E-Reader Devices and iPad Apps for Your Classroom

By Sam Gliksman

Using the iPad as an e-reader is a great thing, especially with the high-resolution display of the third-generation and higher iPad (if you’re lucky enough to have one). You can read e-books using your choice from a variety of e-reading apps on the iPad. Each has a unique set of features and often its own store for buying the books.

iBooks

iBooks is the native e-reading app for the iPad and the most popular book-reading app for users of any Apple iOS device. A new version of iBooks is now also available for Mac computers using the Mavericks OS or later. One of the app’s strengths is that it’s the only one on the iPad that has a built-in bookstore for browsing and in-app ordering of books.

In most cases, you can download samples to read before buying the book. To be fair, some of the other major e-reading apps had in-app purchasing in earlier versions; they were required to remove it in their iPad versions.

iBooks has improved steadily with new releases and is a solid choice for reading on the iPad. The capabilities to change color schemes, increase and decrease font sizes, keep notes, annotate text, and more have made iBooks the standard e-reading app on the iPad. It also works across your devices. Go to Settings→iBooks and you can even toggle options to sync Bookmarks and book Collections.

Kindle

Amazon offers e-reading devices — its Kindle models — and an e-reading app — the Kindle app — that can be used on other devices. Amazon has the advantage of offering the largest selection of paid e-book content available, with more than a million titles in its inventory.

Download the free Kindle app to your iPad, and then when you purchase an e-book on Amazon, you have the option of downloading it directly to the Kindle app on your iPad. You can also purchase hundreds of newspapers and magazines and download them to your Kindle device.

The Kindle app is available on a variety of devices, including Androids, Windows Phones, iPhones, Windows PCs, and Mac PCs. In addition, the Kindle’s WhisperSync feature saves your last page read, bookmarks, and notes so that you can pick up any other device and synchronize to where you left off on another device. Amazon also offers free samples for download so you can review books before buying them.

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Nook

Barnes & Noble offers an e-reading device — the Nook — as well as an e-reading app that can be used on iOS and Android devices. Barnes & Noble created the Nook app to promote and bolster its sales of e-books.

Barnes & Noble offers a large selection of paid and free e-books as well as magazines and newspapers. The free Nook app is also available for your Mac, PC, and smartphones, and it syncs your reading status between devices.

Kobo

Kobo has various models of e-readers, and its e-reading app shares many features with other e-reading apps. You can purchase books from Kobo’s online store; it has apps for several devices (including the iPad and iPhone); the app synchronizes your account between your devices. You also can change text size, add notes, annotate text, and more.

What really distinguishes Kobo from other e-reading apps, though, is its Reading Life feature. Reading Life is an example of a new trend called social reading. You’re probably familiar with social networking and it has reached the world of reading. You may think of reading as a rather solitary activity, but book clubs have been around for a long time.

The advent of social reading is born out of book clubs … except in a social reading club, you can meet any time of day you want, at any place you happen to be, and discuss books with countless readers from all across the planet. You just have to bring your own tea and snacks.

Kobo is one of a new generation of e-reading apps that is moving the social networking experience into the realm of book reading. Some of Kobo’s social reading features include the following:

  • Tap the cover of any book in your library and share what you’re reading with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Select any text in the book and then post and share it — along with your comments — on your social networking sites.

  • Select text and attach notes for your own reference or that you share with the community of Kobo readers.

  • Tap the icon on the top left of the menu bar on your Kobo Home screen or bookshelf to reveal additional options:

    • Stats displays statistics about your reading: how long you have been reading, the average pages per hour, time to read a book, and more.

    • Tap the Friends option, sign in with your Facebook account, and see what your Facebook friends have been reading and recommending.

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Social reading with Subtext

Another leading social reading app is Subtext. Open a Subtext account as a teacher, create a group, and add or invite members. Groups may be kept private or public and can include students from your class. Consider adding and reading together with students in other classes, schools, or even countries. After you have your group, you can assign a book or PDF document for the group to read.

Subtext enables readers to select portions of the text and add notes. Those notes can be shared with group members. Teachers embed instructions or pose questions for students to consider as they read. Students can highlight text and ask questions of other group members. Responses may be sent privately to an individual or posted for the entire group to access and discuss.

If you elect to get a paid, premium account, you can monitor each student’s reading progress and access an educator community to share assignments and plan curriculum.