It’s been a couple of months since Barnes & Noble first revealed to the New York Times that it would release an ebook reader app for the iPad, but the official Barnes & Noble eReader for iPad app is finally here. The app was released in the App Store early this morning and is free of charge.
Competing with Amazon, who beat Barnes & Noble in the iPad race having released its own app just a few days after the iPad went on sale, and Apple’s own iBooks app, the B&N eReader offers more customization to the ebook reading interface and a decent number of ebook offerings in its store. When reading an ebook in the eReader app, users can choose from more fonts and text colors than available in iBooks or the Kindle app, as well as select themes, which can be customized, to change the entire look of an ebook. Like iBooks, the eReader app can show dictionary definitions for selected words and adds the ability to search Google and Wikipedia.
Barnes & Noble claims that there are over 1 million ebooks in its store available for purchase, though many of these appear to be free or low-cost Project Gutenberg books in the public domain. Comparatively, Amazon offers over 500,000 ebooks in its Kindle store and Apple’s iBookstore debuted with around 60,000 ebooks. Books on the New York Times bestseller list cost around $9.99 to $14.99 from Barnes & Noble, which is in line with Amazon’s and Apple’s pricing.
As with Amazon’s Kindle app, purchasing Barnes & Noble ebooks requires leaving the app and browsing the ebook store on the web through Safari. Purchased ebooks are automatically downloaded the next time the app is opened.
The eReader app’s killer feature is the ability to let you lend books to others. Lendable books are marked and the Information menu lets you notify the person to whom you want to lend the ebook via email. That person then has 7 days to accept or decline the ebook and then 14 days to read it if accepted – he or she will need to use a Barnes & Noble nook ereader device or a Barnes & Noble ebook reader app on a desktop computer or iPad or iPhone. The ebook disappears from your library for that time but it will be returned to you at the end of the lending period. Neither Amazon nor Apple offer a similar feature with their ebook reading apps.