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iPad eBook App Review

There are several ebook reading applications. There is no perfect reading app despite the iPad having multiple advantages over eink devices. I have found myself using iBook, Kindle (for notes), Goodreader, and Readme if I haven’t been able to add something to my iBook shelf.

iBook Shelf
iBook internal

iBooks iconiBook. Has the nicest landscape mode and is the only app which allows in app purchasing of books. You can also add your own content via iTunes so long as the content is in epub format. Does not allow annotations. App is free.


iBooks has the nicest landscape mode. I really like the dual page mode of the iBook app. The manner in which it displays the bookmark, with the date, is also nice. You can change the color of the highlighter. It has five font families and several font sizes. Brightness can be changed from within the app. iBooks is the only app that allows in app purchasing of books so the store and reading app are self contained.


It’s actually tedious to make a bookmark. Instead of being able to tap in the corner and mark your page or hit a quick button, you actually have to highlight a word to make a bookmark. This requires double tapping the screen and then selecting bookmark. Most other apps have a one tap action to enter a bookmark.

There is no way to take notes even though the iPad has a nice full screen keyboard that would make taking notes within a book a pleasure instead of a hassle as it is with eink devices. In other words, it doesn’t even use its inborn advantages.

You can sort by recently added (bookshelf), author, title. and category. Publishers have very poor metadata and thus you’ll need to be proactive in changing the category of your book in iTunes (Highlight the book and then use “Get Info”) in order to use the category sort.

There is no way to see what book you have read and what books you have not read. There is no rating system nor anyway to see how far you’ve progressed in a novel.

The iBook store has limited content. Liza Daly once referred to it as an airport bookstore and that is an apt description. I went to purchase more children’s content akin to the Winnie the Pooh and the illustrated Winnie the Pooh. Unfortunately, iBook store is terribly limited. Unless you know your exact title, borwsing will be a huge pain in the ass.

Even then, it’s missing major romance publishers making the iBookstore a real detriment to using the iBooks App.

Kindle Shelf
Kindle internal

Kindle AppKindle App. This is the only reading app that allows you to take annotations or notes. It also allows synching across devices. New content can be purchased via the Amazon store but not within the app itself. You cannot add old content or content purchased at other vendors unless you own a Kindle reader. App is free.

Pros: You can take notes in this app. It is the only reading app that allows for notes. Further, the notes that you take are synced from device to device. I’ve never appreciated that more since I’ve gotten the iPad. You can navigate by “Recent/Title/Author.” The books can be seen in full and thumbnail form.

Within the App you can change the background from White/Black/Sepia. You are given five font choices. You can change the brightness from within the app itself.

Bookmarking is achieved by tapping in the upper right hand corner or by tapping the plus button on the bottom. You can see the percentage of progress in the book (4% or so)

Cons: Unless you have a Kindle, you cannot send yourself books so you are limited to the Amazon Kindle store content and any previously purchased content can’t be read using the Kindle App. You have to use the browser to go to the Amazon store to purchase books. There is no Amazon optimized site for the iPad. You cannot tell which books you have read and which you have not. There is no way to discern how far into a book you are from the bookshelf view.

Kobo Shelf
Kobo internal

Kobo AppKobo App. Nice interface but limited by way of content. Not all content you purchase can be viewed in the App (and I couldn’t read them using Safari web app either). There is no way to add old content or content purchased at other ebookstores. App is free.

Pros: Kobo has a nice and elegant interface. The App allows you to view the books you are currently reading and it also tells you how far along within the book you are based on percentage.

You can browse by Author, Title, and Recently Read.

Within the App, you can change the font itself and the font size. There are about 9 font sizes. You can change the brightness and switch to night reading which is white text on a black background. Bookmarking is achieved by tapping the upper right corner or the bookmark icon in the lower left bar. You can change the page transition style from None to Page Flip, Fade or Curl. The bottom bar also tells you how many pages you have left in the chapter. I.e., Chapter three–17 of 27.

Cons: You cannot add annotations. There is no way to add your own content. Some purchased content is not available for in the App reading (like almost all my Harlequin purchases). There is no home button requiring you to hit the “back” button several times before you get to your bookshelf. You have to use safari to purchase books.

Bookshelf Shelf
Bookshelf internal

Bookshelf AppBookself LT. Allows you to easily add your own content via iTunes, over the air using Bonjour or via a webserver like feedbooks or your own created calibre cloud catalog. The LT version has an ad at the top but is free. Has autoscrolling. The paid version is $4.99.

Pro: Only app that will read DRM free mobipockets purchased somewhere other than the Kindle store. You are able to download all kinds of content from Feedbooks, Project Gutenberg, and others or your own online catalog. You can also access your Calibre server if you have it running on your computer and are connected to the same wifi connection.

There are almost too many customization options to mention. You can change the font, the font size, the color theme. You can adjust the line spacing (the distance between the lines of text) as well.

Con: While the app itself has many customization features such as background and font combinations, the visual appeal is low. Bookshelf loads one chapter at a time, depending on whether the book has chapter breaks. Like Readme, the app then allows only vertical scrolling. Given the look of the other apps such as Kobo, Kindle and iBooks, the reading interface just is not as nice. It’s functional but the navigation is not near as elegant. It is actually kind of hard to read using the vertical scroll. No bookstore that you can access and download content directly to device.

Readme Shelf
Readme internal

ReadmeReadMe. Easy access to online catalogs including your own calibre generated cloud catalog. No bookstore access & thus new books cannot be purchased and added without computer access. App is $1.99.

Pros: The biggest pro for ReadMe is the access it gives you to cloud based content. You can add your own content via uploading it to your own cloud or by accessing a local wifi server. I wasn’t able to get the local wifi server working. You cannot use iTunes to add content.

The visual aspect of the book is highly customizable. You can choose any background color, font color, font or font size. There are day mode and night mode presets if you don’t want to mess around with making up your own color combinations.

Bookmarking is achieved by clicking the + sign on the bottom bar. The night mode is easily accessed by depressing the huge moon/star icon in the middle of the bottom bar. You can also lock the rotation of the device from within the app.

Cons: You are allowed to either scroll through a whole chapter vertically or suffer an irritating page animation in order to page through the book one page at a time. I find the app almost unuseable because of this. There is no way to add annotations and no way to download recently purchased content. You will need to have interface with a computer at some point to read new content.

Goodreader Shelf
Goodreader internal

GoodReaderGoodReader. Great for reading PDFs, Word Docs, and other supported formats but does not allow interactivity. You can add content a multiple of ways including accessing the attachments in your email box. Does not read ePubs.

Pros: Multiple ways to add content. Reads PDFs perfectly. Allows you to sort your content into folders. You can email from within the app itself.

There are several PDF readers in the App store but Goodreader is one of the most inexpensive ($.99). The strength of Goodreader is the multiple ways you can add content to your bookshelf. You can edit text documents.

Cons: No annotations. It views but does not allow editing of documents, particularly Word nor does it allow syncing of documents. I.e., if you make bookmarks in one PDF, it can’t sync to the original.

It does not read ePub.

Additional Notes: According to a poster at mobileread, Fictionwise has no plans to update the eReader app. The BN App has not yet been approved by Apple. I suspect that it has something to do with BN trying to implement an in app buying feature.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. ShellBell
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 04:49:56

    I use txtr on my iPhone for my DRM and non-DRM ePub books and I upload to the txtr website and then download to my iPhone. I use Stanza for my DRM and non-DRM .pdb books – I transfer them using, Calibre and downloads from Fictionwise, BooksonBoard and Diesel eBooks etc.

    There is extremely limited functionality using, only the ability to increase the font size on the iPhone and no editing. When you upload the ePubs to you can amend the author and title details before downloading to the iPhone – I like to have the series and number in the series before the title – but at least I can read my DRM ePubs on my iPhone.

    Is there a app for iPad? If so, does it offer more functionality that the iPhone version?

  2. Mike Cane
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 08:54:22

    Great work. Another bit I won’t have to do myself now at all. Keep making my life easier like this, Jane! Ha!

  3. Darlynne
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 09:58:24

    Thanks, as always, for great ereader information, Jane. I’m waiting for the DA headline that proclaims “THIS ONE: One eReader to Rule Them All” before I buy.

  4. Ridley
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 10:13:09

    So sick of hearing about the iPad, it’s not funny.

  5. Ridley
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 10:14:05


    That will never happen. Ever. Technology doesn’t work like that.

  6. Chris Meadows
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 10:51:29

    Just to note, BookShelf can download from a number of free e-book catalogs, and also can download purchases from Baen Webscriptions. Not quite no bookstores, but not any of the major ones.

  7. mlg
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 10:53:49

    I am sorry if this a hijack, but speaking of other devices and technology-do you have any insight about the Norton Ink’s Adam tablet?

  8. Jane
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 12:15:36

    @Mlg the device hasn’t been released yet. I will anxious to take a look once it comes out.

  9. Samantha
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 12:17:28

    The other day Apple released OS 4 for developers and I caught the online commentary, in the next version which the Ipad will get in fall, multitasking will be enabled on core features so this could very well open ibooks up to note taking. It seems this lack of multitasking has been whats been holding up a lot of features that could be implemented.

    I read paper or on my ipod touch, by the time the 2nd or third gen of the ipad comes out more of the web videos will be in html5 and viewable and who knows what else will be around so I’ve planned to wait until then to buy a new device. My now 6 year old desktop needs replacing first since it is my go to computer.

  10. becca
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 12:40:19

    If you’re looking for a specific book to read, do you have to remember which ap reads it? or can you find the book file, click on it, and the appropriate ap opens for it?

  11. Lynn
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 13:28:26

    @Darlynne: I think the Spring Design Alex ereader is getting closer to what at least I am looking for, but not close enough. But if it had been around a few months ago, I would have chosen it over my Nook.

    The companies are releasing them as quickly as they can without being fully featured. For example BN is already coming out with 2 new Nook models sometime this year.

    The iPad, Que, Kindle, and Skiff are just too big for me to haul around and none of them have all the features I want. I like the size of my Nook and am able to put it in my purse and hold it in one hand to read.

    When someone comes up with all the features I want in a small handheld device, I’ll buy it and retire my Nook immediately.

    My advice is just to wait it out about 6 months and see what pops up.

  12. Heidi Cullinan
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 14:11:57

    I agree that Goodreader is the PDF of choice. I tried three, and this one is going to be my one and only from now on.

    I also second the motion for an ability to take notes in the iBook format. Or Goodreader. Man, would it make galleys easier.

    My suspicion is that the iPad is going to be really incredible…three or four generations in. Hopefully lighter as well.

  13. TKF
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 14:55:25

    Sounds like I’ll be clinging to my CyBook for awhile longer . . .

  14. Darlynne
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 15:23:22

    @Ridley: All I meant was that Jane’s extensive research and reporting–taking so many for the team–might one day reveal a solution I like, an ereader (or more) that did most things well with a minimum of fuss. She’s cleared much of the confusion this entire issue has for me. My sister has owned three ereaders so far and I do not want to hop around like that or spend that kind of money.

    Lynn, I’ll take a look at the Spring Design Alex. Thanks.

  15. Perry
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 17:01:28

    Hi, thanks for the comprehensive review. I am still struggling to balance myself between the ooo bright shiny new toy and the functionality of single use v multi use gadgets.

  16. Jane
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 17:05:33

    @Darlynne I actually think the “perfect” device is coming soon with the transreflective LCD screen developed by PixelQi. I am also hoping that someone will develop the near perfect app to match it.

  17. Jane
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 17:06:39

    @Heidi Cullinan I love my iPad but I am kind of disheartened by the lack of quality Apps for it. the iPad is only as strong as the Appstore.

  18. Jane
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 17:07:04

    @becca No, you will have to open the app and look at the library of books that the app is storing.

  19. Jane
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 17:10:26

    @ShellBell No, I have not seen a txtr app for the iPad

  20. MaryK
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 18:23:03

    @Jane: But when?!? :(

    We’ve been hearing about that screen for ages (well, in internet time anyway) but there never seems to be any progression.

  21. Heidi Cullinan
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 18:36:45

    @Jane I’ve noticed a few more apps creeping in lately, but yeah, not many. Also not happy about how many are so expensive.

  22. Mike Orange
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 19:58:48

    “iBooks is the only app that allows in app purchasing of books so the store and reading app are self contained.”

    Thanks to Apple’s closed-device policies, this is sadly true.

    Apple controls it all, from top to bottom. That’s great as long as you like what they decide.

    And no, jailbreaking (which could end up creating a $500 brick) is not a real-world solution.

  23. Vicki
    Apr 18, 2010 @ 22:23:56

    Review says about the Kindle app …

    “There is no way to discern how far into a book you are.”

    This is wrong. The line graphic with this info is even visable in the screen shot included in the above review.

    /signed/ owner of 1st gen Kindle & Ipod Touch64 with the Kindle app

  24. Bill James
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 08:31:35

    Dear Jane,
    I was able to use the browser in ReadMe to purchase and load directly from using “Download from the Web” option – I didn’t try any other sites, but I don’t know why it wouldn’t work also. Perhaps this was updated after your review. It makes it the most versatile for epub for me so far.

    Enjoyed the review!

  25. Jane
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 08:34:04

    Thanks Bill. I wonder if that would be the case for any non drm’d ebook

  26. Jane
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 08:35:18


    I am talking about when you are viewing the bookshelf- you cant tell what you are currently reading or how far in the book you have read. Stanza has this using little icons with gray areas and kobo has it using percentages.

  27. bill James
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 10:23:44

    Tried another drm free epub on and that worked.

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  29. Jane
    Apr 19, 2010 @ 19:36:45

    @bill James: I tried it with Fictionwise and wasn’t able to download files.

  30. Liz Fichera
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 08:38:41

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been trying to figure out which one to buy and this is helpful.

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    Apr 20, 2010 @ 09:02:09

    ah – you are right (those are three little words my wife always likes to hear!).

    I tried it at Fictionwise too, and the mobile version of their site a) was difficult to navigate and b) the download failed. But I do like the ReadMe for the most part. I don’t shop at Fictionwise much anymore.

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  40. anna wharton
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 05:06:51

    Ibook does have a means of knowing how you’re progressing through a novel by single tap that shows the full screen possibilities. Look at the bottom where there are dots and they move along as you go through the chapters, adding too how many pages to the end of either the chapter or overall book. I use my touch for reading and have no issues. Ebooks are easy to delete from here once read and they disappear from the bookshelf.
    What app will actually switch over to reading mode when I can no longer eyeball the text? Say I’m a commuter and have to walk instead of sit. I’d like to switch from where I left off to continue reading.

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