Beyond movies, TV, and video, there’s another type of entertainment you can enjoy on your iPad. Namely, it’s reading eBooks. The iPad is larger than dedicated eBook devices and eBook-reading-oriented tablets, and the display is, of course, fabulous. If you already own an iPad, why not take even greater advantage of it to do some reading? One app to get in the eReading category is Apple’s free iBooks.
iBooks lets you read eBooks downloaded through Apple’s iBooks store, via iTunes. iBooks can also organize and display books produced in the ePub format, and some books in PDF. In the recently released iBooks 2, Apple now adds textbook support to iBooks.
On the other hand, iBooks will not work with eBooks you’ve gotten from other “eBook stores” such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble (B&N). To buy, manage, and read those, you’ll need either the appropriate iOS app — such as the Kindle or NOOK app — or that store’s own eBook/tablet hardware.
Yet iBooks is a free app. If you’re an iPad owner, why not check it out? To help get you ready, here’s an in-depth look at how you can use iBooks to find, buy, organize, and read eBooks, along with advice around a few hitches you might encounter here and there.
Finding and Buying iBooks
iBooks lets you purchase eBooks through Apple’s iBookstore, which you access through the iBooks app. (You can also purchase eBooks via iTunes; iBooks will automatically display these purchases along with ones obtained directly via iBooks.)
To purchase eBooks from Apple’s iBookstore, you will need an Apple ID, plus an iTunes account. You’ll also need a way to pay for purchases. One option here is to associate a credit card with your iTunes account. Another is to purchase iTunes Gift Cards, which are easily available from just about any convenience/drug store, supermarket, or electronics/”big box” store.
If you know what you are looking for, finding books to buy on iBooks can be quick and straightforward. You can enter a keyword in the “Search” area at the upper right, e.g. “Spider-Man” (which also matches “Spiderman”). When you see a book you’re interested in, or are at least curious about, tapping on it brings you to its listing.
If you decide that you want to browse, any, select “Store” at the upper left of the app. From there, you can make selections at the bottom of the screen from among “Featured, NYTimes Bestsellers, Top Charts (showing top Paid and Free books), Categories, Browse, or Purchased” (which lets you see either “All” your purchases, or “Not on this iPad”).
An iBooks book listing includes title, author, price (or “Free”), and a short description, plus customer ratings and reviews, links to the author, “Tell a friend,” and more.
Tapping on the price starts the purchase process and changes the “Price” icon to “Purchase.” Tapping on Purchase starts the buying process, while also giving you a chance to abort and not complete the transaction.
In addition, most book listings include not only the opportunity to purchase, but also to download a free sample. The last page of “Samples” includes a tap-to-purchase Price icon.
A Few Hitches
On the other hand, iBooks forces you to purchase as you go. There’s no way to “build a cart” or to create a wish list which would allow someone else to “gift” you.
Also, keep in mind that the iBooks Store doesn’t have everything, not even all of the free books readily available elsewhere. For example, the Store has a good selection of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan books — some free, some not free. However, it doesn’t carry “Tarzan At the Earth’s Core,” which you can get as a free eBook from Project Gutenberg.
Furthermore, if you are looking at for-purchase versions of a book, the Store doesn’t automatically let you know whether there are legitimately (i.e., out of copyright) free versions also available. For instance, the store offers the first five books in Burroughs’ Mars series — as “John Carter of Mars” — for $0.99 for the set of five. That might sound like a great price, unless you know that all five are available in eBook form for free — including from within iBooks.
To check the iBooks store for free books, you need to run a search in Books specifically for free books. In addition, you should remember to do a separate web search, checking beyond iBooks.
Once you get the hang of buying via iBooks/iTunes, however, you should have little or no trouble. Odds are that you’ll generally be looking for something specific, rather than just idly browsing, anyway.
iBooks’ “Bookshelf” shows the books you have bought, along with free samples and free books. The book icons will include “New” (meaning recently acquired) or “Sample” banners.
Once you’ve downloaded a dozen or more eBooks, you’ll want to start organizing them. iBooks’ Bookshelf shows the books you have bought, along with free samples and free books. The book icons will include “New” (meaning recently acquired) or “Sample” banners.
It’s an easy process to create a Collection such as “Vacation Reading,” “Homework,” “SciFi,” or “BoringClassics,” for instance. You can then move books among Collections.
You can’t rename a Collection, but you can always create a new one with the name you want, and move everything from one Collection to the new one. Tapping Edit (at the upper right) lets you either move book(s) to another Collection, or delete them (from your iPad).
You can toggle the collection view between Bookshelf (seeing each book’s front cover, on what looks like a bookshelf) and a list, sorted by Bookshelf order as to “Title,” “Author,” or “Categories.”
Annoyingly, however, there’s no way to “See all books.” Once you’ve put a book into a Collection, you can only see it there.
Reading an iBook
Reading your eBook is pretty simple. To start, find the book, either within a Collection, or by searching. In order to do a search, you need to go to the Library “Listings” view. Then from the Library, you tap the three-horizontal-lines icon at the upper right, just to the left of “Edit”. Finally, you enter a keyword in the Search field. (It doesn’t matter here what Collection is showing. Search checks your entire iBooks inventory.)
To actually read the book, you can either flip the pages with simple finger-flicks or move the dot-marker at the bottom of the page. (Tap the page to toggle the dot-marker visible if it isn’t showing.) Alternatively, you can get to somewhere specific in the book either by searching for a word/phrase or page number, going back to the table of contents, or jumping to a bookmark.
Tapping the pages of a book towards the top brings up clickable icons — on the left, “Library” or the book’s control page — where you can select “Contents,” “Bookmarks,” and “Notes.”
When a page is visible, you can change the presentation, via the small-A/large-A icon at the top right of the page. (If the page isn’t visible, you can tap anywhere on the page to reveal it.) This lets you control brightness, font and font size, and “Theme.” You get three choices in terms of Theme: “Regular, “Sepia,” or “Night.” With Night, you get white text against a black background, presumably to be less intrusive to a nearby person who isn’t wearing an eye mask.
On any given page, you can set a Bookmark. You can also highlight text, with a choice of “Define,” “Highlight,” (Enter a) “Note,” or “Search.”
iBooks offers synching features, including The ability to keep your Bookmarks, Notes, and your current page wirelessly in sync between iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. You can also add books that are in ePub book format to iTunes, to synch to other iOS devices.
Or you can simply read — what a concept!
To sum it all up, browsing with the iBooks app can be a bit time consuming. Organizing is OK, although not as flexible or comprehensive as you might like.
Reading is easy, and that’s what you’ll be doing most of, anyway. So — particularly since it’s free — there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t add iBooks to your eBook apps.