There is nothing better than the antique smell of a book and the feel of pages turning under your fingertips. But thanks to tablets, we can now carry around a virtual library with us — any book we own is accessible in just a few taps and swipes.
There are pros and cons on both sides of the paper vs. e-book debate, but let's face it — e-books are easy to read, as tablets offer brightness adjustments, zooming and letter resizing.
They're more convenient than lugging around a 700-page novel and are more environmentally friendly because you're saving trees!
There are a few popular tablets selling themselves as readers – such as Amazon's Kindle or Barnes and Noble's Nook – though any smartphone or tablet can be used as an e-reader. But when it comes to buying e-books, what's the best service?
Let's take a look at how Oyster stacks up against Scribd, Kindle Store and iBooks.
Oyster, commonly called the "Netflix for books," announced on Wednesday, April 8, that it's launching an e-book store. That means users will be able to own the books they read instead of just renting them as part of Oyster's monthly subscription.
Those who subscribe to Oyster Unlimited for $9.95 a month will have access to over a million titles to rent from the virtual library — which include new releases, daily deals and classics. Users will however have to buy any books they want to read that aren't available as part of the subscription, on top of the monthly fee.
Oyster offers recommendations based on the types of books you like to read, as well as book reviews from a high-profile editorial team. Among others, the service provides books published by Hachette and Penguin Random House — who are both supporting Oyster after refusing to participate in the subscription business model.
Those who use Oyster can download their e-books through the app available on Apple's iPhone or iPads, Android smartphones, Amazon's Kindle Fire, Barnes and Noble's Nook HD, as well as the web — making it a service for just about anyone with a smartphone or tablet.
Those who buy books on the web can see them at oysterbooks.com when they sign in. In case of cancellation, a user can still keep the purchased books, accessing them on the Oyster app. This feature makes Oyster ideal for a bookworm who wants to try out a subscription service, but might cancel after a month or two.
Scribd started as a popular document-sharing service and expanded in 2013 to include an e-book subscription service. It costs users $8.99 a month for an unlimited subscription, which is available on iOS, Android, and for the desktop — giving tablet and smartphone owners another "Netlfix for books" option.
In 2014, the service added audiobooks to its virtual library with Grammy award-winning narrators, and in February of this year, Scribd signed a deal with big comic book publishers like Marvel, Valiant and Archie Comics to provide more than 10,000 titles in a comic book section — a feature that sets this subscription service apart from the others. So if you are a huge comic book fan, this service is the right one for you.
Editors and algorithms also help recommend books based on the titles read, and there is no limit to number of titles downloaded at the less-than-$10 monthly fee.
Amazon's Kindle Store offers users a subscription option as well as a traditional e-store. For $9.99, Kindle Unlimited gives the user access to more than 700,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks available to download on any device, such as the Kindle Fire HDX, iOS devices or Android smartphones and tablets with the free Kindle app.
The service uses Whispersync for Voice, which allows you to switch from reading your book to listening to it — all without losing your place.
The Kindle Store also offers the ability to purchase e-books without the subscription, offering best sellers and book deals. The popular Amazon vs. Hachette feud has however made some books from the publishing house unavailable for purchase.
Author James Patterson is strongly against Amazon, which is the primary seller of e-books in the U.S., and authors like J.K. Rowling are reluctant. So if you want to support a favorite author who is publicly against Amazon, the Kindle Store may not be for you.
Amazon also has a Kindle First program, where uses can read next month's new releases now — another cool feature for book lovers who want to read the latest and greatest before anyone else. Users can read one of the four Editors' Picks on a Kindle device or on any device through the app for $1.99, but Prime users get it for free.
Apple's iBooks allows iOS users to read books on their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac, offering everything from classics to best sellers. The iBook store offers more than 2.5 million books. Some are free, while others will cost you. There is no subscription service option for iBooks, making this the option for people who are light readers and don't want to pay for a service they won't use often.
If a book – such as a textbook – is updated, the app will give you the option to download the updated version of the book for free, replacing the old one — a feature the others don't offer.
There's also a Multi-Touch option on some books, which allows you to swipe through a photo gallery and rotate a 3D object with your finger, as well as bringing animation to life and accessing audio commentary. These books include textbooks and volumes found in the Food and Cooking, Travel, and Arts and Entertainment categories.
All of your books can be stored on iCloud, so you can read them on multiple Apple devices once you tap to download it. This makes iBooks the choice for the person who wants to read over the phone on the way to work and on the iPad in bed at night.
If you're reading in low light, iBooks automatically switches the text to white on a black background, making it easy to read — a feature you would have to manually adjust on non-Apple devices. There is also the ability to share quotes via message, mail, Facebook or Twitter — right from the page.
Users can also keep PDF files in iBooks so all their guides and proposals are easy to access in one place. Though only some books are free, there is an option to download book samples so you can read a section before committing to the purchase.
There are ups and downs to every e-book service, with some features that make each stand out against the pack. The right option for you depends on how often you read and if you want to pay one monthly fee for a large library, or pay by the book for the ones you really want.
Photo: tribehut | Flickr