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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mobilizing Your Reading

I'd originally complied this as part of my "mobile blogging" mini-challenge for Bloggiesta, but some of the information drifted from the challenge itself (and made that post very long!), so I decided to save it for another day. That day has come!

smartphones iPhone and Android models


But before we talk about specific apps, let's talk about where to find them! My go-to source for info on practical, useful apps is Lifehackerand the appSmitten "App of the Day" e-mail newsletter comes to me.

Mobile Reading: Books

E-book apps let your books travel with you so you can read them anywhere, and with highlighting, note-taking, and bookmarking functions, they make it easy to mark up your books, too. Personally, I'm not crazy about reading on a smartphone screen--it's just too small--but I've been won over by a tablet.

The Kindle app can be used on every major mobile platform--iOS (iPhone/iPad), Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry. iBooks is available only for iOS devices, and since I began using it on my iPad, it's become my preferred e-reader.

Kindle and iBooks are the two most popular reading apps, and both have hundreds of thousands of e-books available. However, it should be noted that the e-books for each of these apps are formatted to be read only in that app, and that exclusivity bothers some users.

If you prefer a little more independence in your reading and book shopping, there's the IndieBound Reader app (Android and iOS), which lets you buy your e-books from independent bookstores(Disclosure: I am an IndieBound affiliate.) 


There are other reading apps that support a variety of formats and let you download e-books from public libraries and online book catalogs, including NetGalley. Thanks to Jacinda (@ReadingWifeJac) for telling me about these, so I can tell you:
  • Bluefire Reader app (Android and iOS): supports e-books in EPUB, PDF, and Adobe formats from a variety of online sources
  • Overdrive mobile app (all platforms): supports EPUB e-books and MP3 audiobooks, including those available from public libraries
  • Aldiko e-reader app (Android only): supports e-books in EPUB, PDF, and Adobe formats 

Mobile Reading: Blogs

The iPad has become my preferred device for blog reading, even more than a computer. There are some great feed-reader apps designed for it, and it's easy to open a post in the browser so I can leave a comment on it. Many feed-reader apps have smartphone versions too, although the layout and features may be a bit different on smaller devices.

A great mobile feed reader should have these features:
  • Facebook and Twitter integration so you can share links easily
  • Sync with Google accounts and Google Reader (if your feeds are all there already, you shouldn't have to import them)
  • Clean, uncluttered reading interface, with the ability to click and see the original post in a browser 
  • Loads feeds and stores them so you can read them even if you're off-line
  • Integration with a "reading list" save-and-share-service to save posts for later reading and/or reference; my new favorite is Readability, but ReadItLater and Instapaper are other options. In addition to feed-reader integration, each of these lists has its own iOS app; Readability and ReadItLater have Android apps too.
Readability logo and iOS app screenshot
Lifehacker has compiled lists of the top five feed-reader apps for iOS and Android. I can't speak to Android recommendations, but as an iPhone/iPad user, I'll call these out:
  • Feedly: works almost everywhere--browser extension, iOS app, Android app--and it's free in all versions. It has search and feed-management functionality as well as the integrations mentioned earlier.
  • Reeder: not free, and doesn't have search or the ability to add or delete feeds, but the interface is easy to use and easy on the eyes. It comes in different versrion for the iPhone ($2.99) and iPad ($4.99)
  • Flipboard: lets you add your Google Reader blog subscriptions, Facebook and Twitter feeds to the variety of Web content it hosts. It's very pretty (and free!), but I actually find it a bit overwhelming.
  • Early Edition (iPad only): not free ($4.99), but my new favorite and worth the price. It looks like a newspaper, but reads much more easily--fonts and backgrounds can be tweaked to personal preference. It can be searched and browsed, has the share/save options, and allows subscribing and unsubscribing to feeds via sync with Google Reader.
What are your favorite apps for reading on the go? (Yes, books are indeed mobile, but we're not talking about them right now!)