Every since I purchased my Apple iPad mini (64GB LTE) I have been deciding on what e-book reader to use as my primary app to enjoy books. I’ve had every major version of the Kindle hardware, and have been using my Kindle library for years, so I do have quite a collection build up. However the Apple iOS ecosystem makes it very convenient to explore the iBooks Store and just click and download. Up until now I have stuck with the Kindle app, just for the flexibility of using multiple devices. With the iPad mini though, I could see this unit as my primary reading device going forward. It is thin and light enough, and makes a nearly perfect reading experience.
Amazon Kindle App
The biggest draw is that the Kindle app is on multiple devices. It is on my iMac, my iPads, Macbook Air, in the cloud via a web browser, on my Samsung Galaxy Note II, as well as my library being on my actual Kindle Paperwhite. It is handy to jump to different devices and read when I want. The downside is on iOS devices I have to go to a web based store to look for new books. The store is great and certainly has the most reviews available, but it is more of a chore to jump to a separate store to explore.
Kindle’s Whispersync works great by syncing my books to various devices, with one important drawback: it only syncs the furthest page read. Which means if you accidentally clicked to go to the end of the book, that would be your new sync location. What it should do is move the sync location to wherever you last left it. As for design, the Kindle app is very slick looking, and it is easy to move books quickly down from the cloud. The Kindle app has a nice variety of fonts, and one great one I have gotten used to called Caecilia. It is also on the Kindle hardware versions and it’s a very readable font, clearly designed for e-readers.
Apple iBooks App
The iBooks 3 app shares a lot of the functionality with the Kindle app, but the biggest draw is that it has a built in store. Samples and books can be downloaded with one click, and its great to cruise around and see what is available. They also seem to have book sales on a fairly regular basis, something that is harder to find using the iOS Kindle store iPad web version. Since the iBook store is younger and seemingly does not yet have the traffic of Amazon.com, there are fewer reviews on less popular books, but this should grow over time. The skeuomorphic design of the iBooks 3 app, to make it look like a book, is not really needed and can easily be toggled off. The available font selection is fine but the emphasis seems geared more toward finely crafted as opposed to easily readable. There is a nice variety, and you’re sure to find one you like, but there does not seem to be anything built for e-reading like Kindle’s Caecilia font.
The app syncs great through iCloud, all your books, bookmarks, notes, everything just works and syncs on all your devices. One key feature is that iBooks syncs to wherever you are, not the furthest read page. So you can freely jump around a book, check out the reference section, jump ahead a chapter, and it all keeps up on all your other iOS devices. In this aspect it is much easier to skim around books if needed. You can also create folders and collections easily to group and sort your book collection. With more and more iBooks featuring multimedia (designed with Apple’s iBooks Author), the iBooks store has a rich assortment of dazzling multimedia books that is lacking with Amazon. As for features, the app also lets you switch to scroll mode if you don’t want to flip from page to page.
The verdict I think is still out. Both apps can stand some improvement (like wish list integration) and I may be using them both for a while as I continue to decide. Right now the fonts on the Kindle app keep me going back, but in reality that is pretty much it. The Kindle app also has more levels of font sizes, whereas the iBooks app needs more steps, especially with the iPad mini. The best part of the iBooks app is that it is all self-contained, it is one stop shopping as well as keeping everything perfectly in sync. I see myself switching over to it full time soon, as I do read a lot of books, but I am keeping my Kindle library and app around for now.
UPDATE: I did not mention scrolling in the iBooks 3 review, mainly because I have not used it that much. However I do know other readers who really love the fact that the iBooks 3 app now allows you to switch to a continuous scrolling mode (Amazon currently does not) mainly because it takes away the page numbers and worrying about how much you have left or how much you have advanced. You just scroll and read. Also scrolling is more the default method of reading on tablets. I’ll have to try the new scrolling mode out more in the iBooks 3 app.
Read more on FranklinMcMahon.com: