Welcome to the Mother’s Day roundup of reading, apps, and eBooks. Happy Mother’s Day mom!
The big 3 in eBook readers are all free and universal (they work on all devices): iBooks, the Nook, and the Kindle.
Let’s start with iBooks. It doesn’t come with an iOS device, but it should. It’s the first thing the App Store recommends that you download when you enter it for the first time.
iBooks is a complete eReader that looks as good as a real book. I know it doesn’t smell like a real book or whatever, but in 20 years, “real” libraries will belong to private collectors and the government and will be kept locked up. Whether you like it or not, eBooks are the future of publishing and therefore reading.
I never thought I would be saying those words. I used to be one of the “I like the way books smell” people. I worked in libraries all through college. Then, I got my Nook. And, then the iPad. You start expecting to be able to read and shop for any book, at any time, anywhere.
Okay, I’m done ranting. On with the reviews. One of the great things about an iPad is that it doesn’t matter which store you buy from. You can have any eReader on an iPad.
iBooks allows you so much flexibility in the way that you read and in what you read. Choose from three color options: classic black on white, night reading (the reverse of classic), and septia tone (pictured in the top picture). Pick from 6 fonts and choose the size of the text to further adjust to your tastes and style. Look up words and phrases in an in-app dictionary, highlight text, take notes, and place bookmarks. These things can sync between devices so that you can start reading on your iPad at home and read some more on your iPhone during lunch at work.
Search the iBooks store just the way you search the App Store. Check out featured books, categories of books, even the New York Times Bestselllers list. Purchase books using the same iTunes password you use in the App Store. Get samples of any book for free.
In fact, there are many free books. And, you can add your own ePub books to the mix. Organize everything (including PDFs, because iBooks is also a PDF reader) on beautiful bookshelves. If you have a lot of books, you can search for them (you can also search individual books for words and phrases), and you can organize them into Collections.
Go through books with a tap, or swipe to see the beautiful page turn animation. Swipe left or right on your bookshelf to see all of your Collections of books and PDFs. Also, organize your books and samples any way you want on the bookshelves. By title, author, color (joking).
eTextbooks have been added to the U.S. iBooks Store. They are filled with interactive elements like videos, diagrams, photos, and animation. I have yet to see one, but I can’t wait.
Wow, that is a lot of features!
My first eBook affair. I have more eBooks on the Nook than any other eBook reader. As lovely as iBooks is to use, the iBooks Store can sometimes be lacking in what you are looking for or can be overpriced.
Barnes & Noble’s baby has many of the same wonderful iBooks app has. You can look up words using Merriam-Webster’s Pocket Dictionary, highlight sections, and take notes. Jump to any point in the book using the slider at the bottom of the screen. Adjust brightness levels. And, tap or swipe through the book (although, no turning page animation).
In addition, the Nook also has many color themes and settings to make your book look just the way you want (except, it looks less like a “real” book than the iBooks books do). You can even create your own theme with fonts, colors, margins, and type size.
Shop for thousands of free books (among their 2 million books) and samples from any book at Barnes & Noble’s website (which will not, for some reason, embed as a link on the text): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/NOOK-Book-eBook-store/ You can also read many different magazines and newspapers in the Nook app.
The picture above shows the Nook’s library system. It is easy to search, but hard to organize. Also, there last few app updates have been big and have required you to download any book you want to read. Again. And, again. It’s been a pain in the … well, you know.
Other than that, the Nook is a very good eReader. Oh, and if you have kids, check out my Nook for Kids app review later today.
Okay, so I don’t have a Kindle, and I just downloaded the app again so that I could check it out for you (I’m very dedicated :)). I wanted to be honest. I have read that the Kindle app is quite good. It is often rated above the Nook app. And, it certainly is a great device. But, although I buy everything but dog food from Amazon, I have never bought a Kindle book and so haven’t needed the app.
The free book that I downloaded to check into the app looks very nice. The picture above is just how it was when I opened it up. Oh, but I did set it to sepia tone, because too bright of white hurts my eyes. To me, it looks almost identical to the Nook app. The highlighting, note-taking, and in-app dictionary are all here, although you do have to download the dictionary. Many settings for adjusting the size of the font and the like exist. The three color combos in iBooks are all here. You can also search the insides of books for character, phrase, or subject. To navigate through books, just tap on either side of the screen to go in that direction.
That’s about as far as I got. The library would look much like the Nook’s, except that it’s black instead of white. To purchase a Kindle book, just go to your country’s Amazon Store. In the U.S., that is Amazon.com. You can also buy many magazines and newspapers to view in the Kindle app. It by far has the largest collection of books available. More than 1 million books (varies by country) can be had through Amazon. Free samples of books are available.
The Kindle app does sync page position, bookmarks, notes, and highlights across all devices, including your iOS devices. When you register your app on your device, it will give you an email address that allows you to send PDFs and other documents to the device.
One thing I forgot to mention is that all of the devices allow you to jump from the table of contents in a book to the chapter you want to read through links.
For the iPhone
Reading for the iPhone can be just as fun as on the iPad with the following two apps.
Ether for the iPhone is a free app with bite-sized stories. There are thousands of short stories, articles, poems, and serial stories through Ether. Hundreds are available for free. And, most are from contemporary authors. New stories are released every day.
It was nominated for the Mobile Entertainment Award in the Best Mobile Book Company category. Currently, I noticed that the App Store has it at two stars, but that is based on one review. I have found the app to be quite useful and entertaining. All of the stories seen in the picture were free.
Read a blurb and the first page of any story before buying. Make personal collections that are available for offline reading. Add bookmarks and notes to the pages. A white background is the only choice, but pick any color for the text. In addition, adjust the line spacing and margins, and pick size and font of the text.
The icons in the picture above let you share your activity and reading details via social media or email. You can also connect with authors via their websites or social media.
You won’t find any contemporary works in this wonderful little app, but you will find a whole lot of style. Currently, you can have 3D Classic Literature for 99 cents in the U.S. I have seen it available for free.
Apple picked this app for “iTunes Rewind 2010″ as a top 10 Paid Book app in the U.S. and U.K. It has been chosen as “New & Noteworthy,” “What’s Hot,” and is featured in the “Back to School” collection in the U.S./U.K. App Store.
The developers packed a whole lot into a very small space with 3D Classic Literature. The 3D effects are amazing. You have to see them to fully appreciate what I’m talking about. The app uses the world’s first fully 3D eBook engine and features unabridged editions of every book it contains.
The bookshelf to the left gives you a little idea of what I’m talking about. When books open, there is a full animation sequence to it that is jaw-dropping the first time you see it. It’s pretty amazing every time after that.
All of the eReaders work on an iPhone, but 3D Classic Literature really works an iPhone. It has full 3D page turning, which is not even equal to what iBooks does. The movement has to be seen. It really feels like you are turning a page.
As you may have noticed from my reviews, I like fonts. It’s a newspaper editor thing I think. The fonts in 3D Classic Literature are really something to see. I’d have to say that the crispness with which the pages are rendered is better than a real book could ever be.
Auto-bookmarking, atmospheric sounds, navigation buttons or slider (swipe up), and Reading Desk Mode (swipe up twice) round out this remarkable app.
Check out the full list of books in the App Store.
Comic Book Readers
Most comic book readers run on comiXology. I’m reviewing one app that does and one that doesn’t. Both apps are free.
This universal iOS app features the complete IDW digital comic library. With more than 1000 comics, it has some of the most diverse reading to be had in comic books. From TV hits like Doctor Who and True Blood, to game-based titles like Dead Space and Dungeons & Dragons. There’s something for everyone who reads comics among the IDW library. I’m partial to the Doctor obviously. Classics from the 70s, 80s, and 90s are all there too (Danger Girl, GrimJack).
The cool thing about comiXology, which now powers IDW Comics, is that you can choose between full pages and their patented Guided View. This lets you read comics the way that your eye would naturally move through the page. You have the option of not reading this way and reading full page instead, but the type can be too small even on the iPad for that to work with all comics.
I have to have my Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, which means that I have to have Dark Horse Comics.
Luckily, by avoiding comiXology and building their own app, Dark Horse saved me and itself some money along the way. And the patented Guided View? It’s called Panel Zoom in this app :) It works exactly the same way. I’m sure that caused or is causing some not-so-great relationships.
Dark Horse Comics features free digital comics and hundreds of paid titles starting at 99 cents. Buffy Season 8 comics are all on sale for 99 cents each right now! If you watched the show, you will love the continuation of it via comic book. It started a little over a year ago. Season 9 has already started, and Season 8 spawned a new Angel & Faith spin-off.
Don’t like Buffy? Get off my blog.
Kidding, sort of. Other titles include Angel, Conan, Emily the Strange, Joss Whedon’s Fray, The Guild, Serenity, Frank Miller’s Sin City, Star Wars, Terminator, The Umbrella Academy, and many more. More titles are added every week, and yes I did list every Joss Whedon show in that list of titles.
Let’s move on. I said this was a Super Roundup.
Did you know you can check eBooks out from your local library? Did you know your local library probably has eBooks? You do now.
OverDrive hooks up to more than 18,000 pulic, school, and college libraries worldwide and lets you download eBooks and audiobooks directly to your device. This free, universal app lets you borrow books from your library in the same way that you borrow them in person. Use “Get Books” (pictured above) to find and add your library. Browse what your library has online, and check out the books you want. You do need a valid library card.
eBooks (in ePub format) and audio books (in mp3 format) each have a lending period. When the the time is up, the title automatically leaves your app. There’s even a countdown timer built into the app so you know how much time you have left. If you want something that is already checked out, you can add your name to a waiting list. Libraries have to pay for eBooks the same way that they pay for physical books, so there are limited quantities of each title.
One feature you’ll find in OverDrive that isn’t available with physical books is that there are free ePub books that can be yours to keep. This list includes many classic titles that are a little older.
You’ll never need to leave the house again.
iPhone users can download this title, too (click here). Both books go for $1.99 currently.
I chose this title because it is a Vook. What’s a Vook? A combination of video and text that re-tells a classic texts and makes them understandable. Like Cliffs Notes but classier.
This particluar title is pretty self explanatory. You get 16 of Shakespeare’s plays shortened into easy-to-read stories. The stories are accompanied by video that helps you add context to what you are reading when you read Shakespeare.
Other Vooks include titles like Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and America: A Brief History. Just search the App Store for “Vook” to find all of the titles.
This iPad title is really representative of how good stand-alone eBooks can be. This collection of short stories begins with the signature story about a world where colors have left and everything is gray and sad. That is, until a little girl is born with blue eyes. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it is very uplifting.
There are 14 other short stories in this collection and a gallery of artwork at the end.
The great thing about books like this is the ability for them to be original, interactive, and fully immerse you in their world. For instance, in Forgotten Colours, a cat paw print signifies a page with which you can interact. On the page pictured, you can click on the drawings the little girl is making to see bigger pictures of them.
Later today (hopefully), I will look at Nook’s eReader for children and a host of other stand-alone eBooks for kids.
That’s it for me. I hope you enjoyed this Super Roundup of eBooks and readers. Until later …