The iPad is a multifaceted device, but one of the primary functions is ebook reading. Apple has devoted significant resources to ensure ebook reading on the iPad is a pleasant affair. Presented below are a few apps that vie for consumer attention rated for ease of use, depth of content, and overall experience.
iBooks is Apple’s very own ebook reading application and it has quickly risen to the top, on account of the stupendous success the iPad has achieved. This is hardly surprising, considering the app is best integrated for the iPad, which means there is no requirement of any external software to read books. Also, with the iBook Store just a tap or two away, you will never find yourself lacking a good e-book to read.
However, it has also been the subject of some harsh criticism with experts often accusing Apple of having put a heavy emphasis on the looks and feel of the app at the cost of functionality and usability. So while the app looks great and page turns almost look like a real book, users have often complained about the inability to maximize the ebook experience to make the most of available screen space and so on. The inability to remove pagination graphics is another irritant. The iBooks search is another feature that needs to be worked on. Searching by keyword is still not an option and until that happens, searching by title is the only options for users. Categories are too general, which means searching by categories is a headache.
That said, there are several pluses with the iBook application, which can be used to read ePub and PDF files. Books can be obtained not only from the Apple iStore, but also from Project Guntenberg or any of the user’s own ePub or PDF files. Readability is excellent, which is enhanced further with the Retina Display in the new iPad 3. There are no distracting ads or other such things, which is another big plus. Users also have the option to pen down notes for specific passages for research and later reference.
The Bluefire Reader is one of the best independent ebook reading apps for the iPad, with its biggest selling point being that it uses the Adobe Digital Editions DRM platform. What this means is that the Bluefire app can be used to read DRM-protected PDF and ePub ebooks that you might have purchased from independent ebook retailers. This also makes the app perfect for reading ebooks borrowed from public libraries. With this app, the user won’t be tied down to a particular ecosystem.
The Bluefire Reader also offers the usual customization options such as font sizes, line spacing, color schemes, and so on.
Amazon is the pioneer in this field and started this entire trend in the first place. However, with the demographic change that the entire ebook segment has gone through, Amazon has found itself to be in direct competition with Apple. So the best thing Amazon can do is develop a Kindle app for iOS, which will allow iPad users to browse over 1,000,000 ebooks that Amazon hosts.
The app works great and reading a book on it is a pleasant experience. However, there is no way to buy books from within the app. Instead, users will have to buy from Amazon via the Safari browser. Also, as is usually the case, the app is heavily dependent on the Amazon ebook store, but that shouldn’t be a problem for those who have already invested substantially in the Amazon ecosystem.
Barnes & Noble Nook:
The B&N Nook ebook app follows the same principle as the Amazon app, allowing non-Nook users to source their books from the huge B&N store that comprises of more than two million ebooks. What makes the Nook app all the better is that it offers more customization options than other paid content readers. These include different font sizes, font types, colors schemes, or margins. This app is great for providing the best reading experience based on personal preferences. These are in addition to the usual reader app preferences such as notes, highlights, bookmarks, searching within the book, sync last page read, dictionary look-up, and such.
Kobo is the third of the big trio (Amazon and B&N being the other two) that offers an opening to the vast Kobo ebook store via its Kobo app on the iPad. Also, just like the Kindle or Nook apps, the Kobo app is tied to the Kobo ebook store and won’t respond to any other ebooks downloaded from any other source. Kobo also provides the standard amount of customization options that all reader supply.
Google Books is the newest addition to the reader apps available for the iPad and comprises of no less than 3 million ebooks. Apart from providing for a nice reading experience, the Google Book app boasts of some unique qualities, such as VoiceOver support or offline reading. Another interesting feature with Google Books is that many of the volumes from the Google bookstore are actually scanned copies of the actual literature, which means users will get to see the original form of the literature, including the typesetting and illustrations wherever present. On the flip side, users may not get to see the book in its entirety as a page may be shown to be warped depending on how the pages were treated on the scanning device. However, for the more important titles, Google also offers the regular ebook mode that will offer them in proper ebook format. Readers will just have to select ‘Flowing Text’ to enable viewing in ebook format.
Another nice aspect of the Google Book app is the night reading mode, which presents the text in inverted white letters against a black background. The seven different typefaces along with a wide variety of text sizes further enhances the night mode reading experience.
What makes the Google Book app different from the others is its heavy dependence on cloud connectivity. What this means is that none of the free scanned ebooks will be downloaded onto the iPad. Instead, they will be loaded into cloud storage directly from the internet and as a result is very network intensive. This won’t be an ideal situation in those areas that suffer from network issues.
Stanza is another popular ebook reading app that is not tied to any particular store. Interestingly, Amazon is the current owner of it, but has kept the store independent. What adds to the app’s appeal is that it is compliant with a range of ebook formats, including Mobipocket, PalmDoc (DOC), Microsoft LIT, HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word, and Rich Text Format (RTF).
Stanza is also tied to a range of booksellers such as Feedbooks, Random House, Harlequin, Project Gutenberg, Munseys, BookGlutton, Mutopia, and PanMacmillan, from which users can source their ebook requirements. The app also boasts of solid functionality as well as an excellent search utility.