Our tablets can do just about anything these days, but sometimes all you really want to do is curl up in a comfy chair with a good book. There are lots of ereader applications available out there, but how do you choose the best one?
Cost isn’t a factor here, since the major ones are free. The developers of these apps make their money through sales of books.
Due to DRM restrictions, the source of the ebook sometimes determines the application you use to read it. If that hot new book you want to read is available only from Amazon or only from Barnes & Noble, for example, you’ll have to choose the appropriate companion app.
If, however, you’re new to the ebook game and are looking for the best one, read on to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of the top four ereader applications available for the Apple iPad.
If you want a fully integrated experience, iBooks is the app for you. That’s mainly due to the restrictions Apple has in place to prevent people from using rival apps to purchase new books. This means apps such as Nook and Kindle are mainly repositories for the ebooks you already own; if you want to buy more you have to use either web browser or shop on another computer.
The first thing you see when you open iBooks is your library. You can organize your electronic books and documents into collections, as with other ereader apps, or you can choose to view only books, only PDFs, or to hide all iCloud books if you like.
There’s an integrated dictionary, so all you have to do is select an unfamiliar word to find out what it means. Another neat feature is the ability to save electronic books directly into iBooks from email messages received on your device. With the Kindle app, for example, you have to go through a slightly convoluted process to get PDFs and such into your electronic library.
When you’re reading an ebook, there are three different themes to choose from, eight fonts, an auto-night feature to reverse the screen colors for easier reading in dark rooms, and a scrolling view that allows you to scroll through documents directly instead of changing “pages” as in most other ereader apps.
Apple iBooks is a good ereader, though I can’t give it the highest recommendation in this article. There are too many “missing” features, and the ability to buy more ebooks directly from the app as opposed to having to navigate to your web browser isn’t enough to make up the difference.
There’s no denying that Amazon is the competitor to watch when it comes to ebooks; the Kindle was the first popular dedicated ebook reader and it still dominates that segment of the market. The Kindle app is well designed, but it can be somewhat confusing for new users due to the sheer number of features and options. It can almost be described as the “kitchen sink” of ereader apps.
Want social integration with Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook? It’s in there. Want a virtual “notebook” of all of your notes and highlights? It’s in there. Want single-touch options for dictionary lookup, Wikipedia information, and translation of foreign words? It’s in there. Want to know more about the characters, locations, and terms featured in the book you’re reading? Check out its “X-Ray” (for supported titles) and get a great overview plus a visual take on how often and at what point each person or term is mentioned.
The Kindle app also includes a fully featured magazine reader called the Newsstand, as well as a Docs section for the personal documents that you have uploaded to your Kindle account — PDFs and the like. You can quickly scan through the pages of a magazine by simply tapping the middle of the screen; a smaller window appears at the bottom of the screen and you can swipe left and right to “slide” (instead of flip) through the pages.
As you can see, there’s a lot to like about the Kindle app, and it receives my highest recommendation. It may seem a bit daunting at first, but it’s well worth the effort to familiarize yourself with it and you’ll be a Kindle pro in no time.
Barnes & Noble Nook
The Nook app is clean and simple, and perhaps the most elegant design of the ereader apps covered here. Some of the best features include the implementation of themes, which allow you to quickly customize several different options at once such as text color, page color, highlights, and links. You can create any scheme that you like with just a couple of taps on the screen.
Like the collections found in the Kindle app, you can organize the Nook books that you’ve purchased into shelves — group by genre, author, or any other scheme that suits your needs. There are also some extra features that you won’t find in the Kindle app, such as the ability to switch profiles within the app, set a child passcode, a section of frequently asked questions, and even a link to send feedback to the folks at Barnes & Noble. You can also download French, German, Italian, and Spanish dictionaries.
While it isn’t as feature-packed as the Amazon Kindle app, the Barnes & Noble Nook app holds its own by virtue of good design and ease of use. It’s a good option, especially for those who don’t need a lot of bells and whistles and just want to keep things simple so that there’s more time for reading another great book.
Overdrive Media Console
This app isn’t just an ebook reader, but a great way to access ebooks and other media from your local public library. Once you search for your local library and add your login credentials, you’ll find that the Overdrive app functions almost identically to the web interface to your library. But once you actually check out a library item, you’ll find that the Overdrive Media Console transforms into an ebook reader, a video player, or an audiobook player, depending on the media types that you borrow.
All of your items appear in your bookshelf, and no matter their type, you can use the Overdrive Media Console to enjoy them. Reading options include the ability to change the font, font size, line spacing, and margins, while audiobook playback includes features such as narration speed and a built-in sleep timer if you like to listen to books before bed.
There aren’t any truly ground-breaking features here, but the Overdrive Media Console app is well designed, easy to use, and makes taking full advantage of the digital side of your local public library easier than ever before. Highly recommended!