One of the pleasant surprises of the iOS 4 launch was that Apple decided to build in Adobe PDF support into the iBooks App to provide PDF viewing outside of Mail attachments and without having to use a 3rd Party App. I had already pretty much settled in on ReaddleDocs and GoodReader as being the two BEST PDF viewers for the iPad, so I was curious to see how iBooks would stack up? After all iBooks is FREE and I do believe in having less Apps if one can do the work of two. Since iBooks is going to be there for viewing ePUBs and iBookstore downloads, why not use it for PDF viewing too if it will do the job?
Just the basics here folks
I wasn't expecting any miracles. However, I guess I was expecting a little more than what's there in this version. First off the PDF support in the iDevices (iPod touch, iPhone and iPad) is limited compared to what's possible in the PDF spec. For example, things like form fields in a PDF are ignored in the iOS itself. So I wasn't expecting to see anything that I hadn't seen before, but I guess I was expecting a few more bells and whistles. You can add PDFs to iBooks either via an iTunes sync or directly from other Apps like Mail. If you receive a PDF in Mail on your iDevice you can tap the "Open In" iBooks button. Visually Apple did a great job providing a thumbnail of the first page and putting it right on the bookshelf. However, once I view the PDF it seems that all you can do is "view it!" You can swipe to change pages. You can pinch to zoom in and out and you can bookmark pages. You can also do keyword searches (a must have for me) and it displays the page thumbnails at the bottom of the screen (nice touch). However, there is not much else. You can't share the PDF outside of iBooks once it's in there. There doesn't appear to be any way to select/highlight text for copying. All of these features and more are in the dedicated Apps like ReadleDocs and GoodReader.
The Bottom Line
iBooks is FREE and therefore hard to knock! It does give you basic storing and viewing of PDFs outside of Mail. This is good because it means that you can keep all of your PDFs in one spot on your iDevice. If you need more than the basics, then I'm still going to recommend that you check out ReaddleDocs (my favorite choice) and GoodReader.