Electronic books are becoming increasingly popular as they provide quick access to the latest titles on a variety of electronic devices without the need for shelves and cupboards full of books. Two of the most popular formats are from Apple and Amazon, whose iBooks and Kindle platforms both have thousands of titles and are used around the world.

Here we look at how both eBook platforms compare and what may be the right choice for you.

What Devices Support iBooks and Kindle?

A key advantage of Amazon’s Kindle platform is that eBooks can be read on many different devices, including Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows 7 smartphones, as well as the iPod Touch and PC and Mac computers. This makes it a platform accessible to billions of users and the app itself is free (although some aps aren’t available in all regions). Using Amazon’s Whispersync technology, eBooks purchased from the Kindle Store can be synchronised across any device the user has so you can start reading on one and continue on another.

And, of course, there’s also Amazon’s hugely popular Kindle eBook Reader which helped them to sell more eBooks last year than either hardbacks or paperbacks.

By comparison, iBooks is only supported by the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad so moving away from an Apple device means any purchased books can no longer be read. It is possible that iBooks may one day be available for the PC, just as iTunes is, but Apple are unlikely to ever support rival smartphones like Android or BlackBerry devices. Like Amazon’s Whispersync technology, iBooks allows eBooks to be synchronised across different devices.

If being tied to Apple devices is ok for you though, iBooks does have one key advantage over the Kindle for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad as it allows for purchases to be made from directly within the app using an iTunes account. With Kindle, the app will redirect to the Amazon Web site instead but this happens only on Apple devices.

What DRM and Format do iBooks and the KIndle Store Use?

Both iBooks and the Kindle Store use DRM for any books purchased from them, so it’s impossible to buy an eBook from one and use it with the other. This is an important consideration to make, especially for users of Apple devices and iBooks who may switch to a different product in future as it will mean having no access to any of the eBooks they’ve already purchased.

iBooks uses the ePub format, which is also used by the Sony Reader and others, and it’s possible to import other DRM-free eBooks saved in that format. Amazon use their own proprietary AZW format for Kindle and so all eBooks must be purchased from the Kindle Store but both iBooks and Kindle allow PDF files to be imported.

Who has the Most eBooks?

According to the Apple.com Web site, there are now over 150,000 eBooks in the iBookstore, while Amazon claim to have over 800,000 in the Kindle Store (although the exact number varies by country). Both stores have the latest best sellers but the Kindle Store clearly has the lead in numbers, with Apple still to strike a deal with publishers like Random House whose titles include Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Kindle Store also has an advantage with the pricing of some eBooks. For example, Peter F Hamilton’s latest science fiction book, The Evolutionary Void, currently sells for £11.99 on the UK iBookstore but just £9.05 on the Kindle Store.

iBooks does have an advantage being able to import DRM-free eBooks saved in the ePub format but this doesn’t include the latest best sellers. Both platforms benefit from giving authors the opportunity to self-publish to them.

What Other Features do iBooks and Kindle Have?

Both iBooks and Kindle have a search facility to find phrases within a book, although Kindle takes this one step further by allowing searches across your entire library. Bookmarks and annotations are also a common feature of both, as well as the ability to look up words using a built-in dictionary or Wikipedia.

For accessibility, iBooks and Kindle both support text-to-speech so words on a page can be read out.

Is iBooks or Kindle the Best for You?

If you don’t already have, or plan to buy, an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad, choosing iBooks is not an option. But for those who do own one of these devices, and plan to remain faithful to Apple, the decision is perhaps not as simple.

Amazon’s Kindle platform has clear advantages in the variety of devices supported by it and the number of eBooks available in the Kindle Store. But iBooks benefits from having access to DRM-free titles from other libraries and purchasing more from the iBookstore is a more seamless experience than Kindle on Apple devices.

Both platforms use DRM which tie you into using them so choosing the best for eBooks is an important choice to make. For many people though, Amazon’s platform will be the best option, especially with the Kindle eBook Reader such an affordable and excellent device to use.