So I’ve had my iPad for a little over a month now. By far the thing that I do the most on it is to read ebooks. In fact that was one of my main motivations of buying the iPad in the first place. In this past month, I’ve read at least 3 whole novels on my iPad and this blog post aims to share my experience of using the iPad as an ebook reader.
Books on the iPad comes in many forms, from PDFs that you read with a PDF reader, to apps that only contain a single book, to library-style apps which allow you to download and manage entire book collections. The reading experience depends a lot on what you use to read the text of the book and my review is based on 2 library style apps – Apple’s iBooks app and Amazon’s Kindle app.
(Click on the images for larger versions)
iBooks vs Kindle
iBooks is a beautifully designed application which makes reading on the iPad a joy. The Kindle app is good enough. Both have some common features:
Automatic sync reading location and bookmarks across all devices that are reading the same book
- Multiple font sizes & colours
- Change screen brightness
- Table of contents & bookmarks
- Highlights & notes
Additional iBook features
- More fonts to choose from
- Much better highlighting and notes feature
- Pretty much a lot better looking
Additional Kindle app features
- You can also read your Kindle books on other Kindle platforms – the Kindle reader itself, as well as PC or Mac, Android and Blackberry phones.
- You can turn off the page flip (I feel that it’s a bit distracting).
I prefer iBooks’ reading experience over Kindle. In iBooks, the line-height and spacing are a lot better, and it has a helpful ‘X pages left in this chapter’ at the bottom of the page. I can’t understand why the Kindle uses a gray background instead of white. If Kindle switches to a white background I would automatically like it twice as much.
Where to Get Books
Unfortunately, getting books into iBooks and Kindle is a bit tricky.
iBooks & iBookstore
iBooks supports ePub and PDF books. ePub files can be copy protected – meaning you can’t email the files to your friends. ePub is also a popular ebook format that is supported by many online book stores. The bad news is that the iPad can only read copy-protected ePub files from the iBookstore. This isn’t Apple’s fault, it’s a feature that publishers require all ebook readers to have.
Luckily, there are places you can find ePub books that are not copy protected. Manybooks is an example of a directory where you can find legal ePub books for free. I’ll let you figure out how to find illegal ePubs on your own 😀
Finally, iBooks also supports PDF. Unfortunately, PDFs don’t enjoy all the same features like a regular ePub. For example, you can’t take notes and resize the text.
If you download ePub or PDF books from the internet, you can easily transfer them to iBooks by importing them into iTunes and syncing with your iPad.
Kindle & Amazon
Being an Amazon product, the Kindle mainly to help Amazon sell paper-less books, and thus Amazon is the main way to get books for the Kindle app. You simply go to Amazon, find the Kindle version of the book and click the ‘Buy now’ button. Next, launch your Kindle and the newly purchased book will download into your iPad. Pretty magical. The other advantage is that the Kindle boasts the largest ebook library in the world.
The Kindle actually also supports other formats like PDF and copy protection-free ePub files. However, you’ll need to email these files to Amazon and pay them to convert it to Kindle format for you. Bummer. I haven’t tried this feature out myself – I’m not about to pay to get my book converted when I can read it in iBooks!
The difficult part is to create an Amazon account that has access to Kindle books. Amazon only has rights to sell ebooks in certain parts of the world, and Malaysia is not on that list. So if you want to use your Kindle, you need to convince Amazon that you are in a country where they can legally sell you ebooks. It’s a pretty complicated process, so I’m glad that I created my Amazon account long ago before these shenanigans. If you want to create an Amazon account today for use with Kindle, you’ll need to do a little research. Here are 2 articles that may be helpful:
- Lowyat forum post: How to use Amazon Kindle 2 in Malaysia, The What, the Where, the Hows
- Michael Yung: Buy Kindle 2 from outside US
Amazon’s Kindle Store beats Apple’s iBookstore hands down in terms of the breadth of the library. The Amazon website offers more browsing and rating features to help me decide which book to buy.
However, in terms of reading experience and the ease of transferring books to the iPad, iBooks comes out on top.
Personally I prefer reading with iBooks. If I can find an ePub or PDF that is not copy-protected I’ll read it in my iBooks. After all, you don’t buy everything you read right? With real books you can borrow from friends. If not, I’ll buy it from Amazon and put up with the bearable reading experience on Kindle. Hopefully the process of creating ePubs will become easier and more and more independent publishers will release their ebooks in ePub format.
I hope this review helped you in your research!