HolidayBuyer's Guide

Blogshelf rules blog reading on iPad

Want to keep up on your favorite blogs and RSS feeds? Blogshelf delivers a lush, iBooks-style interface and an incomparably pleasant reading experience.

Blogshelf wraps your favorite blogs and feeds in an iBooks-style interface.
Blogshelf wraps your favorite blogs and feeds in an iBooks-style interface.Photo by Screenshot by Rick Broida

Remember Early Edition, the iPad app that presents your RSS feeds in an attractive newspaper-style format? Well, I've shelved it for now while I indulge my fascination with Blogshelf, a blog and RSS reader that has a dazzling iBooks-style presentation.

Designed for "casual users," Blogshelf ($4.99) offers roughly the same experience as browsing the magazine shelves at the library. It comes with about 20 popular blogs--Autoblog, Cinematical, Serious Eats, and so on--already configured, but you can line your "shelves" with preselected blogs from 18 categories.

It also has a search option to help you find and add other RSS feeds--all you do is type in some keywords or a URL.

But it's Blogshelf's presentation that elevates it above most other newsreaders I've tried. When you tap any blog on your "shelf," the app presents you with a beautifully formatted scrollable list of entries. When you tap an entry, you get a page that looks like something straight out of a magazine.

As you'd expect, the app lets you e-mail articles to friends, mark articles as favorites, and adjust the font size. You can also adjust your iPad screen brightness with a simple pull-down control and choose between black and white backgrounds.

With Blogshelf, reading a blog is like flipping the pages of a magazine.
With Blogshelf, reading a blog is like flipping the pages of a magazine.Photo by Screenshot by Rick Broida

However, I have a few gripes with Blogshelf.

First, it doesn't have a refresh button or an option to change the rate at which the app automatically fetches new content. One blog in particular, TUAW, failed to update for days.

Some news feeds, usually the ones you add manually, show only a brief description of each post. Others fail to show thumbnail artwork, even though photos are present within the posts. However, this may have more to do with the mysteries of RSS than with Blogshelf.

Thankfully, for any post you're viewing, you can tap View Original Article to see the actual Web page--or View In Safari if you want to switch to your Web browser.

Because it's limited to 90 blogs, Blogshelf may be too limiting for hardcore readers. But for "casual" folks like me, it's just about the ultimate way to browse and read blogs on an iPad. 

Is there a feed reader you like better? Talk it up in the comments!