How to open an ebook on iPhone


You don’t have to buy an iPad or a dedicated ebook reading device to read ebooks. Your iPhone is more than enough for that purpose.

In this post I’ll share usage tips to get you started and explore flexibility the iPhone adds to reading experience.

Why iPhone and why not iPad? Sometimes iPad is just one device too much. It’s the smartphone that you always keep. This gives you the chance to instantly read books at any time and place you want – even if you haven’t planned it.

Reading on the iPhone in a subway or while waiting for a bus can seriously increase the amount of time you devote to book reading. Just like a habit (conditioned reflex?) of checking out Twitter app, you can reach for the iPhone to open a book reading app, even if you’ve got only a couple of spare minutes.

iPhone offers reading versatility of the tablet. The only issue you may have is the size. It’s not the issue for me. iPhone screen in a portrait position has the width of a newspaper column. Do you have a problem with that size while reading a print edition of The New York Times?

What’s more, in any book reading application you can make the font bigger, much bigger, than in The New York Times. And much bigger than in a Facebook app. If you don’t have a problem reading Facebook status updates or comments why should you have it in a book reading application?

In an interview for The New York Times in early 2008, Steve Jobs said that “people don’t read any more”. Ironically, it was the iPhone to show up as a surprisingly good ebook reading device. Why not giving it a try? Below you’ll find tips and tricks to make the most of it.

Pick up the apps that fit your needs

iBooks is Apple’s own e-reading application, but it’s not obligatory to use it. You can use other apps, too, you don’t have to limit yourself to a single app. It’s one of the most prominent advantages multi-purpose tablets and smartphones have over dedicated e-readers.

Use a combination of apps that fit your needs most

Use Kindle for iOS app and you’ll turn your iPhone into Kindle e-reader. Use Nook, or Kobo, or Google Play Books, and make your iPhone an e-reading device connected with your favorite ebookstore. Or use a combination of a few apps that fit your needs most.

There are two kinds of book apps in the iTunes AppStore:

  • book readers,
  • standalone books.

Book readers

Book readers let not only read, but also manage a collection of books you added. Many popular ebookstores have their own book reading apps for iPhone.

Kindle vs Kobo apps for iPhoneVirtual bookshelf in Kindle (left) and Kobo (right)

If you are an Amazon customer you can download Kindle application. You can read in this app books bought in the Kindle Store, or added in a compatible file format. Same with Kobo, Nook, or Sony. If you don’t want to sign up to any new service to start reading ebooks, you can pick up other apps.

One of them is Google Play Books. All you need is a Gmail account. You can add books via Google Play Books site that’s associated with your Gmail, to get them delivered to your iPhone.

Most iPhone apps support epub and pdf file format. Only two apps can open mobi/prc files: Kindle and eBookMobi.

iPhone is a great device to test e-reading applications

iPhone, with an access to the web, is actually a great device to test e-reading applications. You can play with each one while having a couple of minutes of spare time.

Standalone books

The other kind of e-reading applications in the iTunes AppStore is standalone book apps. They are single books with extra features, usually letting you read books in an enhanced way.

If you are looking for a rich-media cookbook or an interactive children’s book, you can find a relevant book app in the iTunes AppStore, not only in the Book category.

One of the most wonderful standalone book apps for iPhone is The Silent History – a groundbreaking novel that uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children.

The Silent HistoryThe Silent History

Having a Kindle or Kobo e-reader is like using one reading app. You can only benefit from what it offers and nothing else. If you need more flexibility, use the iPhone and adjust the way you read to your current task or mood.

Add your own books

Once you install a book reading app on the iPhone, you can easily add your own books to it. Some ebookstores (Kindle, Kobo, Nook) offer book-syncing via their cloud library, but you can add books directly to the device, as well.

There are generally three ways to add own books and personal docs to book reading iOS apps.

Adding own books to iPhone book app

1. Open an email attachment

One method is to send an email to yourself and open it in a native Mail app on the iPhone. Tap on an attachment and you should see a dialog box Open with…. Select the app you want to use and it will open immediately with a book already loaded.

2. Use cloud service app

The other popular way is to use Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other cloud service that has an iPhone application. You can upload the book on your computer and find it in a Dropbox app. When you tap on a file, Dropbox will ask you to pick the app.

3. Use Safari to open file from url address

Some ebook sites (Project Gutenberg, Smashwords, Feedbooks are the best ones) have tailored their interfaces to mobile devices, and on top of that they have clear url addresses of ebook files.

Thanks to that you can easily access and browse these sites directly from your iPhone’s Safari. When you tap on a link to a particular file format, you will be given a list of applications that can open the file.

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