I’ve got to the point where I now prefer to read books on my iPad rather than the traditional paper versions. Since I don’t have the time to read for several hours at a time like I used to, it’s a lot easier to access e-books on my mobile devices and knock out a chapter or two when I have downtime between work. As an avid reader, however, I like to share and discuss books I’m reading with others.
Slowly we’re beginning to see the integration of social networking within e-book readers. The Amazon Kindle app, for example, allows you to share highlighted passages from Kindle e-books onto your Twitter and Facebook accounts. But a new iPad app called Subtext – the first of its kind – makes book sharing and discussions its main purpose. Maybe not all of your local reading friends have caught the e-reading bug, but thanks to the Internet, Subtext may be able to connect you with others who have.
Instead of opening a new account, Subtext allows you to register using your Google or existing Facebook account. If you purchase e-books say on your Google account, Subtext will access your Google library so that you can download those books within the app.
One of the strengths of Subtext is that you can browse a large variety of books in all sorts of categories, including “extraordinary books” with author and expert notes, fantasy and suspense, great classics, the historian’s shelf, notable nonfiction, “quick and juicy” readers, Subtext staff picks, and unforgettable fiction.
E-books listed in Subtext can be purchased either from Google eBookstore, Kobo, and selections from free classic public domain books through the Project Gutenberg website. Subtext says that in order to download Kobo ebooks (or ePubs) you need to have what’s called an Adobe ID which allows you to download Kobo books to multiple devices including your iPad and Subtext. It’s unfortunate that because they are proprietary formats, Kindle and iBook ebooks can’t be added to your Subtext library.
You can also browse books by ratings and the amount of social activity – i.e. other Subtext users who like or are reading particular books.
Books Sharing & Discussions
The main purpose of Subtext is to share and discuss books with other members. However, in order to build your contact base in Subtext, it seems as if you can only do so by inviting your contacts and friends from your Facebook or e-mail accounts.
Inviting friends from your existing social network is useful if they are iPad users willing to download the app and participate in a particular book discussion. But I would imagine that most connections will be best made with people who are already signed up on Subtext.
Similar to Facebook, all your reader activity is posted to your Subtext Wall, where others can read and respond to your notes and messages about a book you’re reading. So the usefulness of Subtext depends upon how active members are in using the app.
The developers of Subtext, however, may consider integrating with other social networking sites like Twitter and Goodreads in order for members to broaden their connections to potential readers.
Reading In Subtext
The e-reading features of Subtext are similar to what you find in Amazon’s Kindle app. You can enlarge text, change the font style, adjust the brightness of the screen, and do searches within the book itself.
I particularly like how you can access the Table of Contents of a book from the menu bar instead of having to link back to the homepage of an e-book.
However, there are no annotation tools (highlighter, bookmarking) within the Subtext reader except for the ability to add notes. Notes can be published publicly to your Subtext Wall, to your friends only, or private.
You can also publish comments in the form of a question, quiz or poll. Surprisingly, Subtext integrates with Nuance Dictation, which means you can verbally dictate your notes and comments instead of typing them..
Subtext has a lot of promise as a social e-reader, but I think only the most dedicated readers and iPad users will take the time to learn how to use the app. To be most useful as a social, book club, and book forum app, it needs as many members as possible for connecting with people who are reading books you’re interested in.
Let us know what you think of Subtext and other similar apps and websites.