Thursday, September 29, 2011

Which E-Reader App Is The Best?

So… you finally got an iPad?  And you love to read.  With all of the reading apps out there you might be wondering which one is the best?  With everyone throwing their hat in the publishing arena, there is an unlimited universe out there for reading apps.  Well I’m not going to waste time with the scrubs.  Instead I’m going to sell out and stick with the five big boys.  Amazon Kindle App, Barnes & Noble Nook App, Kobo App, iBooks, and Google Books App. 

Reading in itself is pretty simple.  You choose a book, open it, and turn the page.  Can’t really mess that up.  So you would think that when making an app for the iPad, the software nerds would have a pretty easy go of it.  Nope.  It seems that in this world of trying to “one up” the next guy, they have made the simple act of turning a page into an applied science.  With robots that can mimic humans, simulating a turned page shouldn’t be that difficult.  Right?
I’ve had my iPad for about six months now and have used it for pretty much everything.  Although what I use it the most for is reading.  Well that and ‘Words With Friends’ (sn: rubiconreader).  I have purchased a book for each of these apps to see which one I like best.  The results below wouldn’t fly in any boardroom but they are real world results and that will trump any graph or chart created in a lab.

  1. Kindle’ Reading App – My favorite.
With much reluctance I must pick this one as the best.  Setting aside their mafia tactics with publishers, their mafia tactics with their devices, and their mafia tactics with the US government, Amazon has created a pretty flawless reading app.  When you purchase your book from Amazon and sync it to your iPad, the process is fast and painless.  Bookmarking your page is easy and visible.  If there is a webpage in the book it opens within the app and exiting is easy as clicking “done” in the upper right corner.  Flipping through the pages is fast and extremely responsive, and you stay on the same page whether you are in ‘landscape’ or ‘profile’ mode. 

With a tap you can bring up the options and another tap will get rid of them.  You easily change the font size, move to a completely different chapter, check out your notes and bookmarks, switch between white, black, or sepia colors, and easily see how far you are in a book.  I will admit that seeing that I was “x-percentage” done with a book took some getting used to and trying to figure out the “location” algorithm made me teeth hurt.  But that is extremely small potatoes when compared to how perfect this app is.  You can search pretty much anything when reading a book and when you highlight a word it will give the definition and links to ‘Google’ and ‘ Wikipedia’. 

You can share your highlight on ‘FaceBook’ or ‘Twitter’ so others can get just as excited as you about your book.  One other slight issue is that when showing your library, the books aren’t all a uniform size and that makes for a weird look.  But again, small pickles when compared with everything else.  BEST reading app on the (free) market bar none!

  1. Google Books’ App
I’m glad Google has an app for reading because their ‘iriver Story HD’ e-reader is about as ugly as the elephant man and as useless as hooker with no mouth.  One of the things that I like about the Google reading App is that it will let you choose between 8 different fonts from which to read.  Very nice.  I can’t stand reading ‘Arial’ all the time and it is easily the most boring font on the planet. 

The Google reading app isn’t as fast as the Kindle either.  When you click on a book in your library it bring up the title, sits for about half a second then moves on to the book.  Why?  I don’t know and I don’t care for it.  This is definitely one of those “let’s invent something stupid to be different” moves.  It also has this annoying “loading” circle that pops up that I don’t see on my Kindle app.  I could not look up a word or search for that word within the app, nor could I access any of the links within the app.  There are no bookmarks either.  That is strange because I thought that would be a standard item with everyone.  So wherever you stop, that’s where you begin.  The good part is, that even after your turn your iPad off or even hard restart it, you don’t lose your place.  The progress bar at the bottom is pretty straight forward with numbers and no percentages. 

So what this turns out to be is a pure reading app.  No bells, no whistles, no dancing lady to celebrate you finishing a book.  If you want a barebones reading app that is that and that ONLY then this one is for you.  Buying books from Google is simple and they easily sync to your iPad.  You can also support your local bookstore when your purchase Google e-books through their site. 

  1. iBooks
This is the only reading app that you can use to buy books directly from your iPad.  Thanks to the controlling anal retentive boys in Cupertino for that.  This app is very eye pleasing, and the bookshelf is beautiful.  You click the title and the book actually opens so you can start reading.  The pages turn like a book, but it’s still not as fast as the Kindle.  You are able to highlight a word, search using Google and Wikipedia, look up the definition, write notes, and even see how many times a word shows up in the story. 

When you bookmark a page it saves it so that, as long as you don’t un-bookmark it, it will give you a list of all the places you chose to bookmark.  The bookmark itself is small and red.  The other apps have larger ones that stand out a little better.  But I guess with a digital book you don’t really need a large bookmarker since you can just search, click, and go straight to your spot. 

You have a choice of 6 different fonts from which to read and the choice of black, white, or Sepia backgrounds.  The progress bar at the bottom is stoically numerical so you know exactly how far you have to go.  No percentages here.  Purchasing a book is as easy as those commercials with the annoying music make it.  What I really like about this app is the ability to read PDF files.  And how easy it makes it to read PDF files.  Yes, I am very aware that you can read PDF’s on the Kindle but it’s not easy (especially on the Kindle app).  Here I can just drag and drop within iTunes.  I’m like Charlie Sheen; I want it easy and fast.  Having to convert a file doesn’t appeal to me, especially when I don’t have to.  I do a lot of reading and a lot of authors send me books to review.  99% of them send PDF files and being able to drag and drop saves me a ton of time.  Overall a very good multi-use reading app.

  1. Kobo App
I got a bad feeling about this app as soon as I installed it.  Good lord!!  I haven’t seen this many pop-ups since using Internet Explorer with America Online 4.0!  That got annoying REAL FAST!!  I don’t want to join your reading community, I don’t want to connect with my FaceBook friends, and I don’t want to know how to do some stupid mundane thing.  It was REALLY bad y’all!  OK, case in point: I just opened one of the free books (‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker) and at the bottom it asked me “you just started a new book, do you want to share it with your FaceBook friends”?  HELLLLLLL NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Leave me alone geez!!!!  OK, I just turned a page and on the lower left it tells me that I have a new “Faces and Places” feature.  OK, seriously?  I want to read the damn book not your pop-ups. 

That was the main reason this pushed this reading app down on my list.  I don’t want to be harassed when I read.  And yeah, that’s what I sincerely felt like.  Like I was being harassed.  You CAN turn that junk off but it shouldn’t be the default setting.  This app is like the FaceBook of reading apps.  The progress bar at the bottom is strange.  There are actually two, one superimposed on the other.  The darker one is the entire book.  The highlighted pink/Fuchsia is how far you’ve gone in the current chapter.  Interesting.  Swiping the pages is faster than Google, but slower than the Kindle.  You are able to choose between three fonts from which to read as well as the size of text.

Highlighting, notes, dictionary, and sharing are all there as well as a very cool “set status” feature.  If you’re reading a passage and you like it, you can post it to FaceBook.  Now… this reading app has one of the coolest features I have seen on ANY app!  Why the others don’t have something like it is beyond me.  Under the “Reading Life” tab they have something called ‘reading stats’.  THIS is cool!  Here is what it tracks:  hours read, pages turned, total hours reading, hours spent per book, pages per hour, and pages per session.  There are others but those are the “big” ones.  This is really neat because I’ve always wondered how long it takes me to finish a book.  I haven’t been a one-sitting book reader in a long time and I read my books over days.  It’s really interesting to see how those numbers stack up.  That makes this app worth having but not as one of my favorites because of all the exceedingly annoying pop-ups, reminders, and “check this out”.

  1. Barnes & Noble Nook App
Despite what Vanessa Williams sings in that song, this time I save the WORST for last.  What pissed me off about this app is when you go from ‘portrait’ to ‘landscape’ it puts you back on the previous page!  What the hell!?!  Talk about super-ginornmour-spectacularly annoying!!  Who was the geek that missed this?  Just to make sure I’m not making stuff up I tried it again just now.  Yep, it puts you back on the previous page when you switch orientations.  The only time this app would be useful is if you were reading a book while you were dead and stuck in rigor mortis.  This is a serious flaw in this app. 

The Nook app has the usual search, dictionary, and bookmark features.  But that matters for naught because I won’t be reading any books on this app.  I tried to click on the links inside the e-book and they didn’t work with this app.  Since I’m not going to be using this app I won’t waste too much time on it.  Just take my advice and avoid it.

So that is my .02 cents on the best reading app.  I will mention that I also use ‘GoodReader’ from time to time when I want to immediately read a PDF I receive in an e-mail.  It’s actually very good but I wouldn’t use it as my main reading app.  Besides, ‘GoodReader’ is a full functioning app that EVERY iPad user should have. 

I hope this blog was of some help to you.  If you have anything to add, please share.  If you’re reading a good book or know of a good author, PLEASE share that as well.  I’m always looking for something else to read. 

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