ZDNet’s Jason Perlow has done a thorough job lining up the various e-reading apps available for the iPad and iPhone. His review covers:
- Apple’s iBooks
- Amazon Kindle for iPad
- Barnes and Noble eReader
- Kobo Reader (which is also the Borders eReader and will soon be the Whitcoulls eReader for the iPad)
- Ibis Reader (this is interesting because it’s actually an HTML5 web app rather than a native iPad/iPhone app)
- vBookz (actually a text-to-speech reader app rather than a traditional e-reading app)
Among Perlow’s findings:
- Apple’s iBooks is the flashiest but “of all the reader applications we’ve looked at, it is actually the least functional. Apple designed iBooks to behave and act like a real book, and focused more on the aesthetics and UI than actual App functionality with the initial release.”
- Amazon’s Kindle wins in terms of the size of its 600,000-title ebook store but “from a feature perspective, the Kindle software is pretty weak when compared to its hardware counterpart.”
- Interestingly, it’s the Barnes and Noble eReader that wins the highest plaudits from Perlow. “Of all the paid content readers, by far the best one in existence is probably the Barnes & Noble eReader application.” But it’s probably not so useful outside of the US because of its ties to the very US-focused B&N store.
- Of particular interest in this part of the world is the Kobo which will shortly be released in this part of the world as the Whitcoulls reader app. For Perlow, it stacks up pretty well. “It’s extremely polished and very well-designed,” he says.
- The Ibis Reader is different from the others in being written in HTML5. It reads non-DRM ePub files. “Compared to the other reader apps on this list, the reading features within Ibis Reader are pretty spartan. … However, the interface is very clean and simple to use, and the reading experience is actually pretty good when compared to the native apps.”
- Stanza was the original e-reading app that popularised e-reading on the iPhone. It’s the latest to the iPad party but the result is good according to Perlow. “Stanza is by far the most sophisticated e-Reader application for iPad, as it supports not only the open EPUB format but also the legacy Mobipocket, PalmDoc (DOC), Microsoft LIT formats as well as HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word and Rich Text Format (RTF)…. If you have lots of content that you’ve collected over the years, Stanza is definitely a must-have app. There’s absolutely no downside, it’s free to use and does more than any e-book reader app on this list.”
- vBookz is a US$2.99 text-to-speech reader which works only with public domain ebooks at this stage. Perlow concludes, “vBookz is an extremely interesting and exploitative iPad application, and one which may be good for getting children interested in classic literature and also a useful app for the visually impaired.”
UPDATE: ZDNet has also posted a comparison of ebook reader apps for the Google Android platform. Check it out.
Martin Taylor (@nztaylor) has been involved in the publishing, technology and internet fields for more than 20 years. He operates a digital publishing consultancy and founded the Digital Publishing Forum, an initiative to accelerate the development of digital publishing in New Zealand. In a former life, he published technology and business magazines.