The E-Book App Shootout!

I want something like this in my future home. "volumes of words" by Wynand Van Niekerk.
I want something like this in my future home. For now, space limits ensure that I’ll hoard e-books instead. Not that it’s a bad thing. 😉 volumes of words by Wynand Van Niekerk. Downloaded from stock.xchng.

It’s amazing how things can change in just two years. I stubbornly clung to the old-school way of reading as recently as 2010, then slowly gravitated to the “dark side” (a.k.a. e-books) just last year. Starting out with free e-books from Project Gutenberg and other sources, I eventually gave in and hit the Buy button for e-books for both work and downtime.

Yes, I am officially a convert. I haven’t said goodbye to print books, though. They still make me reach for my wallet, and they will always be a priority for me. However, my current living arrangements prevent me from stocking up on more hard copies. I’m about to move into a different apartment, and that semi-new space has a smaller storage allowance than my current home. I’ll have to find creative ways to store my books and other belongings − or rent personal storage space like the ones seen on Storage Wars. Yikes.

There are other factors that make me go for more e-books these days. Instant delivery and access share second place, and my other previously stated reasons (price, decreased environmental impact, and ability to make electronic publishing/self-publishing a viable option for everyone) still apply.

In short, I’ve made my peace with e-books, and I’ve become a bonafide hoarder. The next question I faced: should I use a dedicated e-reader, or download and use e-book apps on a tablet? Since I already have a laptop and several mobile devices for work and play, I went with the latter.

This brings us to the next conundrums. Which e-reading app should I use? Consequently, which online book/publishing service should I patronize? Amazon is one of the biggest players in online retail (and certainly the biggest one in the e-book game), but it’s not the only available option. And since some folks commented that I talk a lot about (and regularly use) Amazon and its services, and say little about its rivals, I figured I might as well try to use other e-book apps.

Devices

Here’s my current setup. I regularly use a black Acer Aspire 4755G, with Ubuntu Linux 12.04 LTS installed and customized to my liking. (I’m also using this machine to work on this blog entry.) For the most part, Ubuntu Linux has been a joy to use for the past three years or so, but there are some instances when I just can’t find software that do what can easily be done on other operating systems. Well, this makes my 4755G an excellent candidate for the e-book app rundown, right? 😉

I also have an old and semi-retired green ASUS K40IJ laptop running on Windows 7 Home Basic. It’s trotted out on rare occasions − for example, when I can’t make a program run on Wine, e.g. Apple iTunes, that stubborn little bugger. This Windows 7 laptop isn’t included in the rundown since everything’s compatible with it, anyway.

I also have the following mobile devices: a Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone, and an Apple iPad 4, which very recently replaced my tired and snail-paced first-gen unit.

Criteria

I had just three criteria for this (admittedly lacking) e-book reader app showdown:

  1. Availability across desktop and mobile platforms − I’m not really expecting one program/app to work on all my devices… but, you know, it would be a huge plus.
  2. Book selection − I don’t think this needs any explanation.
  3. Price range − the service should give customers a wide range of genres to choose from, and offer reasonable prices for their products.

Bookmarking/Syncing, highlighting and usability have been left out since (I think) the three major e-book retailers’ apps can do that, and it’s quite easy for people to figure out how the apps work.

I’m not going to get into the technical aspects of each app; as long as I get the books I want and get to read them, I’m good. I’ll leave this aspect to other, more serious (or OC) book bloggers.

(Next: “The Rundown, Verdict and Future Plans”)