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As an avid reader of books, I’m finding the experience of reading e-books on the 9.7″ screen of the iPad worth at least half the price of the device, especially after having read about five e-books on the Kindle version for the iPhone.
On the launch day of the iPad, both Apple”˜s e-reader, iBooks. and Amazon”˜s Kindle for the iPad were ready for download. Both readers share similarities that will make avid e-book readers want to use both or similar iPad e-book applications coming online in the next few months.
The purpose of this article is to introduce how to read ebooks on an iPad with free applications, and discuss some of the pros and cons of each.
Both Amazon and Apple allow users to download sample copies of their e-books. My decisions to purchase or not purchase an e-book has many times been influenced by reading a sample copy first.
In terms of the number of e-books available for download, Amazon of course has a much larger stock than Apple. So Apple allowing the Kindle app on its mobile devices is a wise decision.
To browse Amazon e-books, you are linked from the Kindle iPad app to the online Kindle store, whereas with Apple”˜s iBookstore you browse and purchase e-books in the iBook’s application itself. You’re not sent to a separate website. This experience is a little better than with iBookstore, but at this point the limited stock of books in the Apple store will send many customers to Amazon or elsewhere.
Simple reading of e-books in both applications is pretty much the same as well. In both apps you tap on the right and left side of the iPad screen to “turn” pages. Each app includes a little animated feature in which if you “turn a page” slowly it replicates the look of turning a real paper book. This feature is not turned on, I think, by default in the Amazon reader.
You can also change the font style and size of pages as you read, in both readers. Also very useful is the ability to dim the light of the backlit screen, which can be done in both apps. If you need to look up a word in the dictionary, each app has a tool for that.
The most frustrating part of reading in both of these apps is getting lost when you turn too many pages. In iBooks you can move your finger across the bottom of each page to select a page number in a chapter. Also , the bottom-right side of each page tells you how many pages are left in each chapter.
The Kindle reader is similar, but not as practical. The page numbering in the Kindle does not come close to the actual page numbering in the paper version of a book. The numbering can go into the thousands, when the paper version is actually say 296. And it only gives you the percentage of pages read in an e-book.
Both apps also include a table of contents tab, and a tab for getting back to the last page you were on before turning to the contents page.
The large iPad screen makes for comfortable reading in both apps, though some readers may be uncomfortable with the bright back-light of the screen or possible glare when reading outdoors. Other users have complained about the iPad being too difficult to read out in direct sunlight.
If you’re needing to make annotations in the books you read, both apps offer some basic tools in this area. They including highlighting, bookmarking, and in the case of the Kindle, note taking.
With each of these tools you press down on the word where you want to start highlighting and drag your finger across to where you want to end the highlight. In the Kindle app you tap on the upper corner of a page to bookmark it, whereas with iBooks you must use the highlighter tool as a bookmarker. Ironically, the tool is called Bookmark, but what you’re really doing is highlighting.
The highlighting tools work great in both apps, but the iBooks app includes a feature for going back and changing the color (to yellow, green, blue, pink, or purple) of a highlighted passage by simply pressing down on the highlight which will result in a pop-up menu of color selections.
Each app also includes a way to retrieve a list of your annotations.
Where both applications really begin to differ are the unique features they offer. In the Kindle app, you have the preference of reading pages in black with white lettering, which can’t be done in iBooks.
iBooks, on the other hand, has a universal search field where you can type in a keyword and it gives you the results of each page on which the searched word appears. You can also press down on a word and do a search. The search can also includes queries in Google and Wikipedia.
If you are reading a Kindle e-book on more than one device, Amazon has a syncing feature which updates to the furthest you’ve read in a selected book. If you sync between say your iPhone and the desktop version of the Kindle, it will also sync your highlights. But that does not occur if you sync between the iPad and the desktop version. Only the furthest pages read syncs.
Neither reader seem to handle indexes, which I guess is an issue with how e-books are published. There is also not a way to export or print out your annotations from each device; nor is there a way to copy and paste text from either e-books or your annotations. If Apple, Amazon, and other e-book stores are going to attract say students and the academic market, they will need to include these and other advanced features.
I have no preference for one e-reader over the other. I think they both work great, though the iBooks is a tad bit more stylish in its execution, which is mainly a result of Apple building off of Amazon”˜s previous versions of their e-reader app.
I look forward to the growth of these apps. They may not ever stop me from reading paper books, but they certainly are helping to reduce the need for more bookshelf space in my house.
So tell us about your e-book reading. What reader do you use? Have you tried either the Kindle or the iBook app on the iPad? Likes, dislikes?