Barnes & Noble E-reader

I am still looking for a good iPad ebook app.

I was frustrated that neither Apple’s iBook app nor Amazon’s Kindle app let you do all of the following:

  • Highlight in multiple colors
  • Type annotations
  • Look up words in a dictionary

The B&N app lets you highlight in a single color (gray), and permits both annotation and lookups (via a dictionary and Google).

There no way to copy passages to a clipboard or export your annotations (a vital feature for serious academic study).

Looking for books to download is tedious — the app dumps you to a web page, rather than letting you browse inside the app.

I created an account, which is perfectly reasonable. While B&N has trumpeted its partnership with Google Books, there is no easy way to find those books. They are returned as part of a search inquiry, but the B&N app is a cumbersome way to explore Google’s holdings.

I found a random out-of-copyright scanned edition of Huckleberry Finn, and clicked the link to download the free file, but I found a screen that asked for my credit card information.

My credit card. To download a free book.

Since there is no way to share or export annotations, the implementation is only slightly more beneficial than no annotations at all.

I was a bit thrown by the non-standard keyboard that popped up as I tried to sign in. There is an underscore in my login name, and the standard iPad keyboard requires me to type four characters to insert it and return to the alphabet keyboard. The soft keyboard in the BN reader mover the underscore, which meant in had to hunt quite a bit to find it, which put me in a bad mood, probably making me more likely to give up when I hit the credit card screen.

I actually like where BN put the underscore better than where Apple put it, but you can’t go around changing interface details without paying for it somewhere.

This app was not ready when the iPad rolled out, it is not as well designed as either the iBook or the Kindle app, and the website hides the free ebooks. Plus, the marketing palaver tries to make an emotional connection with the reader’s memories of B & N as the same bookstore you grew up with.

Sorry, folks at B&N, but this me-too app will not do much to prop up your brick-and-mortar business model.