Apple has released a version of its iBooks app for iPhone and iPod touch models running iOS 4. Up until now iBooks was only available for the iPad.

The eBook store and reader joins a crowded field of eBook apps for the iPhone. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo (Borders) already offer apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. And there are a number of other free eBook apps that let you download free and paid books from the internet.

There is one killer feature that iBooks has that others don’t, though: integration with iTunes. That means you can pay for books using the same iTunes account that you use to pay for music, movie, and app purchases. It also means that you can pay for purchases without leaving the iBooks app. And your bookmarks and other notations can optionally be saved to your iTunes account for synchronization across multiple devices, such as an iPhone and iPad.

That said, iBooks is surprisingly rough around the edges… at least on my third generation iPod touch 8GB model. Admittedly, my device has a slower processor than new models, but I really wouldn’t have expected an eBook app to be resource intensive. But it’s one of the slowest apps on my iPod touch at the moment. Launching the application takes a surprisingly long time, rotating from portrait to landscape mode takes so long that at first I didn’t think it was even possible… until a few seconds later the screen shifted. And opening a book is at least as slow as loading the application.

Once you do manage to open a book, the reading experience is pleasant enough. You can adjust fonts and screen brightness easily, and the books manage to mix pictures and text nicely.The search function is also pretty decent, and one of my favorite features is the ability to download substantial previews of paid eBooks to read before deciding whether to shell out some money for the full title.

It is a little disconcerting that you have to click on a book title in the iBooks store to see the price. Most other eBook apps show you the price on the search results or browsing pages. But on the bright side, Apple’s iBooks prices seem competitive with those found in the Amazon, Kindle, and Kobo stores.

You can download iBooks for free from the App Store. And you can check out some more screenshots after the break.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...