iBooks on iPhone 3GS - app review

Finally, iBooks for iPhone arrives! I have been enjoying iBooks on my iPad for some time now. With iBooks for iPhone many more people can enjoy portable reading with their phones. How does iBooks measure up? Keep reading to find out!

After updating to iOS4 for iPhone 3GS I promptly downloaded iBooks. Apple has done a fantastic job with the application and it translates very nicely to the small screen. Let's start off with actually getting a book on your device. When you first launch the app, it asks if you want it to sync with other devices to keep bookmarks, notes, etc. in sync. Next, you are presented with a blank bookshelf. The promised Winnie the Pooh book is free, but you have to get it yourself. So to do that, I tapped the store icon and the app rotated in 3D very smoothly to reveal the iBooks store. From here you can find any Featured books, the New York Times Charts, Search and review your purchases.

Tap a book you are interested in and and you can download a sample (the samples typically contain at least one whole chapter, but sometimes more) or purchase the book. So, I went to the search option and looked up Winnie the Pooh. After finding the book, I tapped the "Free" button, the store flipped back to reveal my bookshelf, or Library, and it proceeded to download. About 10 seconds later I had Winnie the Pooh on my iPhone.

To begin reading just tap the book and you are taken to the first page. To go back to the Library, tap the icon in the top left. To view the Table of Contents and Bookmarks, tap the icon next to that. Simply tapping the left to right side of the page turns it. You can't scroll up or down; that's not very book-like. You can tap and hold on any text to bring up a few different tools. Some of the more useful ones are Highlight, Dictionary and Note. You can tap highlight and iBooks applies a highlight to the text. Tap again and you can add a note or change the note color.

If tapping the side of the page doesn't excite you, the page can be manually turned by tapping and holding the bottom right corner and turning the page like a real book. The effect is gorgeous and it really is impressive. At the top of the page you have more choices beyond returning to the Library or the Table of Contents. You can adjust font size, change the font, adjust brightness (especially helpful at night) and a new feature- sepia color. This is particularly nice as it dulls down the very bright background and makes it a little easier on the eyes. Next, you can search within the iBook, but it doesn't stop there. You can also search in Google and Wikipedia right from the search page! When done reading, you can tap the top right corner of any page and place a bookmark. All bookmarks, notes and highlights are accessible from the Table of Contents page.

Another new feature that Apple added with this release of iBooks is the ability to read PDFs. You can add PDFs a couple of ways. First, you can add a PDF in email to iBooks directly from the mail app. Second you can add PDFs to the Books section in iTunes and sync them over. Once a PDF is added, you see a PDF button next to Book on the top of the Library. Tap the PDF button to look at your PDFs and they are beautifully rendered. Scroll your finger along the bottom to view the different pages or Tap the Table of Contents button to get a zoomed out view of all PDF pages. Search, bookmarks, etc., work with PDFs as well.

They only real chink I can find in iBooks armor is there is no option for landscape in iBooks or PDF view. This is disappointing since on the iPad app, you get a two page view. I understand this may not be possible with the screen real estate, but just like the web, sometimes landscape is preferred. Many apologies. I was impatient waiting for my 3GS to rotate. Many thanks to the commenters on this post for pointing this out.

This is a must-buy free app for Apple. You have access to more than romance novels. Technical references abound and can come in really handy when you need them and viewing PDFs is very convenient. If you would like to know more about iBooks for iPad, check out our earlier review.

[Free- iTunes Link (opens in new tab)]


  • Beautiful layout
  • Fast
  • Wonderfully animated
  • Great tools for navigation
  • Easy to use


  • No landscapeI was too impatient with my device for it to rotate
  • Can't export notes
  • Can't copy text

TiPb iPhone 4-star rated


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Software trainer, blogger and mobile technology enthusiast living in the suburban Midwest.

  • Looks good although.
    I really cant imagine reading a book on such a small screen.
    I think if your into reading eBooks and iPad or kindle is needed.
  • Hi Chad, I found a neat little way to get landscape in iBooks view. This works both in the bookshelf and within the book itself. Hold your iPhone in a landscape orientation.
  • Also if you want to try an online reader without all the gadgets checkouthttp://www.amigoreader.com
  • I never searched for Winnie the Pooh or downloaded it. It just appeared on my shelf automatically. :shock:
  • Lol FastLane
  • No landscape view? You are mistaken, just hold your device in landscape mode. Sometimes it takes a couple seconds to rotate.
  • Unusable slow and unresponsive on my 3G. Perhaps on Thursday...
  • @ sftditty - My exact thoughts!
  • Yeah there is def a landscape view but it takes a bit and is kind of slow?
  • Regarding landscape, in fairness, he probably was playing with the new portrait view lock beforehand. But yes, it's slow, just plain all around. And I'm seeing slowness beyond iBooks. But it's not that different from when iphone os 3.0 reached the 3g last year- that was slow too- till I got the 3gs.
    On a different note, I'm really impressed with the syncing. It works over 3g, without itunes running- or the computer itunes runs on being live. It reminds me of notifications, in that it's completely cloud-based.
  • On a 3G it's a little sluggish (iOS4 is as a whole is, to an extent) but it's doable.
    I bought my first iBook today. Haha. I'm such a sucker for the gimmicks.
  • It let me copy text just fine...
  • Winnie the Pooh was preloaded for me...
  • why cant I send any kind of document or spreadsheet or powerpoint to ibooks... no need for a file manager app... its simple... I dont have to open mail and find a message and re download it every time... come on apple, this is a no brainer
  • And I'm able to copy text in other books, though not in Winnie the Pooh for some reason.
  • Copying... I can do it in a free Gutenberg (sp) book, but not in a book I paid for. I'd guess it's a copyright issue.
  • I can't sync over different platforms. For example, the Kindle app will open my iPhone copy at the place I left off on my iPad. Can iBooks do this?
  • I can't find the bookmark button. The instructions say to hit the button to place a bookmark, but I don't see it. Do you?
  • Tried out iBooks. Seems nice. It looks like Winnie The Pooh is pre-loaded in countries (like mine, Australia) where you cannot buy books on the store and can only download free public domain titles.
  • iBooks is a good new app but too basic, Stanza is still so much better. Looks better, reads better and way more features and customability
  • Look!!!
    Dear Apple Store Customer,
    You recently received a Shipment Notification email from Apple advising you that your iPhone has shipped.
    This email is to confirm that your delivery will occur on June 23rd. Although Apple and FedEx tracking information may currently indicate a later date, you can check the FedEx website the morning of the June 23rd to track your package to your doorstep.
    In the event that you will not be available to accept delivery on June 23rd, it may be more convenient to use our pre-sign delivery option by visiting our Order Status website at http://www.apple.com/orderstatus.
    The Apple Store Team
  • The App keeps on crashing on my 3GS :-(
  • Stanza is good, but iBooks is a better pdf reader
  • Am I missing something? I have the iBooks on mi iPod touch 2nd gen and when I turn my iPod sideways, it just turns the pages itself...making it wider, for me, I don't see any 2-page at a time format. Anyone else having this problem?
  • I found it sluggish on a 3G. More an iPad app (in my opinion).
  • Apple just sent me an email saying my new Iphone4 will deliver on June 23, not June 24th as I was previously told. Can't tell you how happy i was to hear that news.
  • is it just me finding im asked for my password over and over and books never download?
  • iBooks is extremely sluggish on my 16GB 3GS. Switching between landscape and portrait takes several seconds. Even turning pages takes more than a second.
  • Thanks for the review.. Will be installing and trying when I finally get around to putting on IOS4.. That said I use Stanza now and not sure I see any ground breaking changes that Stanza does not already have.
    On another note. Can you please focus your camera for the video review.
  • I agree, this is way too slow to be usable even on my 16GB 3GS. So Apple gives us this performance failure but restricts wallpapers on the 3G because the icons didn't transition well enough? Yikes. It must've been horrid.
  • I´m missing an actual user guide or manual for iOS 4 !?
  • are there notes and highlighting functions for pdf files as well?
  • this app is to slow deleted it
  • I mistakenly chose not to download the "bookmarks" choice when I downloaded ibook. How can I get it now?
  • anyone know of a workaround to getting the notes exported from iBooks? This is a much needed feature, and not a hard one to do, even Kindle does this... I should be able to export all my notes taken into a text file or something like that, stupid not to have this, had to be some DRM idiot in charge of that one.
  • Yes, same here! I keep trying to download samples, but it will never fully load, and I keep getting asked for my password to sync. Even if I don't want it to sync, the PW pop up will show. Disappointed.
    Ben Gillam says:
    June 22, 2010 at 5:58 am
    is it just me finding im asked for my password over and over and books never download?
  • I prefer Stanza (free) for books and Goodreader ($2) for PDFs.
  • Has anyone worked out how to make the Bookmarks icon appear? I find it very frustrating that it is referred to, but does not appear to exist! It's so much easier in Stanza
  • As an avid mac fiend and initially thrilled by the great look of iBook I am so disappointed! After using Stanza until the iBook app came out - it pains me to say this, but iBook is so painfully slow I miss Stanza like nobody's business, but with the limitations on book selection (since it was acquired by Amazon) i mistakenly got excited by Apple coming to the rescue and coming out with iBook- i feel like i've been relegated to dial-up as punishment for some reprehensible crime...come on this is the digital age- where is the Apple of yesteryear that would not stand for sub par functionality - ranks right up there with the customer service faux pas "hold your phone differently if you want better signal strength" what????!!!!! Had to get that off my chest.
  • The icon of the ibooks does not appear on my iphone 3gs. i have to look it up in the finder
  • My bill has shot up since I started using iBooks on my commute. Do you rack up charges reading on the go out of wifi range and usuing 3G ?
  • Good: Great app for easy access to reading all the time anywhere you go.
    Bad: Not all the books have the entire contents of the book. Some pages just give an error message. I tried updating software and searched apple help forums only to find other unanswered questions about the infamous error message listed below....... 173 pages of this same message. not a very good book :)
    This page contains the following errors:
    error on line one at column 1:
    I'm pretty sure all isales are final. Even on books with error message filled pages. Most books work great though.
  • HTC inspire is very good phone. Really it is better than IPhone4. Especialy the video streaming is really good in HTC, where it is not possible with iPhone4. Its difference from H+(4G) and 3G(S). But the batter life is two harrible. Is HTC do something to overcome this problem ?