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Shortcovers e-book reader falls a little, well, short

The good-looking mobile e-book reader Shortcovers has a few flaws to correct before taking on Stanza, Classics, and even the Kindle 2.

Shortcovers logo

The Shortcovers e-book reader that's available now for BlackBerry, iPhones, and Google Android phones sounded like a good idea when we first heard about it back in February. It still is a good idea, but falls a little short in the execution.

Shortcovers is attractive and modern-looking with a nice, legible default font throughout and a menu system you can find your way around. What it trips on are the details. For instance, thumbnail images draw you in on the page of featured e-books, but are excluded from the actual content. Sometimes the only freebie you get is the acknowledgments, a big let-down when you're hoping to learn more about the book than whose husband or wife suffered through its making. Also, the reading experience leaves much to be desired, especially when compared to the paragon of the Kindle's reading delight, or even the gorgeous iPhone e-reader, Classics. Rather than simulate page turning, Shortcovers emulates the Web metaphor of scrolling long passages and clicking arrows to advance to the next page. Also unfortunately, some spaces between words have been noticeably lost in the digital translation.

The app does have potential--there's the usual bookmarking to remember your place when you leave a read, and the ability to share favorites via e-mail or Twitter. Plus, the model to pay 99 cents for a book excerpt before committing to a $7-10 cost of an e-book is a fine idea, though of course, you can browse a title with much more freedom in a brick and mortar store before deciding to buy. If Shortcovers can overcome its shortcomings, its good looks and ambitious mobile platform penetration schedule will lend it a competitive chance.

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