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Must Have Apps for your iOS Tablet

DropboxDropbox + Airfile (free)

Despite the security concerns that exist around Dropbox, it is one of the easiest cloud storage programs on the market to use.  You designate a folder on your harddrive as the Dropbox folder and anything you place in there is instantly synced with the cloud. On the road, you can access files (like ebooks) from your dropbox.  The one deficit of the Dropbox app is the inability to sort by date.  Airfile brings you the ability to sort by date so that the newest added files are at the top of a file window.

BluefireePub readers (free except for MegaReader which is $1.99)

There are many ePub readers on the market and all of them are free.  All of the major retailers have their own ePub readers such as Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, and iBooks.  The biggest problem with all these apps is the lack of organization.  iBooks,  Kobo, and Sony have the best organization features but it is important to remember that books bought at Barnes and Noble can ONLY be read on a Nook app.

The retailer apps also require you to have an account with the retailer in order to use the app, even for sideloaded books only.  Sideloaded books are books you buy from another retailer and then load using either Dropbox, Mail, or using iTunes.

There are four main non retailer ePub apps: Marvin, BluefireMegaReader, and ShuBook.  Bluefire is the best of the lot. You can read DRM’ed ePubs and PDFs (so long as they are not purchased at B&N), make collections, and sideload books.  It is fairly customizable.  MegaReader is one of two apps that accesses OPDS libraries or the catalogs created by Calibre, my favorite ebook program of all time.  It is also the one ePub Reader app that will cost you money.  MegaReader is $1.99.  The other ebook reader that you can use with Calibre is ShuBook.  ShuBook is a stripped down reading app.

Kindle AppKindle (free).  If you are a Kindle reader, this is the only reading app you will need.  There are several problems with the Kindle app.  It lacks the ability to organize your books.  You are limited in how to customize the look of the book.

But Kindle has a whispersync which allows you to leave your book on the computer and pick it up at the same spot when you read on your tablet.  Amazon also offers a Personal Document Service. You email yourself a book and Amazon adds it to your “Docs” section. Ebooks mailed to the PDS also enjoy the whispersync features.

Evernote AppEvernote (free).

I use Evernote primarily for synced note taking.  If you write something in an Evernote app on your desktop or via the web browser, it is synced automatically.  But Evernote is more powerful than just a synced notekeeper. You can clip entire web pages.  You can organize recipes, keep lists, clip pictures. It’s like a modern day adult Trapper Keeper. (Link to wiki for an explanation of a Trapper Keeper).


While Scrivener might be the best known writing application, it has one big flaw and that is the inability to sync with your portable devices.  For writers of all stripes from the technical  (which is what I kind of consider my real life work) to non fiction  to fiction, the ability to write anywhere is part of what makes tablet owning worthwhile.

Storyist offers a stripped down version of Scrivener.  You have the ability to organize your writing via index cards and outlines as well as adding comments.  The downside is that you have to pay for the app twice – first for your tablet and second for your desktop.


Mint is a free app that allows you to track your spending, manage your budget, and follow your investments. The downside to this free app is the near constant offering of Mint’s pay for features.


Paper by 53Paper by Fifty Three.

This was Apple’s App of the Year and for artists, it is a really lovely app.  The free version comes with a basic palette of colors and one sketching tool.  In app purchases will bring you a paintbrush, eraser, pencil, and a mixer that allows you to create any color at all.  This is best used with a stylus.  The major drawback for Paper is the lack of zoom. Many users have asked for it but Paper resists.

Screen Shot 2012-12-29 at 1.43.40 PMTweetbot ($2.99)

For the Twitter fans, Tweetbot is the best app out there.  It has so many features and makes great use of the swipe.  Swipe to the right for access to full conversations. Tap and get options for retweeting, favoriting, or sharing a tweet.

Some honorable mentions:

Houzz.  It’s like every house magazine rolled into one free app.
Gmail.  If you are a GMAIL user, the native app is a great replacement for the standard Apple mail app.
Flashlight. I’ve used this app more often than you think including as a booklight for paper books.

Next week Brian will do a round up of his favorite Android Apps.

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. Mari
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 10:33:39

    I thought I’d post this question here, because I am trying to research it elsewhere and getting no luck whatsoever. Are there any Apps I can download on my Nook tablet that will allow me read Epubs or Kindle book? I got a Nook for Christmas and would love to be able to access my entire collection…can’t seem to do it.

  2. Jane
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 10:48:42

    @Mari: You can read all of your ePub books, even ones encrypted through Adobe Digital Editions, on your nook. Either email yourself the book and access using the mail app on your nook or sideload. (

    For Kindle, you can load the Kindle App but this requires a rooting of the Nook.

  3. Brian
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 12:00:05

    Bluefire is the best of the lot. You can read DRM’ed ePubs and PDFs (so long as they are not purchased at B&N)

    Last I checked BlueFire works fine with B&N drm’d ePubs.

  4. Ann Somerville
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 19:00:53

    Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo sang the praises of Paper here:

    But he does mention the single biggest downside (apart from the fact that you have to buy all the really cool stuff which isn’t in the free version) – no way to send multiple page documents, which limits its usefulness as a networking/creative tool. I downloaded it and checked – there isn’t any way to send more than a page at a time, which sucks.

    The interface is less than intuitive too, I found. But if you like freeform note taking, it’s one of the more fun options.

  5. Caffey
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 22:25:32

    This question isbin regards to reading non-kindle books on the kindle fire (KF) which is android. Do you have a post like this but in regards to the android (KF) I’d love to be able to read my other ebooks from small pubs on it. Thanks

  6. Alicia
    Dec 31, 2012 @ 18:16:32

    Flashlight. I’ve used this app more often than you think including as a booklight for paper books.

    I use the same app for the exact same purpose.

  7. Ann Somerville
    Dec 31, 2012 @ 23:36:44


    It’s also damn useful in a powercut – between our iPads and iPods, I may never need candles again.

  8. Wahoo Suze
    Jan 01, 2013 @ 12:35:28

    The latest Scrivener newsletter says a synchable iPad version is coming out in 2013.

  9. MaryK
    Jan 03, 2013 @ 16:44:46

    Evernote is great for recipes. I always lose them when they’re written down. I also use it to clip tidbits about books I’m interested in but later won’t remember the name of. Then I can just search for who recommended it or part of the description.

  10. ShellBell
    Jan 04, 2013 @ 03:17:54

    As far as I am aware Bluefire still has an issue with the number of books you can have loaded in the app (if you like to have all of your eBooks available all of the time) – I think it was less than 400 that could be loaded in Bluefire. Any more than that and the app would continually crash due to a memory issue.

    I utilise Calibre and its various plugins so at this stage I still prefer ShuBook. I currently have over 2500 eBooks loaded in ShuBook. I’m also trialling Marvin, but there is nothing outstanding in Marvin that will make me swap from ShuBook.

  11. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity for a new year
    Jan 04, 2013 @ 10:00:52

    […] Dear Author’s “must-have” iOS tablet apps. […]

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