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]


  • 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.