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Mobile App Review: Apps For Bibliophiles
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Mobile App Review: Apps For Bibliophiles - Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Apps For Bibliophiles

Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Apps For Bibliophiles

Among the digital revolution’s most practical and mind-blowing blessings is our ability to carry entire libraries of books with us wherever we go. Book-lovers for ages have had to deal with the stress of packing enough reading material, whether one was merely leaving the house for the activities of the day or leaving home for journeys abroad. Being caught without enough to read used to be the stuff of nightmares: would we be forced to pick something up from the spinner racks in the airport bookstore? If we were lucky enough to be traveling in our own cars, we would always have access to something good, but what if we were riding in someone else’s vehicle? Or what would we do if the relatives we were visiting simply didn’t have any books? To allay our fears, we always overpacked, because it was better to leave out a few items of clothing than to leave home without adequate reading material. We could always do laundry in the hotel sink.

E-readers, smartphones, and tablets, combined with the ease of finding WiFi in most places, do away with these problems. Although digital media will never completely replace a good, physical book in the heart of the bibliophile, it is a welcome and almost necessary tool for all its features, common today but unimaginable just a few years ago. Today, on a device the size of a deck of cards, we can carry literally thousands of books, with access to a million more—enough preparedness for anyone, in almost any situation. But the advantages of digital reading go beyond book-reading to broader book-related activity, such as online shopping, review-sharing, and cataloguing. Toward a greater embracing of the technology, here is a look at some of the best apps for the bibliophile.

Unless noted otherwise, all apps are available on iOS and Android devices.

1. The app for whatever platform you’re purchasing your ebooks on
There are mobile apps for Kindle, Nook, Google Play, and iBooks, among others, each with the basic, expected functionality and each with its own unique qualities. There’s nothing wrong with having them all, especially if you’re the sort to make purchases wherever you find a good buy. Many people take the one-marketplace-for-all approach, limiting all their book purchases to one online store, and there are advantages to this as well, so whatever you’re comfortable with will do the job, with almost no real disadvantages. The important thing is that you will have your books with you wherever you go.

Kindle leads the way with seamless synching across devices and an incredibly useful online repository of your highlights and notes, something the other apps haven’t yet adopted. However, you won’t be able to purchase new material directly from the app on some devices, forcing you to use your mobile web browser to access Amazon’s Kindle selection. If you’re using an iOS device, Apple’s usual beauty in design and user experience are impressive, and Google Play’s integration with its Google Docs platform has great potential for saving and sharing highlights and notes.

2. LibraryThing
Available only recently and only for iOS, the LibraryThing app is primarily a gateway to LibraryThing.com, a website for cataloguing books, DVDs, and CDs. For the truly geeky book-lover, it offers unequaled range for metadata and other cataloguing info, with some social functionality. Many libraries around the world—community and academic—have adopted LibraryThing as their in-house catalogue system, which means that whatever you might own is almost sure to be indexed somewhere, something online retailers simply haven’t been able to offer. The app gives you access to your saved library and lets you quickly add new titles by scanning barcodes. Accounts are free for up to 200 titles, but $25 gives you a lifetime, limitless account. Lifetime membership makes a great gift, too, for book-loving friends who like to know where everything is.

3. GoodReads
GoodReads.com is the social network for book-lovers, offering users a place to rate the books they’ve read, post reviews, converse with others, create wishlists, and share favorite quotes. Purchased two years ago by Amazon, it has mostly retained its distinct personality, with reader reviews decidedly separate from the consumer reviews on Amazon’s website. The mobile app allows users to keep up with what their friends are reading, to update their own progress on books, to share on Facebook and Twitter, and to find recommendations for new books. Many writers have become “GoodReads authors,” often joining in on the social sharing, but also using their dedicated space for blogging or communicating directly with their readers. GoodReads has some functionality in common with LibraryThing (of which Amazon is a minority owner), but where LibraryThing’s focus is on cataloguing, GoodReads works mainly as a social platform.

4. Scribd
Often called “Netflix for books,” Scribd began as a repository for self-published writers, a place to reach readers outside the traditional publishing avenues. While it has maintained this function, it has also added a subscription service ($8.99 per month) for access to a large library of titles with rotating availability. Similar to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program or Netflix’s streaming service, Scribd accounts let readers take as long as they want to read as many books as they’d like from among the available books.

5. Wattpad
The Wattpad app is the mobile gateway to Wattpad.com, which specializes in original, self-published work. A rating system and reader-count for each work gives the reader a place to start finding popular content, with the most popular writers gaining special status. With 100,000 new works uploaded each day, the curious reader has plenty of material to sift through, and although the non-curated nature of the website means that the quality of the content can be extremely variable, the direct-to-reader anarchy of the system means freedom for writers and an admirable environment for supporting the art of writing for its own sake. Wattpad is certainly not for everyone, but adventurous readers may find something deeply meaningful just in participating in the subversive creation and sharing of art.

6. OverDrive and LibAnywhere
Many libraries around the world now lend ebooks to their communities, which are downloaded to a device and expire after a set amount of time. Overdrive is the leading interface for this borrowing and returning of material, which includes audiobooks, music, and video. Libraries subscribe to OverDrive’s service, which offers nearly two million titles, and manage the lending through their own systems. LibAnywhere is LibraryThing’s lending platform for libraries who use LibraryThing as their cataloguing system. The mobile app locates nearby participating libraries and lets borrowers check for the availability of titles, reserving them for later pickup. Other libraries are using other apps for digital lending, so check with your local library to see what system is in place.

Groucho Marx once supposedly said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” If Groucho could have foreseen the development of digital reading on mobile devices, he might have amended his claim, adding that ebooks are man’s best friend away from home, and that not even darkness is anymore an obstacle between bibliophiles and their books.

 

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