The iPad has a lot of cool features, from playing music and video to immersing users in fantastic gameplay experiences. But sometimes you just want to settle in with a great book. As you may suspect, there are plenty of apps for that, so your choice of the right one (or more) for your needs depends in large part on where your ebooks came from and what features you expect to find in your electronic reading app. Since most of these apps are free, and each vendor offers a selection of free ebooks, feel free to try each of them out for yourself in order to find the perfect one.
Barnes & Noble Nook for iPad (Free, iPhone version also available)
Since I already have a Nook ereading device, I’m partial to the Nook app for the iPad. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a well polished app that includes most of the features that I’m looking for. My favorite aspects of the Nook iPad app are the grid view with large book covers and the prominent search box at the top of the page that can help me find books by author or title. I can sort my books by recent reads, title, author, or my personal rating.
Once I select the book I want to read, the Nook app opens it quickly. In portrait mode I see a single “page” but in portrait view I see two pages side by side — just like a book, and like most of the other ereading apps. The Go To icon on the top left side of the screen is your ticket to do just that: go to the table of contents (where you can tap on a particular chapter), view your notes and highlights (which transfer from device to device and will work between Nook and iPad after the major Nook software update coming this month), or go to a specific bookmark.
The top right corner of the screen is where you’ll find the various settings and controls. The Nook app give you a good amount of control over how you want to see your book, with your choice of eight fonts and give font sizes, justification, and your choice of four different sizes of line spacing. There are color theme options as well, and you can customize those according to your preferences. The settings icon offers brightness control and your choice of four margins, depending on how much text you want to cram onto the page. The magnifying glass is for searches, and the information icon brings up the book synopsis, invites you to rate the book, archive it, remove it from your icon list, or link to Barnes & Noble online with the opportunity to find more books by the same author.
Newly purchased books aren’t pushed directly out to the device as they are with the Kindle; instead the book cover appears in your library and you can tap on it to download the book. I appreciate the space savings; if I’m going on a trip I tend to download two or three just in case I don’t have access to Wife at my destination.
Advancing the page is as easy as swiping your finger across the screen. Tapping on a word brings up a menu with options to highlight, add a note, search the dictionary, or look up the word in either Google or Wikipedia. If a book contains illustrations, the images are included in the text, in color. There is no way to zoom in on those illustrations, which is something that I would like to see added in the next update. I would also like an autoscroll function, so that I could prop my iPad on a desk or table and read without having to touch the screen.
Other than those two points, the Nook app for the iPad is an excellent choice of eBook app and one worth checking out. Obviously it won’t work for you if you already have a lot of Amazon Kindle books, but if you haven’t yet chosen your eBook vendor you should download the free Nook app and grab a free classic or new promotional eBook to go with it.
Bluefire Reader (Free, universal)
If you like to read eBooks from your public library on your iPad, Bluefire Reader is the app for you. Bluefire supports both ePub and Adobe Digital Editions eBooks, as well as Feedbooks and NetGalley, with BooksOnBoard support to be added in a future update. When you first install the app you’ll find that you have a copy of the classic novel Treasure Island as well as the Bluefire Reader User Guide to get you started.
You can sort your library by recent additions, title, or author. While reading a book, pressing the small Aa icon on the lower right side of the screen brings up a menu that allows you to make the text smaller or larger, shrink the line spacing, control the brightness, choose your page turn effect, turn page numbers on or off, or use the night mode. Other options allow you to add your own bookmarks and search for specific words within the book. You can also access the table of contents, which is useful for reference works.
Bluefire Reader certainly isn’t a fancy app, but it gets the job done. It wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice of ereading app, but if you want to read electronic library books on your iPad it’s the only choice I’m aware of at this time.
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