The e-Reader App Showdown

Amazon, Borders, B&N, and iBooks on iPad Part 1

With several apps to choose from and each with their own e-Bookstores with similar prices, how does one differentiate? What do each have to offer? In this roundup/review series we take a look at the four main reading apps available on the iPad and highlight some of the pros and cons of each. In this part 1, we will take a look at the purchasing experience. In part 2 we will look at the reading experience.

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To prepare for this post, we read at least one book using each app. While using each app extensively we noticed that they have many things in common, like prices, the ability to sample, and tap to the next page, but they do differ in some other significant ways. Two of the critical ways in which the apps differ is in how you purchase a book and in the reading experience itself. In this post we will discuss the difference in the purchasing experience, stay tuned next week for a post on the reading experience.

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Sadly, the only apps with high marks for the least intrusive purchasing systems are Apple iBooks and Borders eBooks. iBooks and eBooks are the only apps in which purchasing is seamless and is all able to be done in app, without pushing you to Safari. These apps are the only one in which the book begins downloading immediately after the purchase while you continue shopping. This functionality has been built into iBooks since day one, but Borders added this in a recent update. Prior to the update Borders pushed purchases into Safari just like B&N and Kindle. iBooks has a slight advantage to Borders in that it also makes buying a samples book easy, as it picks up exactly where you left off in the sample.

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For the other apps, purchasing pushes you to Safari and forces you to re-open the app once the purchase is complete. This is annoying to say the least especially when you are trying to load up with titles in one sitting.
B&N makes getting the book after the app purchase fairly easy as they automatically sync once you re-open the app. The Kindle app will also do this as long as you remember to set the book to go to your iPad during the purchase. We hope that they will improve this with an app update.

What app do you use to read on your iPad?

(Image: Flickr user Svet Ivantchev under license from Creative Commons.)

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