Barnes & Noble Nook App for iPhone and iPad Review

The Nook app is a solid addition to iOS ereaders

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One of the major benefits of using your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch as your platform for reading ebooks 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 iBooks app as the best reading experience on the 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 buy ebooks from Barnes & Noble, its Nook app makes reading them easy. 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

The Good:

  • Strong integration with Barnes & Noble's online store
  • Speedy download of new purchases to the app
  • Good display customization options

The Bad:

  • No way to buy ebooks directly through the app

The Price:

What You'll Need:

  • An iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad 
  • iOS 7 or higher

Reading as You Expect It

When it comes to reading ebooks with the Nook app, Barnes & Noble isn't breaking any new ground—though that's OK. The Nook app is perfectly good for reading.

As you've probably come to expect if you've used any other ebook apps, reading via the Nook app is pretty simple. The text is displayed on the screen and as you finish reading that screen, you swipe to move to the next. While the original Nook app lacked the page-turning animation offered by iBooks, upgrades to the app have since included them. The basic reading experience is good and allows you to concentrate on the text to the exclusion of distractions. Text, of course, looks especially great on the high-resolution Retina displays offered by the iPhones, iPads, and the iPod touch.

Customization Options

If you're not satisfied with the default look of your book, the Nook app offers options for changing it. Tap the center of the screen and a menu with a number of icons drops down to allow customization. You can change the book's font size, the justification of the text, and the background color that you read on. While you can create your own themes—combinations of background and text color, font face and size, you can also choose from supplied themes. If you prefer the one you've created, you can save it for later use.

Other options include adding bookmarks for sections you want to return to, making annotations, locking screen rotation and adjusting screen brightness. While you can control screen brightness as a basic setting of the iOS, this option is particularly nice since it controls screen brightness only when you're in the Nook app, not the overall screen brightness for all apps, which remains unchanged.

A Major Drawback

All things considered, the Nook app is a solid choice for reading. Where it's not so helpful, though, is when it comes to buying books. Unlike iBooks, there's no link in the Nook app to the Barnes & Noble's ebook store, so there's no way to buy books from within the app. Instead, you have to do that at the Barnes & Noble website. The extra steps to the process of getting books is a tad annoying.

That said, it's only partially Barnes & Noble's fault that the Nook app doesn't include a way to buy books. Under Apple's App Store rules, if your app allows users to buy things, those count as in-app purchases, from which Apple takes a 30 percent cut. Barnes & Noble likely omitted a purchase feature in the app to prevent Apple from taking a share of its sales and forcing prices up. Amazon has made the same decision with its Kindle app. The logic behind these decisions certainly makes sense, but it's not a completely frictionless customer experience.

When it comes down to buying books, though, the process is easy. Go to the Barnes & Noble website, find the book you want and buy it. Once you've done that, launching the Nook app reveals that book on the app's home screen. A single tap downloads the book. 

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 these days. Since the iOS allows you to use multiple ebook apps on one device, there's no reason not to add Nook to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch along with Kindle and iBooks.