Adam Turner April 23, 2012
The Amazon Kindle App.
You don't need a special reader to enjoy e-books if you already own a smartphone or tablet.
IN MANY ways e-book readers are much better than tablets. They're smaller, cheaper, lighter, easier on the eyes and they offer much longer battery life. But if you already own a tablet or smartphone you can use them to read e-books, even if you don't own an e-book reader.
The benefit of owning an e-book reader and other gadgets is that you can switch between them during the day, picking up at the page where you left off. Often you can also annotate books and sync those notes between devices.
Search through the app stores and you'll find a range of e-book apps for most brands of mobile gadget. Some apps come with a wide range of free public domain e-books pre-installed, from the likes of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. You'll find a vast collection of public domain e-books at books.google.com.au, plus Australians can now buy new-release e-books from Google.
It's important to think about which gadgets you want to read on before taking the plunge and buying e-books. One key issue to remember is that you can transfer e-books from the various e-books readers to smartphones and tablets but you can't always transfer them the other way. You can't copy Apple's e-books to an e-book reader or computer - they can only be read on Apple's iOS gadgets, such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
You can transfer Amazon's e-books between a Kindle e-book reader and mobile gadgets but not to other e-book readers. Most other e-book readers support ePub files protected by Adobe's digital rights management.
You can transfer these between mobile gadgets and e-book readers, except Amazon's Kindle. Considering all the restrictions, it's important to do your research and decide which camp you're in before you buy anything.
Today we're looking at e-book apps with access to their own e-book stores but you'll also find third-party apps designed to read books from a range of sources. Bluefire Reader, for Apple and Android, is an impressive app because it's compatible with the Adobe ePub e-books.
Amazon's Kindle is an impressive e-book reader but you'll also find the Kindle app available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry. Along with these you'll find Mac and Windows software along with the Cloud Reader service for reading in a web browser (with the option of offline reading). They can all remember the furthest point you've reached in a book but don't jump there by default when you switch devices. The Kindle app also copies iBooks' slick page turns but this is disabled by default. The biggest frustration is that Amazon disabled in-app book purchases on iGadgets, because Apple wanted 30 per cent of the sale price. The workaround is to visit Amazon in Mobile Safari, purchase a book and push it to the app. amazon.com
iBooks is one of the slickest e-book apps but it's also the most restrictive. Its strength is easy access to the iBookstore, letting you charge books to your iTunes account. Books also look great on the screen, with the page curling as you drag your finger across. You can even see the text showing through on the back of the page in single-page portrait mode, or you can turn the iPad sideways to see two pages at a time. Enable "Sync Bookmarks" in the settings and it will remember your place if you switch to a different iGadget. You can also load unprotected ePub files into iBooks using iTunes when your device is connected to your computer. iBooks' significant drawback is that you can only read books purchased from Apple on Apple's iGadgets. apple.com/au
Kobo produces a slick e-book reader but you'll also find the Kobo app pre-installed on some Android devices. It's also available for iOS, BlackBerry, Mac and Windows. You can't read books in a browser but you can use the Kobo website to download Adobe ePub copies for loading on other e-book readers. Kobo has also stopped selling books through its iOS app but you can use Mobile Safari as a workaround or load unprotected ePub files using iTunes. The Kobo app isn't as elegant as the others and its social-media obsession can be annoying. You have the ability to see what others are reading and their notes. Unfortunately, even if you don't log in to Facebook you're pestered to post details of your "achievements", such as starting to read a new book. kobobooks.com