Kindle for iOS remains a compelling iBooks alternative

Amazon's Kindle for iOS app is the best e-reading option in the App Store.

The iPad is a great device for reading. And there are a variety of apps focused solely on reading ebooks with the device - almost all of which work on the iPhone, too. So how do you judge a reading app? What are the criteria?

For me, I want an app with a pleasant reading experience - in other words, an app that gets out of the way and lets the words on the page shine. I also want an e-reading app to take advantage of the fact that it is an app: It should offer benefits like a built-in dictionary, easy and fast navigation and search, and customisation options. And an ebook app is only as good as the content you put into it, so I want a store with a massive ebook selection, and one that's ideally easy to browse from my iOS devices, too.

Amazon's Kindle app shines on all those fronts. That's why--despite competition from no lesser a giant than Apple--it's still the best e-reading option in the App Store.

In terms of getting out of the way: Tap on a page as you read in the Kindle app, and all the accoutrement--the buttons, the progress bar, the whatnot--vanish. It's just you and the book's text.

But the Kindle app still exploits its app-ness. You can customize its look in a variety of ways: You choose among three different themes (black text on white, white text on black, or dark brown text on a sepia-toned background); a variety of fonts and font sizes; and three different margin widths. There's a built-in brightness control, too.

That said, there are two visual elements I'd like to adjust in the Kindle app, but can't: There's no control for tweaking line spacing (the vertical height between successive rows of text), and there's no option to disable forced justification. (iBooks, for its part, does offer the latter option via the Settings app.)

Tap and hold on a word to see its definition, along with quick links to look up the word (or term) with Google or Wikipedia. Tap and drag to highlight text and add notes.

And book navigation is very quick: Just swipe or tap to turn pages. Search results load fast, and are simple to navigate. And--unlike iBooks--Kindle can often offer real page numbers, too. As you read, you can see not just your "Kindle location," but the analogous page number from the dead-tree edition of your book. That's very helpful for book clubbers and others who want to make sure they're (literally) on the same page as folks reading regular old paper books.

One missing Kindle feature--one that iBooks offers--is an option to see how many pages remain in the current chapter. With each successive update to the Kindle app, I hope that feature will appear. So far, it hasn't.

Because Amazon uses a technology it calls WhisperSync, your current page in a book in the Kindle app is synced to every other Internet-connected Kindle-reading experience you use: The desktop apps for Mac and PC, Kindle apps on other devices, and hardware Kindle e-readers and tablets. (iBooks books can be read exclusively on iOS devices.)

Finally, there's the store. App Store rules prevent Amazon from linking to its store inside the Kindle app, but the iPad-optimized store at amazon.com/ipadkindlestore works great: It's easy to search and easy to browse. And, of course, you can use the regular Amazon website from your computer to find books, and they'll appear within the Kindle app automatically. (Apple prefers you browse the iBookstore via iTunes on your computer, or the iBooks app on your iOS device.)

Amazon's Kindle bookstore selection is huge. Amazon says it has more than 1 million books; By comparison, Apple now says its iBookstore offers more than 1.5 million books. Where once the Kindle store's selection made Apple's offering look paltry, that's no longer the case; the stores--lofty marketing numbers aside--are roughly comparable.

Bottom line

iBooks is very good, too. But the Kindle app shines in many ways, and it works great. If you'd rather avoid iOS lock-in for your ebooks, there are few disappointments to the Kindle app experience.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iPadmobileAppleiosiPhonemobile applicationsamazon.comapp

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lex Friedman

Macworld.com
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?