Apple iBooks App Review

The Good

  • Polished interface
  • Easy to navigate
  • Simple download process

The Bad

  • Smaller selection than other e-reader apps

Apple launched its iBooks e-reader app (Free) in conjunction with the iPad, but it is now available for the iPhone and iPod touch as well. Given the large number of ebook apps available for the iPhone, the question is, how does iBooks stack up? 

Downloading ebooks with the iBooks app

The iBooks app includes one free book, Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne. To purchase new ebooks, iBooks provides access to an in-app bookstore that includes “tens of thousands” of ebooks, according to Apple. The pricing is a little bit higher than what we’ve seen from other ebook retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Apple’s iBooks store includes many popular books for US$9.99, but most of the books on The New York Times bestseller list cost $12.99. However, we also saw many of these books in Amazon’s Kindle store for the same price, so this may reflect rising prices in general. Like other ebookstores, you can download a free sample to read an excerpt from a book before you buy. 

Downloading new books is easy and the full-color covers show up on a virtual bookshelf under the Library tab. IBooks supports ePub and PDF formats, so you can also use the app to read PDF files on your iPhone - although you’ll have to transfer them to iBooks from the mail app or iTunes, and unfortunately you can’t open links to PDFs from Safari with this app. 

iBooks reading experience

I was largely impressed with the ebook reading experience using the iBooks app. 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, something not available in Amazon's Kindle app, and bookmark is also available from the top navigation bar. 

The app is very easy to navigate, but I did note one minor glitch. The first time I tried to open the free Winnie the Pooh book, I got an error message saying that the resource could not be found. When I restarted the app, it worked fine. When browsing the iBooks store, I would also like to see the books sorted by title, rather than author. There may be a way to change that in settings, but I was never able to figure it out.  

The Bottom Line 

The iBooks iPhone app is definitely worth a download for book lovers. Even if you don’t plan on doing much reading on your iPhone, you can read samples or catch up on a quick chapter. The ebook selection offered by Amazon’s Kindle app is better, but iBooks has a more streamlined download process (the Kindle app launches the mobile Safari browser). IBooks also has a prettier interface, if you care about that sort of thing. Overall rating: 4.5 stars out of 5. 

What You’ll Need 

The iBooks app requires iPhone OS 4 or later. It’s compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch; there is a separate optimized version for the iPad.