A while ago I wrote a post about places to find free books for the iPad. In that post, I compared the iPad to designated eReaders and expressed the opinion that it’s not a worthy substitute. Following some comments on the matter I tested the iPad again as a regular vessel for eBooks and was surprised – it does provide quite a good experience.
In my quest I found myself debating which platform I should use for books – Apple’s own iBooks, or Amazon’s Kindle for iPad. True, there are other readers such as Stanza, but for the purposes of this review I will focus on the former two. So which one is better, iBooks or Kindle for iPad?
iBooks is free to download from the app store and is probably one of the first apps one downloads when getting a new iDevice.
This is the basic library view of iBooks. Very graphic and library-like. You really feel like you have books.
Your library can be searched and the search is live, so the results are updated as you type. You can easily sort your books and delete them to customize your library. It’s all very immediate and convenient.
If you want to read, you need books. In iBooks, you can simply access a store from the app itself and download loads of free (and paid) books. You can also download ePub and PDF files and upload them via iTunes or even e-mail them to yourself and open them using iBooks.
Being able to add PDFs is a nice feature (see here how to do it), and you can also sort your library by collection (books, PDFs, whatever else you want).
As for the reading experience, iBooks tries to imitate a real book – “pages” and all. You turn pages by tapping the appropriate side, but you have to endure a turning page animation every time you do so. Page turning is rather responsive, but it tends to be a bit slow when you just load the app.
These are the default settings iBook comes with. I didn’t find this very appealing:
After tweaking it a little bit, I got something I could enjoy reading. You can choose between several fonts, two font sizes, turn Sepia on and off and control the brightness. The menu icons are there unless you tap the page in a specific way to make them go away. Generally, I found myself reading with them there more often than not.
You can easily search within a book (only the one you’re reading) and the results you get are very focused. You don’t get a lot of context with them. You can tap a result to go to that page, and the result will be highlighted.
While reading, you can long tap on any word. You can then copy it, search for it in a dictionary, highlight it, write a note about it or search for it in the book. The highlight looks very real, almost like a real marker!
You can also bookmark pages and then access them by tapping the table of contents button and then looking at bookmarks. You will also see your highlights and notes here.
Kindle For iPad
Kindle for iPad is a free download from the app store. You can use it in addition to a regular Kindle or as a substitute.
The main library is dark and pleasant. It feels very eBookish.
If you want books, you’d need to register the Kindle with a Kindle account. It will then be synchronized and you’ll get all your books.
You can get more books on Amazon, or download .mobi files. The simplest way to upload these is to e-mail them to yourself. From the Kindle app you can also access your archived items and easily download them to your iPad. I couldn’t find a way to search for books in the library.
This is the default reading experience. Minimalistic. I love it. As you can see there are no menu icons in sight (they disappear automatically) and no “pages”. Turn pages by tapping the screen lightly. If you want, you can even cancel the annoying page-turn animation. It’s just a white screen with words.
To make it even better you can play with the settings. You can choose from three types of backgrounds, 6 font sizes and also change the brightness. You can’t change the font, though, so whatever comes, you’re stuck with it.
Searching within a book is easy and quick and you get a full context for every query. Again, tapping a result will take you to the appropriate page.
A long tap on a word will give you the option to highlight it, add a note or share on Twitter or Facebook. You will also get an automatic dictionary definition at the bottom of the page.
I wondered what sharing meant, but when I tried it I got a “Sharing not supported” error message. So when is sharing supported?
If you make a bookmark, highlight or note, you can access them easily by tapping the book icon and going to My Notes & Marks.
One of the best features in Kindle for iPad: you can read white on black. You can also make the font pretty darn big. This means you can easily read at night in bed without having the light on and disturbing whoever’s sharing your bedroom. Awesome! (check out this post to find out how to do this for iBooks).
For getting new books, iBooks has a small advantage – you don’t need an extra account. It’s also slick and easy to use and the library and annotations tools are great. But when it comes to the reading experience, I choose the Kindle hands down. For me, nothing beats the minimalistic feel of seeing nothing but words. And the night reading – the future really is here!
Which do you prefer? Or do you enjoy another reader? Share in the comments!
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