The Sunday Salon: Digital Reading Apps

I find the panic over the rise of digital books overblown. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—until someone invents a ten dollar reading device that won’t electrocute you in the tub, physical books are safe. Yes, the industry is going to go through some growing pains to get used to it, but the music industry and the film industry have already been there and come out more or less fine. But digital reading is here to stay, and I find it immensely useful. I can’t split my focus between two print books, but I can split my focus between one print book and one digital book. With the addition of Iona the iPhone to my herd of electronics and my usual habit of reading digital books while blow-drying my hair, I’ve had plenty of time to think about digital reader apps and which ones are worth one’s time—and the two that I think fits most book bloggers’ needs.

If you use NetGalley at all, you’re familiar with Adobe Digital Editions. It’s is a free desktop app for both Windows and Mac (and includes support for older PowerPC Macs, which I’m quite pleased about). It’s functional enough and the layout is pleasing, but it doesn’t feel like it’s designed for digital books—instead, it’s best when it’s being used to read digital books that are essentially copies of the physical book, as opposed to digital books that solely contain the text and not the layout, like most public domain books. I always hate having to test .epub files in Adobe Digital Editions, because they end up looking… well, amateurish and generally unpleasant to read. But it’s really the only option NetGalley provides, unless you own a Kindle, so I’ll have to live with it.

For everything else, I use the Kindle app, which has the added bonus of being an app for my iPhone as well as an app for my desktop, so my digital reads sync from laptop to phone, which means I always have a book to read. It has meant abandoning Project Gutenberg for the public domain books in the Kindle store so those reads can sync properly, but it’s not really all that different, and Amazon often offers freebies, like Outlander and A Tailor-Made Bride. Very nice. The app itself is clean, pleasant, and unobtrusive—I was delighted to discover it had a full screen mode with a toolbar that fades out unless it’s called into action. It highlights, it takes notes, and, perhaps more importantly, it copies text from any book with attribution, something Adobe Digital Editions doesn’t allow. I also like that all the books you download are kept in the cloud, so to speak, and deleting one off your computer or phone simply archives it. Since I use Kindle to read free public domain books, I don’t often avail myself of this, but for people who purchase a lot of digital books, I’m sure this is useful. Ultimately, I think this is the best reading app I’ve found.

Barnes & Noble offered an absolutely pitiful eReader to Mac users until recently, and I’m not too interested in testing out the NOOK app, since it requires an account with Barnes & Noble. It’s not a huge imposition, of course, but Amazon accounts are more plentiful than those. If you’ve had a good experience with it, let me know! And iBooks was just… well, disappointing. It’s also an eyesore on the iPhone, since it’s so crowded and jumbled, unlike Kindle’s elegant and clean interface. To be totally honest, I might biased against these because they let you change the font of the book you’re reading. Kindle provides a standard font when a font isn’t specified, and there’s no option to change the font on either the iPhone app or the desktop Mac app; I think the physical Kindle might.

So if you’re looking for a digital reading app to integrate with the hardware you already have, I highly recommend Kindle.

It’s been a fairly slow week for me; I managed to get through The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian and I’ve started on Kristen Cashore’s Fire, as well as starting Middlesex in audiobook format. It’s excellent so far, although the music is distracting.

Tor.com is giving away three sets of the Mistborn trilogy until Monday. InkWing Arts is giving away three free t-shirts, which include Sanderson designs, until Monday. Tor/Forge is giving away a bundle of books edited by George R. R. Martin, as well as a random summer reading bundle, until July 19; you must sign up for their newsletter. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!

What digital reading apps do you use and recommend?

5 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Digital Reading Apps

  1. I don’t know if you’re aware, but Gutenberg now offers most of their books in MOBI format, which is (essentially) the format Kindle uses. I find that Gutenberg’s MOBI books are generally better-formatted than the free books in the Kindle store.

      • Oh, I guess I misunderstood what kind of syncing you meant. If you place the same mobi file manually on different Kindle apps I think it’ll sync your last page read (I’m PRETTY sure, but not 100% certain) but, yeah, as you say, it won’t copy a non-Kindle-store mobi book across all your Kindle platforms. I apologize for the misunderstanding thar.

  2. I’m with you on disliking Adobe Digital Edition. So ugly and hard to use. But I”m trying a few netgalley books. Maybe someday I’ll get an erereader. I read on my android phone kindle app. I agree, it’s one of the best apps out there. I won’t use the nook app either. They don’t have enough free classics.

  3. I have a Nook and my husband uses the app on his phone. Since we already had an account it worked out well. I’ve read a bit using his phone and didn’t have a problem with it but I can’t really compare it to the Kindle since we don’t use one.

    I HATE Adobe Digital Editions but had to use it to get some NetGalley books to work. It’s just not functional at all.

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