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Bookmate. Books and audiobooks

App review by
Patricia Montic..., Common Sense Media
Bookmate. Books and audiobooks App Poster Image
Confusing content, privacy issues limit e-reader.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Encourages reading, and kids can highlight text that resonates with them and write reviews that reflect on what they read and how it makes them feel. Kids can also create collections of books that reflect themes they love or that they hope to read. 

Ease of Play

While it's pretty easy to bookmark a page or highlight a passage, it's surprisingly hard to access the navigation menus when you're reading a book. Plus, the app has a tendency to crash if you ask it to do too much at once.

Violence

It depends on what you read. It's disturbing that Adolf Hitler's manifesto is one of the front-page choices on both the free and paid versions of the app.

Sex

It depends on what you read; there's Fifty Shades-adjacent fan fiction here, plus some romance novels with covers that leave little to the imagination. 

Language

It depends on what you read.

Consumerism

Since publishers can access users' public reading lists, some search results and recommended reads are actually sponsored content. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

It depends on what you read.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bookmate. Books and audiobooks is an app for finding books and audiobooks and reading them across your devices. You can create a paid or free account and access books, audiobooks, and podcasts from around the world. You can use the app to create and share shelves of books you've enjoyed or plan to read, and you can comment on books you've read and highlight notable quotes. There's also an option to upload books to the platform. Your reading history is shared publicly by default, and it's accessible both by other users and by publishers who make their content available on the platform unless you choose to read in "private" mode. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

BOOKMATE. BOOKS AND AUDIOBOOKS is an e-reader app for tablets, mobile devices, and desktops. Once you create a free account or purchase a subscription, you can search its library and download ebooks, audiobooks, and podcasts to your devices. You can read or listen as you switch from one device to another, and there are features for changing ebooks' fonts and colors. You can also comment on and review books, connect with other users, and create bookshelves of books you like or plan to read. 

Is it any good?

If you're looking for an app to help you manage your reading and listening list, keep looking. Even with a paid subscription, the selection in Bookmate. Books and audiobooks is pretty limited, and searches for common books (like recent bestsellers or major titles like Harry Potter) come up short. Instead, these searches more often result in a list of tangentially related items, like podcasts, fanfic, and unauthorized biographies. It's not clear where this content is coming from. There's a decent selection of public-domain classics, but it's not clear how or why this selection of books and audiobooks and podcasts turns up here. If a book doesn't show up in a search, the app mystifyingly invites users to upload the book on their own, which seems like an odd thing to expect from users who are looking for new books in the first place. Perhaps most importantly, as an e-reader, it's is actually pretty hard to use: It's surprisingly tricky to get the navigation menus to appear on screen while you're reading a book. 

Finally, this app feels uncomfortable from a privacy perspective. Unless you choose to read privately, your book shelves and reading history are shared by default, both with other users and with publishers whose content appears on the platform. Overall, look elsewhere for an app to effectively find and enjoy digital media.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about advertising in apps like Bookmate. Books and audiobooks. Publishers can promote their content to users based on their past reading history; does that seem like advertising? How can we tell when a recommendation is an ad or not?

  • Talk about the genres you like to read. What do you like? What do your kids like? What makes their favorite books appealing?

  • Whether you use this app or another ereader, enjoy discovering new genres of writing with your kids. Try reading a book as a family that's not in your usual range of interests -- you may end up pleasantly surprised!

  • Talk about the experience of reading a book versus listening to an audiobook. How does the reading experience change? Which do you and your kids prefer? Why? 

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: reading
  • Price: Free to try
  • Pricing structure: Free to try (free trial, then $1.99/mo. or more depending on subscription)
  • Release date: January 28, 2020
  • Category: Books
  • Size: 112.00 MB
  • Publisher: Bookmate
  • Version: 8.7.1
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 11.0 or later.
  • Last updated: February 12, 2020

For kids who love reading

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