BY SEAN CLARK
Xcerpts is an app that shares a lot of similarities with the IndieBound app. It’s not so much a reader app as a way to browse different books out there and search for new titles that may be of interest to you. Xcerpts main feature is, perhaps obviously, to allow you to read samples (usually the first few pages) of the available books.
The organization is pretty intuitive, and there is a surprisingly large array of categories. Each book’s entry contains a picture of the cover, basic publisher info, and some helpful links allowing you to email the book’s info to a friend or jump to the book’s page on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. There is also the option to save selections to a “shelf” for future perusal. The book excerpts are what separates this app from the pack, and it handles it well.
The reading is comfortable, even if the customization options are (understandably) absent. Pretty much you swipe left and right to page forward and back, and that’s it. You can’t change the font size or color or the background color. This isn’t a big deal though at the font is pretty average for iPhone and the text is a very readable grey on white. The formatting isn’t the prettiest in the world, but I didn’t come across any that was problematic either. There’s no bookmarking or text searching, but both would be pretty useless in such short samples anyhow.
Some nice options were included by the developers. You can setup the app to use WiFi only, presumedly to conserve battery and increase performance. You can toggle data cacheing, meaning the app can download data of viewed books for faster and offline performance or keep the data online to conserve memory. I should also mention that Xcerpts’s search funtion is pretty robust–you can even search by ISBN.
I do have a few gripes. Navigation can be a bit tricky at first. I was flummoxed when trying to back out of a category I openeed on accident. None of the buttons seem to back out. I soon gathered that the categories open like a drop down menu, and the other catgories can be reached by scrolling up/down or tapping the cateogry again to collapse it. Not a big deal, but kind of annoying. More of a big deal is that Xcerpts crashes quite often. When I was testing it it crash 40-50% of the times I tried to open up an excerpt, which is far too many. This is something they will hopefully fix in subsequent updates.
The name is stupid, but all in all Xcerpts is a nice little app and will compliment apps like IndieBound and the Amazon shopping app nicely. It’s free, so definitely worth a spin.