First of all, I do not own an iPhone or iPad. This makes me sad, but thankfully the App Store is still around for me to read vicariously. If I did have an iPhone, you can bet a good number of these apps would make it on there:
I promise that I only used CliffsNotes to cheat a very few times in high school, namely when I had to read Sophie’s World. But even now, I browse CliffsNotes books when I’m unsure about whether or not I want to read a certain classic. If you’re a student, this app includes a “Cram Plan” which you can scroll through to learn as much as possible in five minutes, or, if you have more time, you can read the full CliffsNotes summaries, along with character descriptions and quizzes to see what you’ve learned. (As a former educator, the link above goes to the only book I can endorse reading the Cliff’s Notes version of instead of the original. ~ed.)
The New York Times crossword is the stuff of legend. And if you do it on your iPhone, you won’t have to worry about scratching out pen marks or erasing so often you tear through the newspaper. But the app will mimic either pencil or pen writing, based on your preference (now that’s service). My beef with this app is that, while you initially get one week of free puzzles, after that you have to buy a subscription to keep playing. On the upside, you have access to over 4,000 old NYT puzzles, in addition to the same ones that appear in the daily paper.
If you want to read books on your iPhone, there are several apps for that, but this one has the most recommendations and accolades. Much like on larger book readers, you can purchase newer titles (50,000 in Stanza’s library) or download one of Project Gutenberg’s 50,000 free titles. Stanza also allows you to transfer books from your Mac/PC through iTunes sharing.
4. Mad Libs
Oh come on, this would be so perfect for a road trip! That said, I think I might test out the free version and see whether or not it’s really worth it to buy the whole “Goofy Mad Libs Application.” You might do one Mad Lib and then realize that there’s a reason you haven’t done this since elementary school. Another downside: the paid application apparently offers “over 20 silly, goofy and crazy Mad Libs stories for hours of fun!” Um, hours? I feel like I could do 20 Mad Libs in, like, 30 minutes. Ah, well.
If you are a more serious comic fan, there are also Marvel and DC comic apps. However, I myself love Archie and it’s the kind of thing you don’t get very emotionally invested in (will he pick Betty? Or Veronica? Will we ever know for sure??) and nobody’s going to complain that the graphics suffer from being on a tiny iPhone screen. You get four free Archie Comics with this, then have to purchase subsequent titles.
Kind of lame title, but this app does deliver on the audiobooks. You can choose from “over 3, 535 classic audiobooks for FREE,” but they also have more contemporary books for purchase. One nice feature is background playback, so you can do other stuff on your iPhone while listening. Another is automatic bookmarking, so you don’t have to scramble to find your place every time you start re-listening.
While Stanza does provide access to Project Gutenberg, if you want to enjoy a more elegant reading experience, Classics provides 23 titles that are formatted so it looks like you are picking them off a bookcase, opening them and actually flipping pages. For some, this might be a welcome change to reading flat, digital pages, or it might be obnoxious. It’s hard to say. But the Classics app also has a few illustrated books, including Alice in Wonderland, which might be worth taking a peek.
This app reminds me of the side-by-side Shakespeare and modern translations I used to get at the library. If you’re just starting to read Shakespeare, it can be incredibly useful to read both at once, and you’ll find that you get better and better at understanding the archaic language as you read and compare more. This app comes with one free play of your choice, the full text of 154 sonnets, plus access to the first chapters of 18 other plays. Additionally, plot summaries, a search tool, and character facts will give readers context.
This app seems really cool to me, even though it doesn’t come with any free books, because it allows you to browse indie booksellers lists of recommendations and summaries of titles, then buy the books from online indie sellers. In addition, you can use the app to located indie bookshops in your area, not to mention other independently owned businesses, like coffeeshops. Can it tell you whether your mustache is ironic or just plain ugly? Maybe, someday.
10. Bookworm (the game)
Technically, this is just plain fun. Yeah, you can argue that finding words in blocks of tiles helps improve your vocabulary, if it makes you feel better. But why not just enjoy the cute little worm wearing the glasses and save your energy for freaking out when burning tiles get too close to the floor?