Entering the eReader market is no easy endeavor given its dominance by powerhouses like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple. It’s enough to make anyone launching a new app look like they are on a suicide mission. Yet the developers behind Subtext believe their social take on reading will appeal to those looking for an interactive community of book readers.
As an eReader Subtext performs exceptionally well. Pages turn Flipboard style with a sharp, fluid animation. It is more lively than other apps which either have a boring slide to the next page or unsuccessfully try to copy the elaborate slow turn of iBooks. It also performs better than some of its rivals at functions like search. It has better in-book options such as the ability to highlight a word and search throughout the book; looking on Google or Wikipedia is also done through a smart popup window at the bottom of the page.
Finding the other options will take some work, though fortunately the developers have included a 20-page guide to walk users through all the features. The key differentiation from other apps is sharing notes and comments with other Subtext users. Opening Subtext is more like a social network, with updates from fellow readers about their notes and reading status. If many of these features become overwhelming they can be turned off in the settings.
Those checking out Subtext should experiment to determine what is the sweet spot between an enhanced reading experience or too much noise. Yet the discussion that builds can be quite interesting – especially among the more popular books, such as the best-selling Steve Jobs biography.
Many books have been specifically enhanced for Subtext, with author videos, notes and observations embedded in the book. Wanted to know what the author was thinking about their word choice or how they wrote a particular scene? With Subtext that question may get answered depending how much extra content that author threw in.
Linking one’s Google and Facebook accounts is highly recommended. The advantage to the former is that any eBook purchased from Google’s eBook store is automatically imported into Subtext. In fact, those who have been using the Google Books app on their iPad will find Subtext to be a superior app.
Buying books is a pretty good experience. There are highlighted titles from a series of categories, such as classics or top fiction and non-fiction. The selection is limited from within Subtext, as users are prompted to explore the bookstore from Google or Kobo to browse additional titles. This, of course, is not entirely Subtext’s fault as Apple infamously banned in-app eBook storefronts earlier this year.
Yet Subtext developers promise more content and believe they are bucking the system when it comes to opening up users’ content. For example, books purchased on a Kindle can not be loaded into iBooks, or vice versa. Yet Subtext users can not only sync in books from Google or Kobo, but any book in ePub format can be uploaded into Subtext.
To help users increase their collection Subtext will e-mail you a link to a tablet-friendly site for buying from Google or Kobo. The Google buying experience is still somewhat clunky on the iPad, while the Kobo store is only slightly better. To avoid headaches some may want to make the purchase from a computer’s web browser.
Fortunately, racking up all of those pages can also be fun. Subtext users earn points for reading, sharing notes or completing other tasks throughout the app. Those are redeemed for extra content, like author’s notes.
Subtext isn’t for everyone. Those who prefer a streamlined, user-friendly experience of buying books and getting started reading them from within one application will be happier sticking with iBooks. Yet for those who can’t get enough of discussion threads, are avid book club members or just want a good book-related conversation will find much to like with Subtext.
- Unique take on eReader
- Good design
Off the Mark:
- Social options can get busy