Reviewing the new Barnes & Noble iPad app

B&N finally launched its B&N eReader App for iPad. It’s arrived much later than promised (7 weeks and 5 days late to be precise). Let’s take a look.

B&N eReader App – First Impressions

Start off and here are the things that hit you first.

For magazines and newspapers –  

  1. There are 5 font sizes and 4 options for line spacing.  
  2. There are 4 options for margin spacing – Which is pretty useful.

Just the fact that it has magazines and newspapers is a plus – a big advantage over Kindle for iPad.

For books -

  1. There are 5 font sizes, 4 line spacing options, and the ability to turn full justification on or off.
  2. There’s an intriguing option – Use Publisher settings. It seems B&N will begin to push the concept of a Publisher defined ‘optimum ebook layout’.
  3. There are 5 themes – The Printed Page, Night Light (inverted colors for night reading), Earl Grey, Butter Pecan, and Mocha. The last two are pretty hideous. Nothing as pretty as Sepia Theme on Kindle for iPad although The Printed Page theme is pretty good.
  4. You have the option to edit themes though it seems like it’ll take a little time to figure out.
  5. There are lots of Fonts available – Amasis, Century Schoolbook, Georgia, Joanna, Times New Roman, Ascender Sans, Gill Sans, and Trebuchet MS. My favorite is Amasis.
  6. You can set the color for text, the color for the page/background, the color for highlights, and also the color for links. The color selection is actually pretty cool.
  7. After making all these selections (font, font size, line spacing, justification, colors) you can save your settings as a custom theme.

It’s a lot of selections and you’ll probably fall into one of three categories – don’t care, love the flexibility, overwhelmed by the options.

Digging in deeper

Here are some things that become apparent on further inspection -

  1. Newspapers and Magazines work very well.  
  2. The bookmarking is really strange – it’s at the bottom right corner and hard to notice.
  3. There are page numbers. Which stay steady even as you change font size.
  4. The Home Page shows both downloaded books and books that have not been downloaded in one list which is strange. There’s a category for Archived items and if you take a downloaded book you can move it into the Archive. Shouldn’t non downloaded books be in that by default?
  5. It’s hard to get rid of samples.
  6. There are two main views – a book at a time view (with an optional list overlay that lists all books), and a general ‘book covers’ view.
  7. Books that can be Lent are clearly indicated.
  8. To buy books you have to go to the iPad’s Safari browser. Understandable as in-app purchases would mean Apple gets 30%.
  9. Changing Orientation is a little strange.

The Archive works in a very strange way. It’s basically just a different folder. Whereas on the Kindle the Archive means that your book is archived in the Amazon Cloud and will have to be re-downloaded, on B&N’s eReader App the Archive is the equivalent of a ‘Books I’ve Read’ folder.

B&N eReader for iPad vs Kindle for iPad

There are a few advantages B&N eReader App has over Kindle for iPad -

  1. You can read newspapers and magazines. Perhaps the biggest advantage.
  2. Page Numbers. Lots of people want this as a feature on the Kindle. A very important advantage if you need to refer to page numbers for assignments or for any another reason.
  3. Lots of choice in fonts. That being said there isn’t any font as pretty as Kindle for iPad’s Caecilia.
  4. Lots of choice in general – line spacing, margins, full justification on or off, ability to change colors.
  5. The ability to save your own themes. Definitely a fun feature.
  6. The in-app Dictionary is a pretty cool feature too. Tapping a word gives you three options Kindle for iPad doesn’t – dictionary, search Google, search Wikipedia.

That’s basically two killer features that Kindle for iPad is missing – periodicals and page numbers. You could throw in the near-infinite customization and LendMe to get to 4 killer features.

Kindle for iPad has its own advantages -

  1. Much simpler to use.
  2. WhisperSync is a very cool feature – Syncing of Last Page Read and Listing of Popular Highlights are both very useful. Syncing ofnotes and highlights is really useful too. This works across most Kindle Apps and across Kindles. B&N has syncing across only the iPad and PC Apps at the moment.
  3. The ability to change screen brightness from within the app.
  4. The best single font i.e. Caecilia. 
  5. The best theme – Sepia. The Kindle’s night theme is better looking too.  
  6. Much prettier in terms of the Home Page and layout and how options are shown. The boy reading under the tree picture is gorgeous as is the fact that it shows stars when the book covers load up.
  7. If you’re into that sort of thing there’s the option to use animated page turns. They aren’t as fancy as iBooks’ page turns though as you can’t see a faint glimmer of words on the reverse page when you turn pages.

The killer features are – the ability to change screen brightness from within the app, the simplicity, better range of books, lower prices for non Agency Model Publisher books, and WhisperSync working across nearly all devices. So 5 killer features. It also looks better.

Kindle for iPad has a better font and better themes. Of course, you might be able to mix and match and create a theme that you like better with the B&N app. The B&N app also has a lot more choice in fonts and settings.  

Kindle for iPad is the better Reading App for the iPad

It has some killer features that B&N’s eReader App doesn’t match -

  1. It’s just really simple to use.
  2. It has the best range of new ebooks and better prices for ebooks (other than for Agency Model Publishers).
  3. WhisperSync provides a lot of really cool features – syncing last page read, syncing notes and highlights, and seeing most popular highlights. These work across nearly all platforms – PC, Mac, Kindle, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and soon Android.
  4. The font and themes are the best. Although if you like the ability to change things then definitely go with B&N’s eReader App.
  5. You can change screen brightness from within the app itself. No idea why B&N didn’t add such an obvious and useful feature. 

If you don’t find the Popular Highlights feature interesting it can be switched off. Not sure if this stops sharing your highlights though you’d think that’s what switching it off means.  

It’s possible the B&N eReader App is a better fit for you

While Kindle for iPad is the better reading app there are some cases in which B&N’s eReader App will be a better fit -

  1. You own a Nook.
  2. You want to read newspapers and magazines. Kindle for iPad doesn’t support these yet.
  3. You need page numbers in your books. B&N supports this while Kindle uses locations.
  4. You like to be able to customize themes and change fonts – There are a ton of options and you might be able to create a combination you like better than the Kindle for iPad’s excellent default font and 3 Themes
  5. The LendMe feature appeals to you. It’s lending out a book only once – however, once is better than no lending.

The dictionary is a useful feature too.

It’ll be interesting to see what additions Amazon make to Kindle for iPad. The absence of magazines and newspapers and lack of Page Numbers are two very real shortcomings.

7 Responses

  1. [...] has a few extras the Kindle app lacks. Most notably: the ability to read magazines and newspapers. Here’s a great review of the B&N app and how it compares to the Kindle app. var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; [...]

  2. It strongly appears that there is no way to load previously-purchased or self-made eReader content into this new iPad edition. (You could do so in the iPhone version using URLs starting with “ereader://” or “bnereader://” for the two respective versions, but using a “bnereaderipad://” link just takes you right to your personal B&N library.)

    If that’s indeed the case, there will be some irate eReader and Fictionwise customers out there, for sure. Fictionwise bought eReader so they could have their very own format that was in no danger of obsolescence, and they pushed that format as hard as they could so a lot of people, trusting them, bought into it.

    Now that Fictionwise is owned by B&N, getting thrown under the bus is not going to make those customers happy.

  3. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing the page numbers are just the normal ePub page numbers that are generated based on the length of the file. In other words, they don’t correspond to the physical page numbers in the book and so are no more or less useful than the location numbers on the Kindle. You can see the same type of “page numbers” on iBooks for the iPad.

  4. Thanks for the review. I haven’t seen the app yet myself, but thought I should point out that for epub-format ebooks page numbers are generated by the ereader, they are not part of the file itself. (Same goes for the Kindle formats mobi and azw AFAIK.) So not only will those page numbers vary from reader to reader, but they’ll certainly not be the same as the page numbers in a print or PDF edition. (iBooks numbers pages too, but the number changes based on a user’s font-size settings.)

  5. This app is NOT ready for prime time. B&N will happily sell magazines and newspapers to iPad users without a word of warning, but buyer beware. They don’t actually work. I know because I just tried it.

    Without those, it’s just another crappy ebook reader. I tried looking at one of the books and there was annoying lag between page turns. I’m waiting for the next version.

  6. [...] had looked at B&N’s eReader app for the iPad and also compared it with Kindle for iPad. At that time Kindle for iPad was clearly the best reading app on the [...]

  7. Ipad ebook Buyer Beware

    After installing this app on my ipad, I downloaded two ebooks as samples. – both from the same publisher. I then decided to buy the ebooks. The first one downloaded without any issues. When I clicked on the download button for the second ebook I got the following error message – Download “We are sorry, this item is not yet supported on this device.

    I received two email invoices from B/N for the ebooks. I replied to the second ebook’s invoice with the issue. I received a template response from Nolan at Customer Service for Barnes and Noble that outline the non-refundable policy once the ebook was downloaded.

    It would have been nice if Customer Service for Barnes and Noble would have looked into the issues by actually downloading the ebook on to a ipad, perform QA testing on ebooks to insure that the consumer can go from viewing a sample to buying the book, and most importantly don’t display books that are NOT supported on the ipad.

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