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Page turners: apps for book tracking and reading habits

Feeling guilty about unread books on your shelves – virtual or otherwise? These apps can help

Phones can be a distraction. No sooner have you settled down for an evening of reading when your iPhone pings and then, suddenly, it’s midnight. Tsk!

The apps in this round-up help bring focus back to books (and ebooks) by giving you insight over your collection, along with what you’re reading, where loaned books have gone, and what you love.

Book Track (free + $4.99/£4.49)

Best for a premium book-tracking experience

It’s immediately apparent how at home Book Track is on Apple devices. It employs Apple design language in fine style, making the app instantly familiar and usable.

You add books by online search or bar code scan and your library quickly builds into a beautiful grid of covers. More of a minimalist? Opt for the text-only list or lozenge-based set-up that combines cover thumbnails and titles. All formats let you quickly filter and sort your books by various criteria, which you can further augment by using tags and categories.

Book details are filled automatically, but you can edit them and flag books that have been loaned (by manual entry – there’s no Contacts integration). Items you want to buy but don’t own can be sent to a wish list, and for current reads you can state what page you’re on at any given time.

That last bit keeps you honest, your data entry building out the Statistics tab that outlines how many books you’ve read each month. All this data syncs via iCloud, cementing a book tracker that’s a perfect fusion of looks, smarts and ease of use.

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Bookshelf (free)

Best for free book tracking

At under five bucks, Book Track won’t break the bank, but Bookshelf offers a free alternative if you’re not feeling spendy. Broadly, it echoes its rival in terms of features, with you building your collection by way of bar code scans, online searches or manual entry. There’s a discovery tab, too, for finding new things to read.

Dig into any individual title you add and you can edit its details or add notes. The latter section has a space for ratings, details about purchasing and loans, and what page you’re up to. You can create virtual shelves to house your books as well, which can be accessed via the main browsing view.

The app syncs your data between devices and offers a few graphs that outline your reading progress – although those are buried in Settings > Reports & Statistics. We also found the app’s navigation a touch fiddly, the iPad experience poor (it’s a blown-up iPhone app) and the overall feel functional rather than beautiful. Still, for free, this is a generous and capable book tracker.

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Also consider: If you want a free book tracker that’s optimized for iPad, Reading List is a great option. However, you’ll need to pay for pro ($9.99/£8.99) to sync data between devices, at which point Book Track’s better value.

Goodreads (free)

Best for discovery – and having your say

Should you want to share your opinions about books, rather than merely manage a collection, Goodreads is an essential download. It combines aspects of discovery, criticism and library management, and has a surprising and more literal take on ‘book scanning’ than the other apps on test: point your iPhone’s camera at a book’s cover and Goodreads will recognize it. Impressive.

Books initially head to ‘Read’ and ‘Want to Read’ shelves, but you can create your own custom shelves as well. In-progress books appear at the top of your list, and you can state what page you’re on. When finished, you can rate the book and even write a review.

The app’s online nature makes it comparatively sluggish, but it’s a solid option if you want to add a social aspect to library management, even to the point of adding friends to the app. Even if you don’t fall for its management smarts, Goodreads is a recommended download purely for its discoverability and review elements.

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Serial Reader (free)

Best for digging into the classics

Rather than helping you tackle all those books you’ve been meaning to read, Serial Reader concentrates on the classics. It does this in a really smart way, casually hand-waving away any notion that you don’t have the time to read the likes of Pride and Prejudice, The Odyssey, Frankenstein and War of the Worlds. Rather than you sitting there with an entire book, it’s sent your way in bite-sized pieces called issues, which take about ten minutes each to read.

It’s a clever concept that makes even weightier tomes seem manageable, and is ideal fodder for a daily streak if you use a habit app. There are loads of books to choose from too, which can be browsed in the Add New Serial screen by what’s trending, genre or search.

All of this, including settings to adjust the reading view, notifications and new issue delivery time, comes for free. Pay the one-off premium charge – all of $2.99/£2.49 – and you get a host of additional features, including cloud sync, text highlights, series pause, the means to add your own ePubs to the app, and the ability to access future issues, for those times a book hooks you but ten minutes of reading isn’t enough.

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