Apple Books App Review

Photo of two women sitting on a bed, reading on an iPad

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The Good

  • Polished, elegant interface
  • Easy to navigate
  • Supports PDF and other document formats
  • Simple buying process

The Bad

  • Only works on iOS devices

Download at the App Store

The Apple Books app delivers a high-quality ebook-reading and audiobook-listening experience to the iPad and other iOS devices. Since its birth as iBooks through its evolution to Apple Books, the app has gotten better and better. But with the large number of ebook apps available for the iPad and iPhone, the question is: how does Apple Books stack up? 

Want in-depth instructions on how to get books at the Apple Books Store and how to use the app? Check out Using Apple Books and the Apple Books Store.

Apple Books Supports Multiple Filetypes

While there's an ebook store built into the Apple Books app (more on that in a minute), the app is an all-purpose ebook reader. You can read all of the most common types of text files using the app, including ePub and PDF. In fact, almost the only major ebook format that Apple Books can't read is the Kindle format. This flexibility is important, since it gives you a number of options for getting things to read from multiple sources.

Downloading eBooks With the Apple Books App

That said, perhaps the most common place to get books for the Apple Books app is from the Apple Books Store, which is integrated directly into the app. The home screen of the app provides useful recommendations for other books that you may enjoy based on the things you've before in the app in the past. Just tap one of these recommendations to go to that book's page in the store. There, you can read a sample, read reviews, or buy the book. Buying books is easy and uses the credit card on file in your Apple ID.

The Apple Books Store is packed with thousands and thousands of titles from large publishers and small presses alike. You'll never lack for things to read here and you'll be able to find virtually anything you want. Compared to the Kindle store offered by Amazon, though, the Apple Books Store doesn't feel quite as robust. The Kindle store feels like it offers a never-ending supply of free books, indie authors, and deep sales. The Apple Books Store doesn't seem quite so active (though many of those titles at the Kindle store are low quality or scammy, so Apple may be focusing more on quality offerings).

Prices on the latest bestsellers seems to be roughly identical in the Kindle and Apple Books stores. Barring sales, backlist prices are also virtually the same across the board.

The Apple Books Reading Experience

Once you've got a book into the Apple Books app, the ebook reading experience is terrific. The books are displayed in full color, and the page turns are lifelike and smooth with the swipe of a finger. Books can be read in landscape mode. A link at the top takes you to the table of contents, and you can adjust the brightness or text size as well. A keyword search and bookmark is also available from the top navigation bar. You can also sort your books into collections for easy management.

The One Limitation: Backlit Screens

The one major limitation Apple Books faces for reading is that it only runs on iOS devices and they only offer backlit screens. If you're reading indoors, this doesn't matter much and, if you're reading in a dimly lit room, you'll probably actually prefer it. Apple's big, colorful, bright screens make things look great — unless you're reading outside.

When you try to read backlit screens outside, especially in direct sunlight, it can be hard to see the screen. Amazon's line of Kindle devices largely solves this problem by using a totally different technology for the screen, one that doesn't wash out in direct sunlight. Of course, those screens are low resolution and aren't in color, but that's a trade-off you might be happy to make it you do a lot of beach reading.

Want to know more about how the iPad stacks up against other e-readers? Check out What's The Best eReader? iPad vs Kindle vs Nook.

The Bottom Line 

The Apple Books app is definitely worth a download for book lovers. Even if you don’t plan on doing much reading on your iPad or iPhone, you can read samples or catch up on a quick chapter. The ebook selection offered by Amazon’s Kindle app is better, but Apple Books has a more streamlined buying process. Apple Books also has a prettier interface.

What You’ll Need 

The Apple Books app requires iOS 10 or later. It’s compatible with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. There is also a version that runs on some recent versions of the macOS.