Saturday, January 07, 2012

Tech Review – Update on Ipad Reading Apps

Back in 2010 and 2011 I’ve written some initial reviews for ebooks (blog entry link) and Ipad first gen (blog entry link). Since many of the apps and devices have changed, thought it would be a good idea to provide an update.

This list of apps are reviewed based on my own experience with them on my ipad2 (Wifi with 3G capability on AT&T plan, version 5.0.1, with red leather smart cover). Whether or not you’re new to the Ipad/Ipad2 experience, hope you were able to find something interesting on this list.

Reading/Books (ordered by most used and most recommended)
1. Overdrive:
Probably the most used reading related app on my ipad2. Basically it hooks up to libraries’ digital book/audio book collection and works the same way as checking out books. No late fees because the ebooks automatically “return” to the library. The selection is not as large as the physical library but still pretty impressive. You would need your library card # and pin (visit your local library!) to login and you may have to do a one-time setup of the adobe ebook permission thing. Once you figure it out though, it’s a handy app to have for travelling. Just load up your Ipad with a bunch of books when you have WIFI, and then read everything offline.

2. Zite:
I’m kind of obsessed with this aggregator of news. You can subscribe to different categories “world news, business, art, etc” and also by keyword. The easy share function basically means I send a ton of articles to my friends almost daily. Here’s a screenshot of today’s front page and you can see my categories:

3. Various Magazine Ipad versions:
Until I figure out the News Stand/other Magazine services, I’m continuing to use the individual magazine apps. BusinessWeek is the only one that automatically jumped to Ipad2’s News Stand and it reads just fine. Economist app and Time app have different setup/layout but I would say are quite comparable to their print editions. Time use somewhat more interactive functions for certain sections, i.e. pop culture or quotes and charts. Economist keeps pretty true to the stories and the section breakouts (region, business, indices, etc). I don’t think I would need all the interactive stuff there. 

Just so you know, I didn’t order the electronic versions of the magazines on Itunes. I already have the three magazines in print subscription, and you can use the barcode/etc to set up digital subscriptions/Ipad editions for free. Each week I can download the old issues and read them on the ipad. Pretty useful, and you won’t miss an issue if you’re out of town when they deliver the print edition. For now, this is still cheaper than getting rid of print all together.

4. GoodReads: Not an ebook reader but rather an app to keep track of all your books. You may already know the website This is an extension and makes it more mobile. Next time you go to the bookstore and gets inspired, add the books. Unfortunately not a lot of my friends use this, so I’m keeping track of books myself. If all of them read and used this service, you can get ideas by browsing their bookshelves, too. I am happy to report that since I’ve signed up for this website, I’ve read quite a number of books (also helpful to have the library Overdrive app mentioned above.) I would recommend revising the “to-read” list though, otherwise it becomes impossible to decide what book is next.

5. Kindle/Nook: Both Kindle and Nook lost their storefront connection so I have to do an extra step of finding the books on Safari to download them. This is an inconvenience created by Apple (and I suppose that’s only fair, as they’re allowing you to even use Nook/Kindle on the device). As far as display functions, Kindle continues to have quite minimal settings for font/background etc. If you like your kindle, you should just continue using it, as the ipad version is quite different. Nook still has the wide range of font/margin/spacing customization and ability to have many colors as background (even if I don’t see myself wanting hot pink, it’s cool to have it as an option?). Since they’re making the Hunger Games series into movies, I’m going to re-read the series on my Nook app (that’s where I first bought them). I’ve actually never used a Nook device so not sure how the Ipad version compares.

6. iBooks: I’ve only used this for browsing and to download Beatles Yellow Submarine. A cool feature I did find was sheetmusic with enhanced media. Instead of a book with just Star Wars sheet music, the ebook comes with its own audio track (with full orchestra). pretty cool. The downside you can’t make your notations (add these pesky flats/sharps, modifications to a melody, etc).

Other Apps
Fruit Ninja:
I know everyone probably has this game already (even people who don’t like to buy apps has decided this game is worth buying the full version for). I love this game. Beautiful graphics, simple play, fun unlockable items (blades, backgrounds, etc), and replay value. I also like the little things they add in the updates (new fruit and more blades/backgrounds). I wish they had better integrated the Puss in Boots version, though. Both have unique modes and it’s just strange to have complete stand-alones instead of one as an add-on or something. The challenge mode in Puss in Boots would be good for the main game. Maybe for the next update?

I love how I can just share my shutterfly photo albums on the Ipad now. Also do uploading/downloading from the Ipad itself.

Forgotten Colours:
I’m not sure why this book/app doesn’t get more press attention. So well made, a series of stories with gorgeous illustrations and interactive part. They call it children’s book but I think everyone can appreciate good art.

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