Review: Barnes & Noble Nook App for iPhone and iPad

The Nook app is a solid addition to iOS e-readers

Woman reading on an iPad

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One of the major benefits of using your iPhone or iPad as your eBook reading platform is that you're not locked into a single app and store, as you are with the Kindle and Nook hardware. While Apple may promote its Books app as the best reading experience on iOS, if you prefer Amazon's Kindle app or Barnes & Noble's Nook app, or want to use all three, you're able to do so.

If you're an iOS user who buys eBooks from Barnes & Noble, using the Nook app makes sense. The Nook app is a solid app that deserves a place on the iOS device of any book lover.

The iOS Nook App at a Glance

What We Like
  • Strong integration with Barnes & Noble's online store.

  • Speedy download of new purchases to the app.

  • Good display customization options.

What We Don't Like
  • No way to buy eBooks directly through the app.

The iOS Nook app is free to download from iTunes to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 9 or later. While you can't buy eBooks from Barnes & Noble's online store directly through the app, purchases completed on the Barnes & Noble’s website will automatically appear on your device.

While it doesn't break any new ground, the Nook app provides a solid reading interface. Text is displayed on the screen; as you finish reading a page, simply swipe to move to the next page. Text, of course, looks especially great on the high-resolution Retina displays offered by the iPhones, iPads, and the iPod touch.

Customization for a Personalized Experience

The Nook app for iOS offers many customization choices to make your reading experience comfortable and enjoyable. Tap the center of the screen to reveal a menu with customization options. Change the book's font size or style, line spacing, margins, page animations, and text justification. Use preset themes, such as Day, Night, or Evening, or create your own background and text color combinations. Save your personal theme for later use.

Lock the screen rotation and adjust brightness settings. (These changes will apply only when you're in the Nook app.) Search inside the book and look up words with the downloadable in-app dictionary.

Add bookmarks, notes, and highlights as you read, and organize your Library with custom stacks of eBooks, magazines, and your own files.

Quote Cards are another nice feature. If you find a particularly moving passage, highlight it, tap Share, and create a Quote Card to share with friends via social media.

The Nook app offers accessibility features for blind and low-vision users leveraging Apple assistive technology, including screen magnification and VoiceOver.

A Major Drawback

As mentioned, the only real downside to the Nook iOS app is that there's no way to purchase books when you're in the app. This is likely because of Apple's App Store rules. If an app allows purchases, they're considered in-app purchases, and Apple takes a percentage of sales. Barnes & Noble likely omitted a purchase feature in the Nook app to prevent Apple from taking a share of its sales and forcing prices up. Amazon made the same decision with its Kindle app.

While purchasing a book while in the app would be nice, the buying process is easy. Go to the Barnes & Noble website, find the book you want, and buy it. The book will then automatically appear on your device.

The Bottom Line

The Nook app isn't perfect. Regardless of the business wisdom behind the decision, excluding the ability to buy books from within the app is a drawback. Beyond that, though, the Nook app offers just about everything a book lover expects from an eBook reader app.

Many users appreciate Barnes and Noble's vast eBook library that includes more than 75,000 free eBooks, daily streams of free book excerpts, magazine articles, reviews, and book news. Since iOS allows you to use multiple eBook apps on one device, there's no reason not to add the Nook app to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

B&N has some unique features, such as a free reading program called Serial Reads. A book is delivered free every month in daily chapters directly to your device, with titles picked by B&N editors across genres.