Barnes & Noble currently lists over 1 million titles in its catalog, but more than half a million of those are free, public domain books from Google Books. The selection of recently published titles is comprehensive, and the store offers at least 90 percent of the books on the New York Times' bestseller list.
The app syncs Barnes & Noble accounts across all devices, including dedicated eReaders. Users have access to their purchased books and can pick up reading where they left off on a different device, just as with Amazon's app. Clicking Shop for eBooks launches the browser straight away instead of allowing users to browse within the app. Though we found it annoying to have to launch the app again if we decided not to purchase, this isn't a deal-breaker.
B&N includes the LendMe feature on the iPhone and Android apps, which is also available on the Nook eReader. You can lend a book to a friend for 14 days from within the app by entering the recipient's e-mail and sending the offer. The iPhone version pulls in existing contacts as well.
Side-loading EPUB files not purchased through B&N isn't yet available, but the company hopes to include it in a future update.
Navigating the Library
In the Library view, users can peruse books in a list or grid of covers. Though the app forgoes the literal bookshelf motif chosen by others, we appreciate the simplicity of the grid and the large number of covers viewable at a glance. Beyond the full list, you can sort by collection/genre and from there by title, author, or date.
Unobtrusive menus sit at the top and bottom of the Barnes & Noble app when reading books. These provide quick access to settings, Day/Night theme changes, the table of contents, search, and more. A small progress bar at the bottom remains even after the menus are dismissed, but it doesn't get in the way. Users can swipe right/up and left/down or tap the corresponding edges to turn pages. Though the text always moves horizontally even when we swiped up and down, the reading experience was otherwise immersive.
This app offers a wide range of personalization settings, including over a dozen font faces and text sizes and the ability to change text, links, and backgrounds to any shade of the color wheel. Barnes & Noble includes several predesigned themes, but users can modify them or create their own.
Barnes & Noble's app blends the functionality developed for its standalone reader into a feature-rich smart phone experience. We only wish it could manage eBooks not purchased from their store.