10 Apps for Readers on the Go

Sep 23rd, 2010

No one needs convincing about the explosion of apps in the wake of the iPhone; as of September 2010, there are more than 250,000 third-party apps available, and the App Store has clocked more than 6.5 billion downloads. But it’s not all Angry Birds, sex positions, and auto-tune programs. There are plenty of apps for avid readers, as well, whether you’re a news junkie tied to your smart phone or a book lover looking for an easier way to read on a morning commute. The apps on this list also make for great mobile reading on the iPad, even if you’re offline. Plus they’re mostly free, or at least cheap. Why wait?

  1. Instapaper: There’s a reason that The Sound of Young America podcast host Jesse Thorn calls Instapaper “possibly the best app in the world.” While you’re browsing the web, you can save articles and stories to read later to your Instapaper account, which updates when you fire up the app and downloads the text files to your phone. Then you’re set to read, and you can access the articles even when you’re offline, which makes the app great if you’re on a plane or just in an area with bad reception. As with many apps, there are two versions available, one for free with basic features and one for $4.99 that allows for greater storage and organization. Whichever you choose, you’ll be happy.
  2. Kindle: The Amazon e-reader is one of the most popular on the market, but you can also use a version of it on your phone with this solid app. The interface is simple, and the connection to the Amazon store is remarkably streamlined. It’s a great way to use your phone (or iPad) as a portable e-reader if you don’t want to shell out for the Amazon device. Free.
  3. iBooks: Launched in mid-2010, iBooks is Apple’s proprietary e-reader for iPhones and iPads, with a built-in bookstore featuring a variety of free and for-pay titles. The app was the company’s way of playing catch-up with competing e-readers, and it’s predictably slick and enjoyable. You can view your books on a virtual shelf and easily keep track of what’s unread. Free.
  4. Local Books: Sometimes being a reader on the go means not knowing where to get your literary fix, and that’s where the Local Books app comes in. The simple app uses your current location to find nearby bookstores, libraries, and book-related events, which makes it a handy tool for exploring new parts of town or after moving to a new place. It includes maps and contact info (submitted by users) for a wide array of locations, and it also lets you tag your favorite spots. A bookstore fan’s dream. Free.
  5. Classics: A great archive of classic titles offered for free makes this app worth it’s $2.99 one-time cost. Some users have complained about a lack of regular updates, but the app remains a fantastic way to get your hands on a collection of vintage titles. What’s not to like?
  6. Nook: Not one to be left out of the party, Barnes & Noble has developed apps tied to its Nook e-reader for a variety of outlets, including iPhones and iPads, PC, Android, and more. Like the Kindle app, it’s free, though the cost of individual titles can vary. Why get this in addition to the others? Because not all titles are available across all platforms, and barring a miraculous deal that makes the process uniform, the easiest way to currently keep up with digital books is to use a variety of e-readers, often from a central device like your phone. Upside: Nook lets you share digital titles with other users.
  7. Borders: Rounding out the major bookstores, Borders offers an e-reader app that lets users browse store titles, download titles to read offline, and make an impressive array of tweaks to the font and layout of the digital books. Again, it’s a free app, with book prices varying based on popularity, so it’s a good idea to get this app in case Borders stocks a digital title you can’t find anywhere else.
  8. Stanza: Stanza is great for downloading and reading standard digital books, but it’s really handy for storing and reading your own files, particularly PDFs. If you’ve ever found yourself wishing there was an easier way to transfer and browse documents on your phone without going back into your e-mail program, you’ll love Stanza. Free.
  9. The New York Times: The Gray Lady has put out arguably the best news app to date, and it’s a lifesaver for mobile readers who want to stay connected. You can organize stories by timeliness and category, save favorites to read later, and share stories via Twitter, e-mail, or text message. Easy to use, quick to update, and pretty much the only news app you’ll need. Free.
  10. Comics: Equally usable on the iPhone and iPad (though you’ll probably enjoy it more on a bigger screen), Comics lets you read comic books from a variety of publishers, including Marvel, Image, and Top Cow. Pushing the envelope with tech to get comics online and into e-reading devices is one of the more exciting things happening in the publishing world right now, and apps like this one let you take advantage of things you didn’t even know your phone could do. Free.

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