Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

Summary: I love having access to searchable reference material on my iOS devices, but I want it on the desktop too. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't make iBooks for Mac OS X.

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It's pretty obvious that ebooks are a major growth area for tablets like the iPad, Apple and Amazon popularized the format and brought it to the masses with their wildly successful iPad and Kindle hardware.

While ebooks are great for major literary releases -- which tend to get all the attention -- the technology is amazingly powerful for technical manuals. It's incredibly valuable to have PDF versions of the user guides for all of your various gadgets -- right at your fingertips, for example.

But for me, the "aha" moment for me was when I thought about how ebooks could replace pounds of heavy reference material that I periodically lug around.

My ebook epiphany came when I realized that I could carry numerous high page count reference books for my geek hobby of coin collecting on my iPad. I'm a coin geek and have been collecting on and off since I was about seven. I got back into it when the State Quarters came out in 1999. But Numismatics aside, you could easily replace it with the name of your favorite hobby and find tons of reference material that would be handy to have at your fingertips.

In addition to the fact that bits are weightless, the ebook format was practically made for reference material because you can search it by keyword or phrase. It's trivial to search an ebook then pick from a list of results, like you would with a search engine. Compare that to the endless flipping back and forth through the index and/or TOC of a dead tree edition. Then, there's the ability to press and hold on a word to see its dictionary definition pop up in a convenient word bubble -- you can't do that with the paperback edition.

For my foray into reference I wanted to have the "Red Book" (the coin bible) on my iPad so that I wouldn't have to lug the dead tree edition back and forth to coin shows, meetings and auctions. The Red Book cost $9.99 on iBooks (and iTunes by extension), but it only costs $8.99 on the Amazon Kindle Store - a buck cheaper. Point Kindle. While I'd have to give the UI point to iBooks for its slick page turn animation and generally cleaner layout, there's one factor that turned the table in favor of Kindle for me -- its OS X native application.

Having the Kindle application on my Mac Book Air means that I can reference my price guides and look up photos and historical data on coins from any machine that I happen to be close to. And if I'm doing lots of research, I'd rather type queries with a full keyboard and mouse and look at photos and charts on my big monitor. But its true strength is having reference material when I'm mobile. I love having access to the same, bookmarked content on my desktop and my iPad and iPhone.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn't make iBooks for Mac OS X (according to its FAQ). That's right, amazingly, there isn't a Mac OS X-based version of the iBooks application.

Sure, that won't make a difference to many people, but for me, if I'm paying for a piece of reference, I want to be able to access it from any machine that I'm on. And call me old fashioned, but I prefer a sweet MacBook Air to these newfangled iPads that all the kids are carrying on about.

I still keep a fair amount of public domain/DRM-free books and PDFs in iBooks and sure, you can probably make an argument for Nook, Kobo or heck even Stanza -- especially if you've already invested in a library on a particular platform -- but for my needs Amazon seals the deal because the Kindle suite of apps for Mac OS X and iOS.

While Kindle also has a much deeper catalog of titles than iBooks -- the reason most-often cited by ebook aficionados -- it didn't weigh into my consideration because the reference books I was looking for were available on both services.

The only knock on Kindle is the it doesn't support the ePub format, as our own Jason Perlow pointed out over a year ago.

What's your ePub reader of choice these days? Got any reference material on it?

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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24 comments
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  • Cloud Reader

    Kindle for Mac lacks some options (you can't play multimedia, opposite to Kindle for iOS or iBooks).

    For reference work Kindle Cloud Reader should be also working fine. It syncs content between devices, but most importantly, if you also use web for data collection, you don't have to switch applications.
    ebookfriendly
    • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

      @ebookfriendly Kindle runs on so many other platforms that buying anything in iBooks just seems like a bad investment. If you decide to switch to Android or some amazing future platform, your iBooks library is useless. Plus, there is the obvious fact that your iBooks library is useless on more than 90% of computers being used today - Windows (& Linux).
      BillDem
  • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

    For foreigners it also have great advantages to use Kindle, as an exemple, I am a french student reading english easily and I love to read original versions of my favorite fantasy books like Harry Potter or Terry Goodkind but on iBooks I can only buy those books (when they are available) in French. In order to buy them in English I need not only an American iTunes acount but an American Credit Card... Thank you Amazon for providing a good quality reader application to counter Apple stricts regions policy!
    FrenchFan
  • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

    I've been a Kindle user for ever as well as an iPad user. I purchase all my books on Kindle. Kindle is a platform (Win, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Web, Android etc.) iBooks is a restricted book reading application. Although it's pretty sexy :-)
    stevechol
  • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

    Kindle far out paces ibook in selection and price. Too bad Apple is playing dirty pool in taking out some of the Kindle features on their Ipad program like on-line shopping in app. Reminds me of Microsoft's cheap tricks.
    impsbl1
  • No, it does not come to desktop since almost no one ever wants to read ...

    ... electronic books on desktop or even on notebooks; such people are absolute minority.
    DDERSSS
  • I agree completely

    I agree with everything in the article (including the bit about preferring a MacBook over an iPad). I would also add that for long reading sessions the e-ink of my Kindle is just so much easier on my aging eyes! I bought Amazon's leather kindle cover with the built in LED so my Kindle is use-able pretty much anytime, anywhere. Only once have I taken the battery below 50%, even with heavy lighting use.

    Having my Kindle material easy to access anywhere, on any device I choose is the killer feature, though.
    use_what_works_4_U
  • iBooks are standard ePub format

    Since iBooks (according to Apple) are in standard ePub format, they can be read on any desktop with an ePub reader. On the other hand, Amazon uses a proprietary format which restricts their books to the Kindle reader or the Kindle app.
    jomali3945
    • Only if there is no DRM

      @jomali3945
      Presumably, DRM protected iBooks in ePub format cannot be read on any desktop with an ePub reader.
      toddybottom
      • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

        @toddybottom I think they use FairPlay or something similar for DRM for iBooks ePubs. Now one can use a program like cailbre to strip that DRM to be able to read that book in any ePub capable reader but that would be quasi legal at best AFAIK... It's far easier to buy the same book from Barnes and Noble if one is looking for an ePub book or Amazon is one is looking for a MOBI book and use the appropriate app or reader rather than go through iBooks and have to strip the DRM.
        athynz
      • USing Calibre

        @toddybottom , Calibre will NOT strip DRM from ePub files! on the other hand it will convert non-DRMed ePub files to kindle format, so If yoou are sure of you fair use rights, you can go ahead and find some other way to strip the DRM from the files and then use Calibre for the conversion!
        leopards
  • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

    Or, you could buy it for $9.99 from Barnes & Noble and read it on your iPad (in the Nook app), your desktop, your laptop, your phone, or any other device that has a Nook app available. There are also other eBook stores which use standard Adobe DRM, although the prices seem to be a bit higher. This gives you the ability to use even more reader apps. If you're someone who doesn't always obey the law, you could remove the DRM (plenty of quick and easy programs out there to do so) and read it anywhere you please, including in iBooks. As long as you don't post it online or give it to friends, I don't consider that to be violating the copyright.
    Unusual1
  • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

    Or, you could buy it for $9.99 from Barnes & Noble and read it on your iPad (in the Nook app), your desktop, your laptop, your phone, or any other device that has a Nook app available. There are also other eBook stores which use standard Adobe DRM, although the prices seem to be a bit higher. This gives you the ability to use even more reader apps. If you're someone who doesn't always obey the law, you could remove the DRM (plenty of quick and easy programs out there to do so) and read it anywhere you please, including in iBooks. As long as you don't post it online or give it to friends, I don't consider that to be violating the copyright.
    Unusual1
  • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

    Kindle paired up with Calibre ebook management/conversion software (Free, Windows, Mac, Linux, Portable) is my preferred setup. Can convert between MOBI and ePUB, PDF. Text, etc; and download metadata and covers. Can even generate an index of all your books as an ebook, so you can keep searchable list of all of your books on our Kindle/Kindle App.
    Gritztastic
  • Calibre

    Is really all you need to manage your eBooks and readers the idea of using proprietary software to manage each different eReader n my house is weird Calibre manges my Mentor my wife and son's Kobo and my daughters Libre loads books without issue onto each device and has a great highly usable library,without all the garbage Ibooks and Amazons little app demands of you and your computer
    wizardb@...
  • Micosoft .lit worked well for fiction, CHM format for Reference

    Years before Kindle and iBooks, Microsoft had a very similar reader technology available with its MS Reader, with publications in .lit format. Echoes of the basic interface remain in all of he ebook-reader software later incarnations: iBook, Kindle, Nook, Kobo. What's more anyone with Word could publish in the .lit format, and a text-to-speech converter was built in. Everything was there but the ebook reader hardware itself, the essential element.

    For reference reading, however, the Compiled Help format .chm, was much more popular for it's built in powerful indexing, help, and hyperlink facilities. Countless O'Rielly publications were released in that format. Once again, the key missing element is an ebook reader port. I've seen a CHMate App Lite advertised, but haven't tried it.
    CHM format files are more suited for the desktop, especially when using the split screen interface with the outline tree. The landscape screen orientation and the larger screen real-estate make this interface more useful while still allowing a fair amount of detailed text available for viewing on the right hand side. When someone reads a book about programming, too, it is handy to read it on the platform that the book describes, so the transition from reading examples to executing them is quick and as seamless as possible.

    So, as you imply, context matters.

    The biggest advantage of desktop readers is keyword searching across libraries, perhaps in different formats.
    dancalvin
  • ePub's can, of course, be converted to the Kindle

    http://techsupport.foreverwarm.com/how-to-read-epub-books-on-your-kindle
    guy@...
  • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

    Unfortunately I find Amazon being greedy with Kindle books!! The price of many new books is higher on Kindle than paper!
    capta1n
  • kcwookie@mac.com

    I've used most all the book apps. I read mainly on my iPad and really don't read on my MBA or iMac, so computer matters little. All the books I've purchased have either been on the Nook app or iBooks. I've considered dumping the Kindle app since all that I have is a few free pubs. When I do buy a book, I do shop all the major book stores and iBooks usually come in cheaper. I've also found some new releases faster on iBooks then on other formats.
    kcwookie@...
  • RE: Kindle over iBooks? It comes down to the desktop

    Kindle is VASTLY superior to iBooks for a very simple reason: it works on ANY platform you go to. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, PC, Mac--anything that has a kindle app, I can use to read my content, and all of my notes and highlights sync seamlessly to the cloud and across all devices, effortlessly.

    iBooks is nothing but a trap into Apple's expensive ecosystem. I've already wasted enough on their mediocre products, I'm not going to let my content be trapped by them forever.
    jasongw