For those who love ebooks, they’re a gift from the literary gods. Carrying a library in the palm of your hand is amazing. And if you can store it on your phone, you’ll never be without a good book. Check out our favorite third-party ebook reader apps for iOS.
Note: Android users can check out the best ebook reader here.
Marvin can read e-books from your own personal library just as easily as a Calibre-powered OPDS server. It can even search free e-book sites like Project Gutenberg and download what you find. Awesome unique features include extra screen darkening and Flux-like screen warming for late-night reading, awesome copying tools, near-infinite color customization, Deep View, which reads your book and summarizes all the uses of a character or place name, and Karaoke, which flashes individual words on the screen quickly to enable speed reading (a la Spreeder).
Marvin also supports CBX files for comics and a TTS read-aloud function for Siri-powered audiobooks. The highlighting tool is robust but not so easy to access. Annotations and highlighting color could be easier to set. With all the features the app carries, it makes its obnoxious and persistent “upgrade now” banner on the free version a little more understandable, if not forgivable.
tiReader has big aspirations. The app is more than just an ebook reader app: it’s an omnivorous media viewer with support for annotation. This includes an annotation-friendly photo viewer that builds a table of contents based on the folder structure of a ZIP file, supports DJVU files with bookmarks and annotations, and an audiobook player with support for searchable bookmarks and annotations. The annotation tools are robust and complete. Users just looking for a basic ebook reader app for iOS might be overwhelmed by everything. There’s a lot to tiReader, and if you don’t need all its annotation power, the annotations can make the app feel cluttered.
The app’s design could also be a little more modern. tiReader’s user interface has more of a Windows vibe than an iOS feel. For users with their own ebook libraries, you can link to OPDS servers or cloud services like Dropbox from within the application. You’ll also find built-in connectivity for free ebook repositories like Project Gutenberg. If you want something that can take any kind of media and mark it up, tiReader is where it’s at.
3. KyBook 2
Kybook 2 offers awesome integration with existing free ebook libraries like Project Gutenberg. However, importing your own ebooks into Kybook is a little difficult. The app seems designed primarily for hosted OPDS ebook libraries, so copying an ePub from somewhere like Dropbox is a little complicated. But once you get a book into the app, Kybook 2 offers a good reading experience with strong customization. Users can apply CSS-based stylesheet changes and load custom TrueType fonts. Minimalistic but powerful highlighting keeps the reading experience visually streamlined. It was also smart enough to automatically organize my Star Wars ePubs into series based on their metadata.
The best thing about Hyphen is its sleek, modern interface. The app’s reader is functional and pleasant. Adding books is easy with built-in support for OPDS and cloud services. The display can get incredibly dark with just the swipe of a finger. That’s perfect for late-night reading in low-light settings. Default color customization is virtually infinite, and power users can dig deeper with support for CSS stylesheets. Hyphen also sports one of the largest font libraries we’ve seen in an e-book reader app for iOS. Highlighting and annotation tools are available but require a few taps to access the advanced features. This is a good interface trade-off if you only want one-color highlighting, but it might annoy the annotation fanatics among us. Uniquely, highlights can be easily exported as HTML files, providing backup for detailed annotations.
5. Bluefire Reader
Bluefire Reader is a decent e-book reader app for iOS, with functional annotation tools, built-in Dropbox connectivity, an attractive reading mode and flexible text display options. It doesn’t provide any of the advanced features we’ve found in other apps, but it’s a straight-forward ebook reader app that might be appealing to fans of simplicity. Readers can also directly download Adobe DRM ebooks with Bluefire.
Marvin is our personal favorite e-book reading app for iOS. Kybook 2 and tiReader are close behind. Marvin wins thanks to unique features like Deep View, Karaoke, and an ultra-dark night mode. Hyphen has a beautiful interface and is a great basic reader. However, it doesn’t have the additional features we found in other apps. Other ebook reader apps for iOS are frequently missing critical features that some will find hard to go without.
Image credit: EBook between paper books