Best eReader Apps for iPhone and iPad

Book lovers have many choices for reading eBooks on the iPad and iPhone — too many, really.

Every major (and minor) digital bookseller has an app, plus there are several not attached to a specific store. And, of course, iBooks.

The best eReading apps have comfortable, customizable reading experiences and an easy to use interfaces. There are two contenders for the top spot on iOS: Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Bluefire Reader.

Best Store-Specific eReader App: Nook

Of all the contenders, the Nook app has the best reading experience because it gives users the most customization options. Users can choose different fonts, line spacing, and margins. You can also change the color scheme to minimize eye-strain. Change the background, font, and highlights to a wide range of colors, then save as a theme. Brightness controls are right within the app as well.

Nook - Reading Customization Options

I prefer the magazine reading experience here as well. Instead of just offering text and maybe one picture like the Kindle app, you see the magazine laid out just as it is in the print version. For those who prefer just text, it’s easy to bring up Nook’s ArticleView and read or browse the magazine that way.

Nook - Magazine Two Page Landscape View

Two Page Landscape View

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All the usual eReader functionality is on board — notes, highlights, bookmarks, searching inside a book, sync last page read, dictionary lookup and Barnes & Noble’s LendMe feature. And if you downloaded a book but forgot what it’s about, the synopsis/jacket flap description is available from the library or inside the eBook.

The biggest con for this app is that it doesn’t have some of the functionality the Android version enjoys. First, thanks to Apple, users can no longer purchase books from within the app. You’ll have to visit the store in Safari, log in, make your purchase, then go back to the app and sync. It’s not a big hassle, but less smooth than the experience on Android.

There’s also no MyFiles function which allows users to sideload non-B&N eBooks to the app so you can read everything in one place.

Also Ran:

Google Books — Large selection of public domain books; no bookmark or highlight functionality; unattractive UI; few customization options

Kindle — Good selection; can sync documents; few customization options; ugly magazines

Kobo — Too much emphasis on social sharing; few customization options

iBooks — Opens PDF documents; good library management options; few customization options

Best Independent eReading App: BlueFire Reader

There’s a world of eBooks outside of the big, popular booksellers like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks and the like. For readers who buy outside of traditional stores or just want to read all of their books in one app, Bluefire Reader is the best.

Bluefire Reader - Bookstore Portal Bluefire Reader - Library

Bluefire can read ePub and PDF files with Adobe’s DRM or with no DRM. All the user has to do is authorize the app with a free Adobe ID and sync books either through iTunes or Dropbox to get them in the library. Since the app supports Adobe’s digital rights scheme this is also one of the few apps that can access eBooks on loan from public libraries.

Figuring out the whole DRM shuffle can be confusing. Thankfully, there’s a short but informative User Guide included with the app that walks you through the steps.

Users can also download free eBooks from Feedbooks directly to the app or browse for books from other independent stores.

Bluefire Reader - Reading Customization Options

BlueFire Reader offers a comfortable reading experience and a wide range of customization options, including color themes, line spacing, font choices, and more. Users can create and browse through notes, highlights and bookmarks. eBook info is also available from the library or inside the book.

I wish that Bluefire supported other formats beyond ePub and PDF. Most new books will come in these formats, but .mobi and Reader files are also still popular among longtime eBook lovers.

Also Ran:

Stanza — Once the top pick for anyone looking for a store-independent app, Stanza has lost a lot of fans recently due to an app update. An upgrade for iOS 5 users broke the app’s ability to work on devices running iOS 4 or below. As this problem has been ongoing for over 2 months with little feedback from the developers, I wouldn’t advise using this app even if you are running iOS 5.

  

Comments

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  2. Jesse the K says

    Why did I even do a Google-search across the web before checking whether you’d done a distilled, helpful article like exactly this. THANKS!

    (Is some technically savvy fiddler working on side-loading to Nook, cause I really do like Nook.

  3. Mike Chambers says

    Thanks for your review. I bought iPads for me and my wife for a trip to the UK and France to lighten the load of my wife’s two book a day habit.

    Since then I’ve structured a lot of my work and personal documents as ebooks and use Calibre on my desktop PC and my MackBook Pro as my own document management system.

    This approach tilts the table a lot toward Stanza, as it’s designed for the use of Calibre’s built-in library server.

  4. Brittany says

    I cannot believe you are recommending BlueFire!!! There is no dictionary. It is SLOW–you can’t even turn a freaking page! Bookmarking is ridiculous because it’s non-responsive…you can’t highlight with any precision because it jumps all over the place. This app totally killed my reading experience!! The ONLY reason I have the app is because I bought a book from one of the online catalogues in Stanza thinking I’d be able to read it IN Stanza. Stupid me. The ebook store refused to give me a refund and I thought it woul be silly of me to buy a book twice just for the choice of reader. Never again.

    If you need a non-proprietary reader do some more research on the matter, which I am currently doing myself, but BlueFire is NOT the answer!!!

    • Miguel Domingo-Redondo says

      I cannot believe that you are complaining about the article, saying that you are doing some research and yet not providing any answer.

      you may be right, but definitely you are not helpful.

    • Dave Reynolds says

      I concur. bluefire, even after the iOS 7 upgrade, is an abysmal excuse for a reader. The best of breed, IMHO, is Goodreader. Fast, responsive, and features up the wazoo.

  5. Paul says

    Stanza’s been fixed and works fine, incredibly well in fact. You dissed it without cause! It’s much more full-featured than the Nook app.

    Unlike the Nook app, you can fetch all sorts of books right from within the app itself. You can also turn off ALL page turning animation. You can organize books into categories.

    Of great use, Stanza automatically creates a latest read category. You can also view your books by author, date, your own categories, etc.

    Nook sticks you with its cover page, single list, long list or screenfuls of ebooks. No categorization. Text justification options don’t work either.

    Sorry, while I appreciate the write up, you’ve greatly short-changed Stanza.

    By the way, those who still have the old eReader app, that, too, stands heads and shoulders above the Nook app!

    I’d have to dig up my notes, but BlueFire fell down in various aspects, too.

    • Pete says

      I downloaded Stanza for my new iPad last week and on three occasions pinch zooming a page of an unencrypted PDF the app locked up (except for pinch zooming) and I had to reboot the iPad. Is there a fix out there?

  6. Kryton says

    Stanza was bought by Amazon unfortunately and is being left to die. I find the latest version crashes on my iphone 4 a lot also. Maybe Amazon are actively trying to kill it off…
    For this reason I refuse to switch to the Kindle reader. MegaReader seems to be getting some reasonable reviews, as the developer is trying to incorporate as much Stanza functionality into the app as possible. This might be the next one I check out as the Stanza crashes are starting to annoy me.

  7. Chris says

    This application is a piece of shit. it cannot open the secured PDF’s I want on my android. I have tried for three weeks, and have a technical background, so am no novice, but it simply doesnt work well.

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