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Review: Fifty Great Books for Ten Bucks!

February 4, 2009
Overview E-readers haven’t caught on in a huge way yet. They seem way too high-tech for something as low-tech as books. BeamItDown’s Fifty Books app combines simplicity with convenience to take a large step in the right direction for digital reading. The books’ text is displayed on-screen, automatically scrolling at a speed you control. You’re also in control of the look of the page - text color, page color, font and size. This ultimately resulted in reading I had to work less for - just holding my phone in front of my face was a lot more comfortable than propping up a book, maneuvering to keep the pages open. I am a big fan.


  • 50 Awesome Books. In Your Phone. For $10. Come on.
You really can’t beat the value here. While some would probably argue all day about what 50 books they would include in a collection like this, the app’s name isn’t “The 50 Best Books”. What we have here are fifty fantastic works of literature that will entertain and educate you. For $10 dollars. Shopping on (without particularly hunting for deals), the price for the first ten books on the list is $43. Times five is $215. So, 50 books is a savings of around 200 bucks? Are you still reading this review? I’d have bailed to go buy it by now, to be honest.
  • Easy On the Eyes
I spent a couple hours reading with Fifty Books and felt no worse for wear than if I’d spent the time reading the real thing on paper. To be honest I was much more comfortable, the iPhone being lighter and smaller than most books.

  • Options, Options
As mentioned in the overview, you’re in complete control of how the text appears to you. There’s a surprisingly large selection of fonts, and sizes from 10 pts to 34 pts.
  • Coming Soon...
BeamItDown let us know that a new version of this app is coming within a month. The new app will include a whopping 100 books for the same price, and features enhanced user options. The decision on whether to wait for it is up to you - I’m not sure whether a free upgrade will be available (yes, please!)


The Good: This felt like kind of a no-brainer. My only worries starting this review were that it’d be hard on the eyes or otherwise weird to read from an iPhone rather than a book. These fears being unfounded, I proceeded to enjoy a good book for a couple hours. The features and auto-scrolling make for the laziest, least hands-on reading experience I’ve had. That, slothful as it sounds, is a good thing. BeamItDown also offers a ton of other collections - most based on authors. There’s collections of Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and more. The price is really unbeatable in any of these cases. What it seems like we’re headed for is a central app with modules you can purchase and add-on. This would likely be a little bit easier than managing a bunch of different collections strewn about your Home screen.

The Bad: Well, there are going to be the diehards that insist that absolutely nothing beats curling up with a good book. Like, a REAL book. I can’t ridicule that standpoint, as something about the idea that reading will become almost 100% digital someday has a real sadness to it. Reading from an iPhone doesn’t have the nostalgic, old, paper-smelling feelings that a real book’s got. To be honest when thinking practically, I’d choose inexpensive, easy to read, easily stored books over a library full of the real thing any day. Oh, and you don't look as scholarly and dedicated to literature as you'd look holding a giant tome like War and Peace.


Fifty Books is, hands down, the app that I think I will use most in the coming months. As someone who has always felt an urge to read “the classics” but hasn’t gotten around to many of them, having them on my iPhone takes away all my excuses. Putting the text in your hands and allowing you to read it the way you want is a huge boon to the convenience of literature. Though holding an iPhone isn’t like holding a big hardcover or a well-worn paperback, the content’s the same, and ultimately more portable. Highly recommended for anyone who likes good books.

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