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ibook annotationsWhile I haven’t used every e-reader application on the market, when I can compare four of the major ones, eReader, Nook, Kindle, Stanza, Kobo, and iBooks, I found the latter to be the best software e-reader for navigating and annotating e-books.

For students, writers, and scholars, good annotation tools in an e-reader is essential. The e-book format can be very advantageous for annotating e-books.

For annotating e-books, I now primarily use iBooks for these following reasons.

Pagination

First off, the pagination of the iBook is the closest you will get to the paper format. While the page numbering is not exactly the same as the paper format of the book, a slider at the bottom of the page tells you what page you’re on.

It also tells you how many pages are left in a chapter. This bit of information helps me to to determine if I”˜ll have enough time to finish a chapter before I need to stop and do something else.

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When you drag your finger across the dotted slider, you get to see the chapter number, chapter title, and pages of the book. This is seriously great for navigating pages. I’ll go into this more later.

ibook annotations

Now compare the pagination of the iBooks e-reader to that of the Kindle app (the screenshot below).

annotate ibooks

For some odd reason, the page numbers of a Kindle e-book can run into the thousands, although the actual length of a book may be only a few hundred pages. Its menu slider doesn’t include the pertinent information included in an iBook e-reader.

The Kindle app only tells you the percentage of pages you have read. A percentage number is not very useful especially if you”˜re reading an e-book for study purposes or for book group discussions.

Navigating Pages

One of the most frustrating aspects of e-readers is getting back to a designated page. All e-readers I’ve used do open back to the last page you were on before closing the application. That’s great. But when you’re reading an e-book and decide to “flip” back and forth between pages, it’s often very difficult to get back to a designated page if you don’t make a note of the page number.

You can bookmark the page, but that means you have to open the bookmark menu and then tap on it to get back to a particular page. When you read an e-book for study purposes, you often compare information in different parts of the book. You might also frequently check references as you read. Having a way to quickly return to a designated page can a huge time saver.

Navigating pages is even more frustrating in the Kindle app because if you leave a page, the number of that page may actually change for some reason when navigating away from it.

annotate ibooks

In both the iBooks and Kindle app, there is a Resume button that when tapped takes you back to the last page you were on, but not necessarily the last page you were reading, or a specific page you want to return to. ï»¿I would like to be able to stamp any page and then tap a single visible button to take me back to that page.

Highlights

I believe the iBooks app is the only one that provides multiple color markers for highlighting. iAnnotate, an e-reader app for PDFs, also includes this feature.

annotate ibooks

The default highlight color is yellow, but it can be changed to green, blue, pink, or purple. I assigned a definition to each color to make them more useful.

how to annotate ibooks

One big drawback to changing colors, however, is that it takes three taps to change the color, and then you have to make another three taps to return to say the default yellow marker.

Bookmarks

All e-reader apps include a bookmarking feature, but the iBooks app includes a separate section for bookmarks. I really like this, but compared to the iAnnotation’s app, this feature is seriously underdeveloped.

how to annotate ibooks

First off when you bookmark a page, there’s no way to customize the title of the bookmark. So you end up with a list of bookmarks but no indication of why you bookmarked a particular page. The only information that differentiates the bookmarks is the chapter headings and a stamped date for when you added the bookmark.

In the iAnnotate app, you can type a label for your books and pull them up in a separate viewer from your other annotations.

how to annotate ibooks

In the Kindle app all your highlights, bookmarks, and notes are combined into one section. However, unlike the iBooks app, the viewer for annotations in the Kindle app can be accessed from any page. The bookmarks are differentiated by their page location and the first few lines of the page you bookmarked. This is a little helpful, but not much, because it’s not specific enough about why certain pages were bookmarked.

It shouldn’t be difficult for both the iBooks and Kindle apps to include customized bookmarking.

Notes

Any reader studying the content of e-books will often want write notes, comments, and even simply copy and paste particular passages from the pages of e-books. The iBooks app provides a yellow style sticky notes feature.

Notes can also be color-coded, and they get affixed to the right margin of the page.

You can also tap and pull up your notes in the Bookmarks section of iBooks, which means you don’t have to navigate to a particular page to read your notes.

ibook annotations

As with its bookmarks, the Notes you create in the Kindle app get mixed in with all the other annotations, and you have to tap and navigate to the page to review and read an entire note.

As you can see, there are some very good pros and cons for annotation tools in e-readers, but I think if we communicate to developers what we want to see in future updates, the annotation features can greatly improve.

Let us know if you use annotation tools when reading e-books, and what limitations you would like to see addressed.

  1. kala
    May 16, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Most of the books are still in form, which are scanned with a copier/flat bed scanner, and unfortunately the iBook reader can not deal an annotation with image based .PDFs.
    Any idea what program would do the job and it is free?

  2. Geo
    November 12, 2015 at 4:47 am

    I came here to find out HOW to make annotations in iBooks. I have yet to discover a way to do that with the native iPad iBooks app.

    • Geo
      November 12, 2015 at 4:55 am

      Ok. Just discovered. Select text. Then Note.

  3. Jayme
    January 21, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    I have been using GoodReader for some time and really like it. It will let you customize the headings of your bookmarks and gives you the option to annotate the original copy of the book or make an annotated copy, the first time you save an annotation.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 22, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks, Jayme, for letting us know about GoodReader. I'll check it out.

  4. Bakari
    November 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Good point, Charles. I wrote an article (http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/m... about that Amazon feature. Being able to review my annotations on my account has been very useful, but I just want more features in the Amazon e-reader software. Both the Kindle for the iPad, and iBooks could both use some improvements.

  5. Bakari
    November 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Lol, no, this author really doesn’t have a problem with the glossy LCD screen of the iPad. I read on it all the time, and have never felt put out by it. Also, I’ve never held an Entourage Edge, but from the looks of it, I’m not sure I‘d want. It looks a little bulky. But hey, if it works for you, that’s great.

  6. HardBall
    November 28, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    The best E-reader for annotations and notes is clearly the Entourage Edge. every single one of the functionalities in the article are there, and then some. And there is a Kindle DX sized e-ink screen, that is wacom enabled, for very comfortable reading and annotating. Tablets simply cannot compete with something like that.

    The author of the article clearly does not read on a regular basis, else he would know how painful it is to read on a glossy LCD screen for long periods of time.

    • Bakari
      November 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm

      Lol, no, this author really doesn’t have a problem with the glossy LCD screen of the iPad. I read on it all the time, and have never felt put out by it. Also, I’ve never held an Entourage Edge, but from the looks of it, I’m not sure I‘d want. It looks a little bulky. But hey, if it works for you, that’s great.

  7. HardBall
    November 28, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    The best E-reader for annotations and notes is clearly the Entourage Edge. every single one of the functionalities in the article are there, and then some. And there is a Kindle DX sized e-ink screen, that is wacom enabled, for very comfortable reading and annotating. Tablets simply cannot compete with something like that.

    The author of the article clearly does not read on a regular basis, else he would know how painful it is to read on a glossy LCD screen for long periods of time.

  8. Bama
    November 16, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I am wondering if you can make a note on a pdf file that you are viewing in iBooks. I love the feature for books, but cannot make it work on pdf. Perhap there is another app?

    I am also wondering if you can create multiple bookshelves - perhaps one for fiction and one for nonfiction?

    • Bakari
      November 16, 2010 at 11:23 pm

      Bama, you're right. You can't make annotations with PDFs in iBooks. Nor can you make multiple bookshelves. E-reader software are still developing and thus missing many desired user features.

      As for PDFs, I highly recommend iAnnotate for iPad and iPhone. It's the e-reader application I use the most. I believe it cost $9.99, but it's worth every penny if you regularly read PDFs on your device.

  9. Bakari
    November 17, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Bama, you're right. You can't make annotations with PDFs in iBooks. Nor can you make multiple bookshelves. E-reader software are still developing and thus missing many desired user features.

    As for PDFs, I highly recommend iAnnotate for iPad and iPhone. It's the e-reader application I use the most. I believe it cost $9.99, but it's worth every penny if you regularly read PDFs on your device.

  10. Bama
    November 17, 2010 at 12:07 am

    I am wondering if you can make a note on a pdf file that you are viewing in iBooks. I love the feature for books, but cannot make it work on pdf. Perhap there is another app?

    I am also wondering if you can create multiple bookshelves - perhaps one for fiction and one for nonfiction?

  11. Provenzano
    November 3, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I hate Apple.

  12. Falcao
    November 4, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I hate Apple.

  13. Aibek
    October 28, 2010 at 7:37 am

    I suggest you ask this on MakeUseOf Answers, http://www.makeuseof.com/answe...

  14. Kyith
    October 28, 2010 at 4:41 am

    I wonder if that is a way to sync PDF documents in iPAd or Android tablets after you make annotations. if you have a solution do msg me @ http://www.productiveorganizer.com

  15. Kyith
    October 28, 2010 at 2:41 am

    I wonder if that is a way to sync PDF documents in iPAd or Android tablets after you make annotations. if you have a solution do msg me @ http://www.productiveorganizer.com

    • Aibek
      October 28, 2010 at 5:37 am

      I suggest you ask this on MakeUseOf Answers, http://www.makeuseof.com/answers/

      • Kyith
        October 28, 2010 at 5:44 am

        hi aibek, thanks! i never knew that there is this option!

        • Aibek
          October 28, 2010 at 5:54 am

          you're welcome. I think we need to make the Answers section more prominent.

  16. Bakari
    October 27, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks. I really do think the iPad is much better for PDF reading, especially when using apps like iAnnotate

  17. Vrveerar
    October 27, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Briliant review...really made a lot of things easier to understand for those who are caught between buying a Kindle DX and an Ipad, especially with respect to PDFs.

  18. Charles Willson
    October 27, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    One great feature of the Amazon Kindle App is all annotations are sync'd back to you Kindle account page on Amazon.com. This is very handy for reviewing at any time, from anywhere when you want to see your Cliff Notes.

  19. Charles Willson
    October 27, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    One great feature of the Amazon Kindle App is all annotations are sync'd back to you Kindle account page on Amazon.com. This is very handy for reviewing at any time, from anywhere when you want to see your Cliff Notes.

    • Bakari
      November 28, 2010 at 10:06 pm

      Good point, Charles. I wrote an article (http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/manage-annotations-while-reading-kindle/) about that Amazon feature. Being able to review my annotations on my account has been very useful, but I just want more features in the Amazon e-reader software. Both the Kindle for the iPad, and iBooks could both use some improvements.

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