Buy and Read Books on your BlackBerry via Shortcovers

By Kevin Michaluk on 9 Mar 2009 02:33 am EDT

Last week I discovered the newly-launched Shortcovers (which I told Rene over @ TheiPhoneBlog about and he posted) and finally over the weekend I created an account and put it to use.

Launched by Canadian book seller Chapters/Indigo, Shortcovers is a North American (USA and Canada) service that allows you to browse and purchase the electronic versions of books for reading both online (@ computer) and from your mobile device. Shortcovers currently offers both a BlackBerry and iPhone app. The video above has a way too much iPhone presence for my liking (a Bold and 8800 make appearances at least), but it does provide a good overview of the service.

I installed the Shortcovers BlackBerry app on my Curve 8900 (which their download page still refers to as the Javelin - and yes they do have a Storm version) without a hitch. The app is pretty basic, but is easy to use and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the app does make use of BlackBerry shortcuts. T and B will take you top and bottom while reading, and N and P will take you to the next and previous pages and you can scroll down with the spacebar. The mobile client even offers some social networking components -- such as the ability to Tweet what you're reading -- which is nice to see. There are a couple screen captures after the break so you can get a closer look. All in all, I'd say Shortcovers is off to a good start. With an app and service like this it's only after you launch that you can really see how people use it and gain insight from their feedback. So if you give it a go, leave your comments to this post and I'm sure Shortcovers will see it, listen to it and make version 2.0 of their client even better.

ShortCovers BlackBerry App Screen Captures

Shortcovers for BlackBerry





Topics: Video Apps

Reader comments

Buy and Read Books on your BlackBerry via Shortcovers


I like the idea of an Ebook reader but they have to make the cost of the Ebook cheaper. I have used Ebooks on a Palm years ago and stopped due to the cost. This is no different a quick check the books are within a dollar of what I could buy the paperback for. Ebooks for their cost should be 50% max. of the paperback price. There is no cost involved, the book is already typeset, they buy no paper, ink etc. They just email the file. If they tie the file to your pin(I'm not sure if they do) you can't even loan it or pass it on to someone else.

That's a common mistake, a paperback should only costs a few more dollars, because most of the costs involved in the production of a book are related to editing, marketing, publishing....

That's a common mistake, a paperback should only costs a few more dollars, because most of the costs involved in the production of a book are related to editing, marketing, publishing....

The whole ebook idea seems completely asinine to me. I can go to and pick up hundreds of used paper backs for as little as $0.01. Looking at my wish list, I can get 5 used paperbacks ranging from very good to like new condition for a penny each. OR, I can spend $9.99 each for the ebook.

I just have a couple of questions.

It seems like a lot of the content is left online, rather than downloading the entire book for offline reading (according to the blackberry how-to article, you have to bookmark where you are to get content stored for offline reading, but it doesn't tell you how much gets downloaded).

Where are ebooks stored? Internal memory? SD card? Other than mobile reading on BB and iPhone, it seems like the only way to read on PC/laptop is online.

Also seems like they still have a very limited number of books. Searching for books like "Angels & Demons" and "The DaVince Code" brings up the free sample chapters, but the complete book is not available. At least the ebooks are priced similarly to Kindle titles, which tend to be lower in price compared to other ebook formats (like Mobipocket).

Interesting that they claim "read anywhere, any time, on any mobile device", yet they only have iPhone and Blackberry apps available. WinMo, Symbian, Android, and other eReaders (Kindle, Sony Reader...) aren't supported. Their claim to read on "any mobile device" falls way short. At least our beloved BB is supported. :-)

I've been using Shortcovers since its launch and I have to say, it's quite good. It takes a while to start up and load pages. Plus bookmarking is erratic when losing and reconnecting to the network (have to restart the app, or else it keeps saying you need a connection to do that, even when one was reestablished). But other than that, it's been a treat. I don't like carrying around books with me, in fact most of my books are the hardcover, 3-inch thick type. This satisfies my need to read a few pages while on the subway or having lunch.

The only problem I see, by design, is that the book only exists on either your mobile or on your PC. I don't want to sit down for more than an hour at a computer to read a book. This is where Amazon's Kindle + iPhone app trumps Shortcovers. Now if they can have some deals like "pay a little extra and we'll ship you the physical copy as well," then I will have more faith in this system. Otherwise, it seems like a very closed system. I'm sure they can easily do this here in Canada where they already ship tons of books. Then you will have the book where ever you have a browser, the physical copy for those lazy days and the mobile version for on the go.

From what it looks like, the book is stored on the phone's internal memory. I cannot seem to find a place where it could be stored on my SD card.

I thought this sounded excellent as I have a Sony Reader and I am quite comfortable with electronic books. Unfortunately almost everything I clicked on to purchase had a note beside it stating "full ebook not available yet, leave your email and we'll let you know when it is..."

I can't see why anyone would be satisfied with reading one or two chapters of a book they knew they couldn't ultimately purchase in full. Very disapointing!!!

the price of the books is far to high. I can get the same books in paperback at COSTCO for far less. I understand the idea is not to carry physical copies of books with you, but still, the price is way to high. It would make sense to charge around 50% of the going price in the marketplace. Especially since they are not delivering an actual hard copy.

Secondly, you need to be able to store the books on the external memory card, not on internal memory. Some Enterpirse users are not allowed to store any downloaded material on the internal memory of their devises.

I signed up but will wait to use this if and when they make some price changes and system upgrades (like storing on your memory card).

@ ALCie: I agree, I would actually entertain the physical book PLUS say up to $2 more to get the ebook as well or up to 50% of the paperback price for just the ebook(That is still high though). I do not use public transit but if I did I would prefer the ebook solution as well.
I can get the latest books at the second hand bookstore cheap or I can buy new and exchange it there for a credit on a new book. this makes the approximately 70% cost of their paperback price for the ebook unreasonable.
I think in time their catalogue will increase and it needs to include all the mainstream authors which it looks like it might. During my Palm ebook days the selection was really hit and miss.
I am curious about the book storage and how it works because in the options when I saw 5mb and higher as options I would hope it does not use app memory, preferably SD card.

I sent an email to Shortcovers expressing my disappointment with the selection and the high prices. This is the response I got (albeit very promtly!)

Hi Steve,

Thank you for contacting us. We are sorry that you have been
disappointed by our service. We want you to know that whenever
possible, we are offering the digitized version of a book. If only a
sample chapter is available, it may be we were unable to secure the
digital version from the publisher, or they simply don't have an
e-version of this title available. We've heard this feedback quite a
bit from our users, and in our next release we are planning to message
when the e-book is not yet available. Hopefully this will make it much
more clear.

As publisher's pricing policies for Ebooks evolve, it is our goal to
provide you with the best prices possible. Our current pricing is
based on publisher list prices for Ebooks, less our discounts, which
are typically in the range of 20 to 50 per cent.

EBook list prices vary by publisher and title. The Ebook list price
can be based on the hardcover price or the paperback price. Some
publishers are offering EBooks at prices lower than their digital
counterparts which is where the industry appears to be going.

We are working with publishers, as well as reviewing and adjusting our
prices to be competitive in the marketplace and bring customers the
best value.

Thank you so much for your input! Feel free to contact us with further
comments or questions.

The Team

I had used mobipocket before on my Storm, and it worked OK, but would not shut down and kept running no matter what I did.

It also wasnt particularly Storm friendly in terms of scrolling, etc...

There is a way to completely shut down Mobipocket. When the program is open, just press "Shift-Q" and the app will exit and it will no longer be running in the background.

I have several ebooks I read via Mobipocket Reader and have found it quite easy to read on my BB. All books are stored on SD card, so there isn't any real problem with storing several books, giving me a selection to choose from.

The Mobipocket reader does close down on BBs. There is still a small app that continues to run in the background (not the actual app). It is there to sync your data with your PC. When you connect to the PC version of their software, the small bakcgroun app will transfer new books to your SD card, as well as any notes you have made in the ebook. So, the app really does close down - it just has a sync app that runs inthe background all the time.

Fictionwise is about to release their BB version of their eReader software as well. the nice thing about their reader is books can be read on several different devices (PC, iPhone, BB, and even their own portable ebook reader). You have the book stored on SD card and can read it anytime.

I think Shortcovers has an interesting idea, and the fact that it can keep track of where you are in a book is a nice feature. I think the limitation of storage location and the fact that it has to communicate wth their servers quite often are pretty strong shortcomings. There are more readers out there with simpler operation to them.

One of the reasons I love Mobipocket Reader for blackberry is because of the online store that you can purchase a book, download it, and start reading all on your BB. Plus you can download samples of every book before you buy it.