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Bookmate: is this really Netflix for books?

This service has potential, but it’s let down in one major way

Price: Free
Version: 7.6
Size: 117 MB
Developer: Bookmate Limited
Platform: iPhone/iPad


Update! It’s been some time since we last looked at Bookmate. So, is this “Netflix for books” still an impressive service, or has time not been kind to the app? Let’s find out!

So what’s new? The good news, first and foremost, is that our one major criticism of Bookmate appears to have been rectified. When we last looked at the app, we were surprised to see that there was a fairly limited selection of e-books available in the service. Now, however, Bookmate offers a much wider range of titles for users to access. This means users will really feel like they’re getting their money’s worth with a Bookmate subscription. On top of that, new features have been added to the app on both iOS and iPadOS. It’s now possible to search for text within an e-book, and users can also recommend audiobooks and comics (as well as regular books) to friends via the app. Plus, changes to the app’s library page make Bookmate feel more responsive and fine-tuned.

Revised rating: All of that makes Bookmate better than ever. It’s great to see that the app’s library of titles has increased, and that a handful of more minor (but nevertheless appreciated) features have reached the service. For that, Bookmate’s score deserves to be bumped up, too. ★★★★★


Our original review, written in November 2018, is presented in its entirety below.

Bookmate is an iOS app that offers users a “Netflix for books” experience. Sign up and the app provides access to a huge collection of ebooks, 50,000 of which are available on the app’s free tier. Bookmate even includes audiobooks, meaning the service is taking aim at iBooks, Kindle, and Audible, all in one go.

Bookmate is elegant and simple, but packed with features

The app itself is nicely designed and fits perfectly within iOS. A Library interface lets users search for books, and tapping an individual title leads you to the reading interface. Much like iBooks, this interface includes a page-turning animation which looks and feels really nice. You can also touch individual words to highlight them, look up definitions, or even access translation tools. So far, so good.

The reading interface is clean and crisp

Even better are the app’s audiobook features. You can search for audiobooks in Bookmate and have them read to you in soothing, dulcet tones. The audio book for A Christmas Carol even includes some festive background music, which is nice. Audiobooks can be downloaded for offline listening, timers can be set, and you can skip between chapters easily. Users can also AirPlay their audio book over to an Apple HomePod or Sonos speaker.

Books can be shared with friends using links generated from the app, and there’s even support for the iMessage App Store, allowing users to send off a list of books they’re currently reading without leaving the Messages app. Bookmate also encourages users to leave “impressions” on content they’ve interacted with, either in the form of a simple thumbs-up (or down), or with a longer, more detailed critical analysis.

You can add feedback (called an “impression”) to a book you’ve read or listened to

The ebooks and audiobooks you’re currently reading or listening to can be accessed in another interface, called My books, which serves as a personalized virtual bookshelf. And another tab, called Activity, lets you add friends from Facebook or Twitter and see what they’ve been reading.

All of these features don’t come free: Bookmate Premium, which unlocks the app’s full library of ebooks, is $10 (£10) per month; on top of that, Bookmate’s Audio subscription costs an additional $14.49 (£14.49) per month. But this isn’t the problem with Bookmate.

Instead, the problem with Bookmate is its limited selection of titles. Some of the most popular and well-known books out there aren’t available in the app. Searches for All the Pretty Horses, The Hobbit, and Milkman (winner of the Man Booker Prize 2018) all returned zilch. Searches for books out of copyright, on the other hand, returned a bountiful selection.

That’s right: “one of the greatest American novels of this or any time” isn’t available, although it is on iBooks

This large but limited selection of content isn’t entirely unexpected, and again throws up a parallel to a service like Netflix; though its library can undoubtedly provide value, don’t expect all the latest releases and bestsellers to be included here.

So while Bookmate does ship with a nifty selection of features, your mileage with this offering of ebooks may vary. The good news is that you can take the app’s premium services for a spin free of charge for a whole week. We’d recommend checking it out yourself to see how many titles you’re interested in before committing to payment.