Everything About eBooks & eReaders, Pt 3: Apple's iPad

One of the nice things about a popular, general purpose, pure tablet is that it can do more than a dedicated eReader. Companies that may have their own hardware eReaders still want to tap the market and embrace potential customers by offering eBook reader apps on a competitor's full-featured tablet. In this installment, I'll look at those offerings on the Apple iPad.

If you're an thinking about getting more into eBooks this holiday season and are considering an Apple iPad or if you just want to know know more about how to read eBooks on your iPad, this chapter is for you. Later in the series, we'll get into magazines and newspapers.

Your First Decision

Out of the box, the iPad doesn't have any apps that allow you to purchase eBooks. So the first decision you'll need to make is how you want to live amidst the various ecosystems, the companies that sell eBooks and provide an eBook reader app for your iPad.

Note that when I say eBook reader app, I'm referring to a software application that can read eBooks. There are also dedicated hardware eReaders like, for example, the Kindle Paperwhite. These eReaders will be discussed in a future article. (For more on terminology, see Part 1.)

If you elect to remain agnostic, that is, you're not tied to any ecosystem and are purposeful in obtaining only non-DRM'd books, then you'll want a general purpose eBook reader app for your iPad. One of those is Bluefire -- an app that has been favorably reviewed here at TMO.

This excellent app is vendor neutral, and its advantage is also a potential liability: it's not provided and supported by a major ecosystem. I bring that up because independent efforts are not always robust and long-lived. For example, Stanza has withered on the vine.

So long as your collection remains DRM-free, however, you can always host your collection on a Mac or PC and move your collection to any new eBook reader app. For now, Bluefire is, I think, the best choice on the iPad for reading DRM-free EPUBs and PDFs if you decide not to use any of the apps below.

Even if you do delve into popular books in one of the ecosystems, books that have DRM, you'll probably want to have one general purpose EPUB reader for non-DRM books. Bluefire is a good choice for that as well.

Competing Ecosystems

While there are many, many opportunities for free books, "DRM-free" living, it's a fact of life that most of the new, popular books, fiction and non-fiction, are only available through one of the major eBook ecosystems: Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, Kobo and Sony.

All of these companies provide free iOS apps, eBook reader apps for the iPad. You can create an account, buy eBooks, store them in the company's cloud and sync them across various supported devices, including an iPad. Here's a quick reference list for the iPad and links to Apple's App Store. (The advantages and disadvantages of these apps and their ecosystems is a topic for a future chapter in this series.)

Kindle Reader from Amazon.

iBooks from Apple.

Nook from Barnes & Noble.

Play Books from Google.

Kobo from Kobo.

Reader from Sony.

All of these eBook reader apps do a fair job of managing your library on an iPad and presenting eBooks to you with various options such as font control, brightness, themes, bookmarks, highlighting, search and so on. There is a Wikipedia entry that has lots of details on these apps.

The seven eBook reader apps mentioned here.


Note that because of the rivalry with Apple's iBooks and the 30 percent cut that Apple wants of eBook purchases, all of these non-Apple eBook reader apps listed above require you to have an account, purchase your books outside of the reader app, archive them in that company's cloud, then access them with the eBook reader app on the iPad. In general, you'll make those purchases with a web browser, and you can even do that with Safari on the iPad.

As you can see, the iPad and its iOS siblings are capable eBook reading devices, with numerous eBook reader apps. You can pick and chose from just one or have access to many ecosystems you want to live in -- or none at all. As a result, the iPad is a very powerful and flexible device for the eBook lover.

What's essential, of course, is that the various eBook ecosystem companies that supply these eBook reader apps for iOS continue to energetically update their apps and keep up with iOS technology. That's hard work and requires commitment to the customer, technical savvy and, most of all, motivation.

That's important to keep in mind so long as these companies continue to sell their own hardware eReaders and would prefer that you buy their device and live exclusively in their own ecosystem.

Right now, these companies know that it's wise and profitable to make their offerings available via eBook reader apps for iOS (and even some for OS X) but as we know, the politics of the technology world are in constant change. There's no guarantee that all of these eBook reader apps I've described above will be available for all time for Apple's products.

Articles in This Series


November 28: "Everything About eBooks & eReaders, Pt 1: Introduction"

November 29: "Everything About eBooks & eReaders, Pt 2: eBook Types."

December 4: "Everything About eBooks & eReaders, Pt 3: Apple's iPad."

December 12: "Everything About eBooks & eReaders, Pt 4: B&N Nook"

December 18: "Everything About eBooks & eReaders, Pt 5: Google Nexus 10"

December 21: "Everything About eBooks & eReaders, Pt 6: Amazon Kindle Fire HD"


Book icon via Bookle.

iPad & books via Shutterstock.