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iPad eBook App Review

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.