Which popular e-book reading app is right for you? We tried them all to find out
No, you don't need a fancy device to read them.
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It seems like everyone these days is reading—and it makes sense. Although there is so much content out there to watch in our free time, for some reason, binging three books feels way more productive than binging a season on Netflix (or maybe this is just me?).
If you’re reading as much as I am right now, you’re probably itching for some new titles. Sure, you could purchase paperback and hardcover copies of books online, but you’ll probably end up waiting a few days or weeks for your order to ship. This is why I am encouraging everyone to embrace e-books in quarantine. Although I love the feel and smell of physical books as much as the next bookworm, e-books are cheaper and take up less physical space, which means you can afford to read more.
Nowadays, you don’t even need to pay for a fancy e-reader to access a digital library. Tons of popular e-readers have developed apps, meaning you can get a similar reading experience on your smartphone or tablet. For a more book-like experience, we recommend reading on a tablet, which offers a bigger page size and bigger fonts. The Apple iPad happens to be the best tablet we’ve ever tested, if you’re in the market for one. However, if you don’t have a tablet and don’t want to spend the money on the one, reading on your smartphone is still a good option.
Before you start ordering e-books, you’ll need to choose a service to read them on. Once you choose one, you’ll be on your way to digitally conquering your to-be-read list. To help you figure out which one is right for you, as an avid bookworm (who's read 11 digital books in quarantine thus far), I tried the four most popular e-book services out there and compared them to one another.
Favorite feature: Kindle Unlimited
Best for: Those who want an e-reader
The Kindle Paperwhite is hands down our favorite e-reader on the market for its incredible interface, portability, and the fact that it's waterproof. But you don’t need to shell out the $150 for one. In fact, you can easily read Kindle books without a Kindle thanks to the Kindle app.
As both a Kindle e-reader and Kindle app user, I can honestly say that the Kindle device is a much better experience, though the app does a good job of providing an enjoyable reading ordeal. Font size too small? The stark white pages too bright? These can all be quickly adjusted, so they don’t put a strain on the eye. Additionally, it’s easy to find need reads based on your recommendation within the app—though many of the books included clearly state they’re available as part of Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s e-book subscription service, which is a bit of an aggressive marking tactic, in my opinion
Kindle Unlimited is also one of the best features that can be accessed via Kindle. It’s not free, but for just $9.99 a month (basically the cost of a Kindle book), you can get access to more than a million different books. It’s an affordable way to tackle your reading list and I’ve found it the best way to crush a book series.
While Amazon’s popular audiobook service, Audible, isn’t directly on the app, you can find Audible companions for the books you already own, which is a nice touch. For avid readers who love to socialize, you can also connect the app to your Goodreads account and it will automatically alert your followers to what you're reading and the process you’ve made on your current book, which is a huge time saver if you use it frequently.
Favorite feature: Series stacking organization
Best for: Bookstore fans
I’ll be honest: I was an OG Nook fan. Barnes and Noble’s e-reader was the first thing to turn me onto e-books. Not having to wait for mom or dad to drive me to the bookstore for my next read? Score! While I use a Kindle now for its superior e-reading technology (and the fact that my Nook’s battery died), I’ll still reread some of the books I purchased via Nook using the Nook App.
The e-books are priced similarly to those on Kindle and if you want an actual e-reading experience, Barnes and Noble sells a few e-readers and tablets. However, I find that the Nook App has a much better interface compared to the e-reader. It allows you to easily change the brightness, font size, and the like, and actually has smooth page turning—a complaint that many users have had about the Nook new GlowTouch e-reader. One thing that really differentiates the Nook from other apps is the book stacking feature, which will groups a series of books together as opposed to finding the by date purchased, author, or date read. This makes it much easier to find and re-read a series.
Plus, the Nook App has a great discover page for new titles, based on your past purchases. You can also get audiobooks with Nook, but you do have to download a separate app for it.
Favorite feature: Oprah’s Book Club collaboration
Best for: Apple lovers
Apple (shockingly) doesn’t have its own e-reader, but they do offer an e-reader app formerly known as iBooks. It’s only available for iOS, but it’s a great choice for Apple lovers and reads great on an iPad. You can only purchase books in the app as opposed to online, but that’s my preferable way to buy e-books anyway. The “Books Store” page has a very "Apple" look to it with a crisp white design and emphasis on top charts, so if you love keeping all your devices and activities within the Apple family, you'll love using it.
The reading experience is comparable to other reading apps: You can easily alter font size, page color, brightness, and more to make your small electronic screen easy on the eyes. Apple has also partnered with Oprah’s Book Club with her picks featured on Apple Books as well as interviews with authors on Apple TV+, which is a great perk and provides an interactive touch.
Apple Books also has a selection of audiobooks on the app—and can even be used with your Apple Watch for a true hands free listening experience.
Google Play Books
Favorite feature: Google app integration
Best for: Android users
Last but not least we have Google Play Books, which is basically the Android equivalent of Apple Books. Formerly Google eBooks, it's Google’s e-book platform that’s available in an app—although there is also a website that makes it easy to read on your computer. Personally, I prefer using it on my phone or a tablet to feel closer to a book reading experience.
Like other reading apps, you can alter the text and color to suit your needs. But what makes this e-reading app actually enjoyable is that it has 3D page flipping animation—a.k.a. it looks like the pages are turning, so it feels closer to a real book.
The biggest perk of this app is that it integrates with Google’s other apps seamlessly. For example, you can quickly Google a word or phrase right in the app, find articles related to the topic, or you can save notes to view later on your Google Drive. This make it one of the best e-book apps for reading textbooks or research papers as it makes it easy to actually take notes that you can view on another device—instead of just in the app.
Prefer audiobooks? You can also access and purchase audiobooks directly on the app.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.