actually needed to be read. A week before I left I synced with iTunes and all was well. I read one of the books, listened to some music and did all the other things I do on a daily basis with my iPad. The afternoon before we left I synced again and received the message telling me that my settings had changed, and asking me if I wanted to apply them. I said yes, because I had no reason not to.

When I opened my iPad on the plane to carry on reading I realised that iTunes had wiped out almost all of my books and all but one of my cds. This had happened to me twice before, and so I recognised it. I was not happy.

A library (not mine) in Bluefire

In Kerala I noticed that Comic Viewer had lost no data, despite the fact that I had side-loaded comics through iTunes. When I had wifi I therefore downloaded Bluefire and looked at it again. It seemed fine. For me it had one very important advantage from the outset: like Comic Viewer I could use iTunes to sideload books, but the app itself did not come under the authority of iTunes.

Back in Helsinki I loaded all the books I needed to read into Bluefire and noticed a second advantage. Like iBooks you can categorise your books to make them easier to find but, unlike iBooks Bluefire has a built-in Library category that shows you all the books you have loaded. This is much more useful than it sounds, because it means that it is impossible to lose a book. If I can’t remember which category I filed something under I can scroll down the Library category and find it there.

I have been using it regularly for the past month and I am very happy with it. The page-turning animation isn’t as smooth as Apple’s, but I have set the pages to slide rather than turn and that has worked just fine. After all I am supposed to be concentrating on the content of the book, not judging an animation competition.

Everything else about it is as good or better than iBooks. It has a neat way to dimming or increasing the brightness: sliding your finger up and down the screen. The way it displays the books content in a screen of its own that is always available is also something I like.

Since I don’t use iCloud to synchronise anything, because I much prefer Dropbox, to which I have been committed for years, then iBooks has no advantages for me, and a huge potential disadvantage. I look forward to a long life as a happy Bluefire reader.