iPad for Bible Study: Book Apps

iPad for Bible StudyIn addition to Bible apps and audio / video apps, books apps make the iPad a tremendous tool for Bible study.

In the exploding market of eBook readers, the iPad is often knocked for being difficult to read in direct sunlight, and this is a legitimate criticism.  In all other respects, however, the iPad shines as an eBook reader. If you’ve been blessed with an iPad, put it to good use by exploring these useful tools.

The following is a comparatively small list of iPad book apps that will assist you with your Bible study endeavors.  Though these apps are similar, you’ll want to download them all.  You can even place them all in a single folder on your iPad called “Books” to keep them neatly organized.  All the book apps listed here are free.

Features will vary somewhat from one app to another.  The selection and pricing of book titles will also vary.  Some may offer the book for which you are looking; some may not.  Some will have better pricing than others.  So it’s best to shop around.  In some cases, you’ll even find free books that are available for download.

KindleKindle

Amazon’s Kindle app is a must-have for anyone who will be reading eBooks on their iPad.  Amazon is the de facto leader in the eBook market and offers the largest selection of books, paid and free, of all eBook providers.  In addition to Amazon’s Kindle Store, you can find literally millions of free eBooks at Internet Archive, Open Library, Project Gutenberg, ManyBooks.net, and other online repositories that you can download directly to the Kindle app on your iPad.

Here are some brief video tutorials on how to download free eBooks from popular online collections to the Kindle app on your iPad:

Amazon offers free Kindle apps for numerous platforms, including iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, Windows PC, and Mac.  The beauty of Kindle’s ecosystem of apps and devices is that they automatically synchronize your books and data across all platforms using Whispersync technology.  This means you can move seamlessly from one device, such as your iPad, to any other device and pick up reading where you left off and also have access to all your bookmarks, notes, and highlights — no matter where they were initially created.

Kindle’s features include:

  • Bookmarks
  • Notes
  • Highlights
  • Dictionary lookup with links to Google and Wikipedia for additional information
  • Loan books to other Kindle users
  • Customization options for background color, font size, brightness, and number of columns
  • Full text searching capability

If you have eBooks that are not currently in Kindle format that you would like to use with your Kindle app, you can use a free conversion tool, like Calibre, to convert your eBooks to AZW or MOBI format.  Then share the converted files with your Kindle app via iTunes, or store them in a free Dropbox account and open them directly in the Kindle app.

iBooksiBooks

Apple’s iBooks app is a worthy counterpart to Amazon’s Kindle app (above) when it comes to features.  However, it is important to note that the iBooks data on your iPad cannot be easily accessed on other platforms (such as desktop computers or other mobile devices).

Although you can synchronize your iPad’s data with iTunes on your PC or Mac, iTunes has a glaring deficiency in that it cannot currently display ePub files (the format used by iBooks).  This means you can only read your iBooks data on your iPad.  (Note:  iBooks can display both ePub and PDF file formats.  You can use third-party programs to read ePub and PDF files on your desktop computer.  However, your data will not be synchronized between your iPad and the third-party programs, so you will not easily be able to pick up reading where you left off or have access to bookmarks, notes, and highlights.)

iBooks does not offer a book-loaning feature, but otherwise, the features are similar to those of the Kindle app.

Here are some brief video tutorials on how to download free eBooks from popular online collections to the iBooks app on your iPad:

If you have eBooks that are not currently in iBooks format that you would like to use with your iBooks app, you can use a free conversion tool, like Calibre, to convert your eBooks to ePub format.  Then import the converted books into iTunes, and synchronize them with you iPad.

Google BooksGoogle Books

Not to be outdone by Amazon and Apple, Google jumped into the eBook market with its Google Books directory of more than 3 million free eBooks and a slate of free apps for accessing those books on different devices and platforms.  The Google Books iPad app supports many of the same features as other eReader apps, with a few notable exceptions:

  • Choose between flowing text (which is what other eReaders employ) or scanned pages of the physical books.  This is useful for citing specific page numbers from the printed edition of the book, which can be very handy for students and researchers.
  • There’s an excellent magnifying glass feature, which allows you to zoom in to a portion of the page.
  • Google Books does not support annotations or note-taking features.

NookNook

Barnes and Noble’s Nook app for iPad sports a lending feature similar to Amazon’s lending feature for Kindle books.  Barnes and Noble also offers an array of free apps for various devices and platforms to synchronize your book data, and a free BN.com account gives you access to over 500,000 free eBooks.

Borders eBooksBorders eBooks

Borders eBooks (powered by Kobo) is much like Kindle and Nook, but Borders does not support a lending feature.  Borders provides a wide array of free apps for various devices and platforms to synchronize your book data, and a free Borders.com account gives you access to over a million free eBooks.

StanzaStanza

Stanza is somewhat unique in this list of books apps.  Here are some of the differences:

  • There is a built-in catalog and download manager, so you can, for example, download free eBooks directly from Project Gutenberg without ever leaving the app.
  • There are sharing options for Facebook, Twitter, and email.
  • You cannot synchronize data (reading location, bookmarks, notes) with other devices or platforms.

Personally, I find the Stanza interface a bit quirky, but the built-in download manager and social options are nice.

Summary

The book app(s) that you decide to use will depend on your needs:

  • If you need a specific book, you’ll want to search your preferred apps for availability.  Selection and price will vary from one app to another.
  • If you need to sync your data across multiple devices or computers, you’ll need to use Kindle, Nook, or Borders eBooks.
  • If you need to cite specific page numbers from the printed version of a book for reference material, use Google Books.
  • If you need to convert one file format to another, try the free Calibre software (available for Windows, Mac, and Linux).

Other articles in this series:

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