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Best Free eBook Reader for iOS

 
Introduction

Books are timeless treasures and gateways into other worlds. They are designed to captivate, make ideas last forever and can take you on an otherworldly adventure.

Available in the form of paper books or ebooks - the latter as a result of the digital revolution - they contain the same information, but of the two forms, I prefer ebooks because they let me carry around a small library in my hands. I swear, I have about seventy-five to eighty books on my iPad!

But what is the best ebook reader for your iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone or other iOS devices? There are plenty of apps to choose from and it's my pleasure to compare these apps and reveal what I think is the best.

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

KindleThe Kindle reader is another popular app. The user interface is very easy to use. Amazon recently updated the app a day or two ago. Before the update, the background was the silhouette of a small boy sitting at the foot of a tree reading a book. It was also slightly animated.

During the day, the sky in the background would be blue; at dusk it would have a sunset with oranges and yellows; and at night it would be dark blue/black with stars and the occasional meteor that would streak through the sky. With the update; however, it's just a dark gray background.

The Kindle app is designed to work with your Amazon account. It supports AWZ, MOBI, PDF, TXT, and ePub book formats.

Opening a book gives you a simple user interface with buttons at the bottom. Like iBooks, you can choose between: White, Black (Night), and Sepia page colors; big or small text; Brightness/Dim control; and you can search for page numbers and words/phrases. There is also a bookmark button on the upper-left.

 

iBooksiBooks is the default reader by Apple. It's a beautiful app that is very user-friendly. Since Apple updated it to iBooks 2.0, it has only gotten better. You can buy books directly from within the application. The interface is a lovely wooden bookcase where your books are neatly lined up.

Right up top is the Store button. When you press the button, the whole bookcase flips and brings you to Apple's BookStore. When you open a book, there are several buttons on the upper left of each page. In the page layout you can control how bright or dim the page is; whether you want big or small letters; and choose between seven fonts. You can also choose a Theme. There is Normal, Sepia, and Night. Normal is the regular white page with black letters. Sepia is a little easier on the eyes, with a cream page and sepia (brown) letters. The last choice, Night, turns the page black with white letters. This is awesome to use at night because is greatly reduces the light shining in your eyes from the screen, but it's also cool to use in the daytime. You can also choose between Full Screen and Regular.

There is a magnifying glass where you can search the book for a certain page or a word/phrase. And finally there is a bookmark symbol to mark the page where you left off. When you close the book and then reopen it, it automatically opens to the bookmarked page, which is very handy.

iBooks is especially nice because it shows the actual page turning when you swipe your finger, giving you the illusion of a real book. However, iBooks only supports ePub, PDF, and books created in iBooks Author, which is iBooks and published as .iba.

 

NookNook is an eBook app by Barnes & Noble. You must have a Barnes & Noble account to use the app. Every user automatically gets five or six free ebooks when they sign in. The books are classics such as: Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, etc.

The layout is very similar to other book apps. When you open a book, there are several buttons on the page. You can control the brightness; text size; select Normal, Night, or Sepia themes; choose different fonts; search for words and page numbers; and make bookmarks.

Unlike iBooks and Kindle, the Nook app lets you control the line spacing; margin size; and whether to turn justification on/off and also publisher's defaults. Justification is the process of making the letters at the right or left edge of a printed page form a straight line. I turned on publisher's defaults, but it only seems to change the shape of the text.

The Nook app supports ePub and PDF formats.

 

Google Play BooksGoogle Play Books, formerly known as Google Books, is similar to Nook. You need a Google account to sign into the app. When you first sign in, you receive three free books. I'm not sure if it's different for everyone or the same, but the books I got were Wuthering Heights, The Three Musketeers, and Treasure Island: all good books in my opinion.

When you open a book, it shows the flip animation like iBooks does, so when you slide your finger the page turns. Called 3D Page Turn, you can switch it on or off. At the bottom it shows your progress, showing you what page you're on and how many pages are in the book.

NB I forgot to mention this, but it does this in the other readers as well.

In Settings, you choose between Day and Night (white and black, respectively); the typeface or font; text size; and line height. You can also choose between Flowing Text and Scanned Pages. This is very cool because when you choose Scanned Pages, it presents the pages as they would be in a paper book, which is something that none of the other apps did. Flowing Text is just the regular eBook view.

Google Play Books support the ePub and PDF formats.

 

Conclusion

All of these apps are very good at what they were designed for: reading eBooks. Personally, my favorites are iBooks and Kindle, but each to his own. The Best Free eBook Reader for iOS in my opinion is Kindle. It offers a great and easy-to-use interface, and the Kindle Store offers more books than iBookstore. A lot of people will use iBooks simply because it comes preloaded into every iDevice. But for those of you who want to make your own choice, I hope this article helped you on your reading journey.

If you have any questions, comments or criticisms leave them below and I'll be happy to answer them.

 
Related Products and Links

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Quick Selection Guide

Kindle
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Great and easy-to-use interface, offers more books than iBookstore.
3.8.1
17.7 MB
Unrestricted freeware
iOS 5.0 or later

Supported formats: AWZ, MOBI, PDF, TXT, and ePub.
v3.8.1 released 18 June, 2013

iBooks
5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
A default reader by Apple, user-friendly and lovely interface, allows buying of books directly within the app.
3.1
43.1 MB
Unrestricted freeware
iOS 5.0 or later

Supported formats: ePub, PDF, and iBooks format iba.
v3.1 released 5 March, 2013

Nook
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Besides common layouts, allows you to control the line spacing, margin size, and whether to turn justification on/off and also publisher defaults - get five or six free classic eBooks when signed in.
Must have a Barnes & Noble account to use the app.
3.4.2
21 MB
iOS 4.3 or later

Supported formats: ePub and PDF.
v3.4.2 released 3 July, 2013

Google Play Books
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Offers a choice of Flowing Text and Scanned Pages; optional 3D Page Turn; and other common features - receive three free books when signed in.
Need a Google account to sign into the app.
1.5.2
13.7 MB
Unrestricted freeware
iOS 5.0 or later

Supported formats: ePub and PDF.
v1.5.2 released 26 June, 2013

 

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Jojo Yee. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

 
Tags

best free ebook reader for Apple iOS, best free mobile e-book reader, top free mobile ebook reader, best free ebook reader for ipad, iphone, ipod, mobile device, free book reader for smart phones

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Comments

by Cinna on 17. December 2013 - 1:17  (112992)

Why are you recommending Stanza as a valid app when it is no longer available in the App Store?

by orrandrew on 19. December 2013 - 22:13  (113048)

My apologies. I first wrote this article earlier about a year ago and it must have been gotten deleted in the meantime, but it has been taken care of.

by Jojo Yee on 17. December 2013 - 1:51  (112993)

Thanks Cinna for your feedback. It's now been removed from the review.

by Walter Eagle on 18. April 2013 - 13:26  (107075)

Could I suggest a close look at the Marvin reader app? http://www.marvinapp.com/ I find it absolutely excellent in every way.
For reading it has freely adjustable fonts, sizes, line spacing, paragraph spacing, margins, text and background colours etc - you can set the appearance of the book exactly as it suits you.
It has facilities for searching, bookmarks, notes, highlighting text. It also has the most incredible "A.I." Artificial Intelligence facility. Marvin will 'read' a book for you and, (to quote the web-site), you can ..
"•Look up characters and other names in the book in Wikipedia or anywhere on the Internet straight from within the app.
•Annotate names in the book and share your research.
•Find out where a name appeared first in the book. This is great if you forgot who a character is and need to quickly look it up.
•Fetch articles about the book and author biographies.
•Learn more about the book. Was it made into a movie, a play, a radio drama?
•Find and attach links to web content such as reviews and videos.
•Build summaries of the book."

If you store your e-books from your PC in Dropbox it will pick them up from there. It also interfaces really well with the best PC-based e-book cataloging program, Calibre.

I had one instance where I required support on it (I couldn't work out what I was doing wrong with some bookmarks), and I found the response from the author to be really prompt (less than an hour on a Saturday morning!), completely relevant and pointed out my error very politely. An absolutely excellent app, free of charge, with great support - what more do you need?

by not an apple fan (not verified) on 19. September 2012 - 17:20  (99469)

thanks for this, I was utterly frustrated that iTunes on my PC would download books from the Apple store but then wouldnt let me read them . . . bizarre

by orrandrew on 20. September 2012 - 23:35  (99528)

Glad to help. You can sync your ebooks on iTunes, but you can't actually read them on it, at least not in any way that I know of. I make do with Adobe Digital Editions. It's free, not as pretty as iTunes or Kindle, but it lets you load your own ebook files into it, instead of downloading/buying books from the cloud.