Apps to Make You Literate

The following post is written by Josh Olson from UNC, one of our many friends at Uloop, a student powered marketplace. Read more great posts in their blog.

We all know that reading, like broccoli, is good for us. Not only does reading make us smarter, but it makes class easier. The more you read, the more you know. And the more you know, the more you have a head-start in your studies.

Reading can, at times, feel like eating sandpaper. But fortunately there are some great apps to help you get literate. has created a great dictionary app. It has an excellent selection of words (almost 2,000,000). And it is free. Although some might think that this app is simply an app-front for’s website, in reality no internet connection is required. It also includes a thesaurus and word-of-the-day function (although some see the word-of-the-day feature as a hinderance).


Another fantastic dictionary/thesaurus app is Wordbook. Unlike, this app isn’t free (it’s $1.99). But its interface is slightly cleaner and more polished. It has 220,000 definitions, all of which are very clear and well-written. It also has word-origin information and recorded pronunciations of its words; this is helpful for words like “macabre” and “hegemony.”

Word of the Day

Another great app for getting literate is Word of the Day. It does what the title implies: every day you get a new word with its definition. For instance, on Monday you may get the word “louche,” learning that it means “of questionable character; dubious, disreputable.”

iBooks with Project Gutenburg

Apple itself has created an app called iBooks (it’s free). It serves as a bookshelf for any books you may download off the iBookstore. Once you’ve downloaded a book you can tap the book on your bookshelf to open it up. Then you can flip through its pages just as you would a real book. But you can also search through the book or speed-flip to get to passages more rapidly.

What makes iBooks particularly attractive is that its bookstore includes hundreds of free books from Project Gutenburg—a website that puts public domain books on the internet, available to the public for free. You can find anything from Dickens to Tolstoy to Plato on the iBookstore for free. Of course, Project Gutenburg’s free books aren’t quite as polished as their paid counterparts.

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