E-reading has been building up a fine head of steam in the last couple of years, thanks initially to Amazon’s Kindle, and then bolstered by the launch of Sony’s range of e-reader devices.
Now, of course, Apple has entered the fray with its iPad, which is providing book lovers with another electronic alternative. There’s already a number of high-quality book apps available for it: here’s our pick of ten you should try.
Well, this is an obvious one really. It’s Apple’s e-books app that combines a store and reader software. Launching alongside the iPad, it’s got a growing catalogue of free and paid e-books to choose from, with its key advantage being the way you pay through your iTunes Store account in a couple of taps. Free samples, the ability to read PDFs, and a nifty page-turning effect add to its appeal. You can also sync your current page and bookmarks with the iPhone version of the app.
Amazon isn’t leaving iPad e-reading to Apple: it’s released a version of its Kindle Reader app for the device too. Its big selling point is the size of Amazon’s e-book catalogue: it’s bigger than iBooks with 600,000 available to download. You’ll need a US Amazon account to buy, though. It syncs your current page, bookmarks, notes and highlights across other Kindle apps and devices. Meanwhile, the latest version of the app supports e-books with audio and video, although only a few are available so far.
Alice for the iPad (right)
What’s really exciting about iPad e-reading is when books become apps, with animation, sound, interactivity and even video built in. One of the first hints at the potential for book-apps was Alice for the iPad, which presents Alice in Wonderland with a host of bells and whistles. You can fling jam tarts around the screen, ping Alice up and down as she grows, and watch the Cheshire Cat disappear. It’s got 20 animated scenes in all, with a beautiful design wrapped around them.
Toy Story 3 Read-Along
It’s unsurprising that many of the first iPad book-apps have been designed for kids. Joining Alice on the App Store is Toy Story 3, a ‘read-along’ book from Disney/Pixar. It reads the story – based on the new film – aloud, but you can also record your own voice and your child’s as the narration too. There are 3D fully-zoomable visuals along the way – glasses are required – as well as games and interactivity. A treat for Disney fans.
The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Seuss
Developer Oceanhouse Media has been bringing a succession of classic Dr Seuss books to iPad, and where better to start than The Cat in the Hat? It also reads the story out to your children, while highlighting individual words as they’re read. It’s all based on the original artwork from the book, which has been enlarged to suit the iPad’s screen. Also, this app is ‘universal’, meaning you can have it on your iPhone too, for those moments when child-distraction is required, and your tablet isn’t to hand.
The Elements: for UK & Ireland (right)
Looking for a more adult e-reading experience? No, not in that way. The Elements was another launch app for iPad that’s attracted plaudits. It serves up the Periodic Table, with rotating sample objects for each element, and a host of information. It also uses the highbrow Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine to offer facts and stats about each element and object. There’s even a 3D mode, although as with Toy Story, you’ll need the correct glasses. If you struggled with Chemistry at school, give this app a go – it’s superbly crafted but also hugely entertaining.
Phaidon Design Classics
Is there a space for glossy coffee-table books aimed at designers on iPad? Seemingly so. Phaidon Design Classics is a collection of 1,000 products designed in the last 200 years, chosen by a panel of experts. Everything from the clothes peg and chopstick through to the work of Philippe Starck, Le Corbusier and Dieter Rams is included, with an extremely whizzy touch interface. Each product has photos, sketches and information about its design and designer. Expensive? Yes, but fascinating, and a great showcase for your iPad’s capabilities.
Another area causing plenty of excitement on the App Store is e-comics, with the big guns of the industry early to launch their own iPad apps. Marvel’s offers hundreds of archive comics to buy and view inside it, including the likes of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America. You can browse the pages in full, or switch to a ‘panel-by-panel’ view for a bit more visual flair. Marvel stores details of all your purchases too, so if and when you upgrade to the next-gen iPad, you’ll be able to re-download your collection. The individual comics tend to cost £1.19 each.
DC Comics (right)
Some things missing from the Marvel app: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Sandman… Those characters/franchises are all published by rival DC Comics, which has its own iPad app. It has a huge catalogue of archive comics to choose from, as well as new releases. Like its rival, it has a choice between reading in full-page mode, or something called ‘Guided View’. And as with Marvel, it backs up your collection so you can access it on other devices too. It’s free, with comics costing £1.19 each via in-app payments.
Guinness World Records: At Your Fingertips LITE
This free app is a taster for the upcoming premium iPad version of the Guinness World Records book. You get nine sample ‘spreads’ focusing on the strangest, craziest, fastest, deadliest, tallest and most expensive world records – more than 140 in total. The app includes photos, charts and timelines as well as video clips and photos. It’s great for browsing, and has certainly whetted our appetite for the full app.
Honorable mentions go to e-book stores like Kobo for iPad and Stanza, as well as to the independent Comics app, which offers a range of e-comics from various publishers.