Apple’s iPad is selling a a brisk pace, and numerous people will be getting them for gifts over the next few weeks. The first thing just about everyone does with a new Apple tablet is start shopping for apps, and it can be a bit difficult to know where to start considering how many of them there are.

We’ve gathered up 40 of the best across seven different categories to help you get a start wit your new device.

Oh, and best of all, we only picked free ones. We will warn you that developers can change the price on an app at any time, so do double check the price before downloading it.

Top 5 Free iPad Entertainment Apps

ABC Player

ABC Player: While only available in the United States, the ABC Player app has been a hit as it requires no subscriptions to use it .  Look up your favorite shows from the ABC network and watch it streaming to your iPad.

IMDb Movies & TV: Is there anything more frustrating than being in a conversation about a movie or TV show and you end up constantly saying, “You know … that one guy … he was in that one movie …”.  Well, the IMBd app helps you figure out those answers in a slick interface.

Movies by Flixster: An extremely useful app if you are out and about and decide you’re in the mood for a movie.  Look up theaters near you to see their full schedules, and then you can click on any movie name to get the ratings from Rotten Tomatoes.

PBS for iPad: The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) app allows you to look up your local stations, watch full shows, learn more about various programs and a whole lot more.  Again, this app is limited to the United States.

Pocket Pond HD: Listen to the calming sounds of water as virtual Koi swim through the pond.  You can set lily pads around, release dragon flies and drag your finger through the water to see the fish scatter.

Top 10 Free iPad Game Apps

Air Hockey Gold: Who knew Air Hockey could be so much fun?  A staple of roller rinks and bowling alleys, air hockey on the iPad is fun and addictive, and its compatible with the iOS Game Center.  Play it alone on skill levels from “Kiddie” to “Insane”, play 2-player on the same iPad or match iOS devices against one another.

Battleship for iPad: The classic game of Battleship comes to the iPad, albeit with a few small changes (i.e. the aircraft carrier occupies spaces in two rows).  Place your ships either horizontally or vertically and then take turns with your iPad shooting one shot at a time to try to find and sink the fleet.  Keep track of your local scores, check out the global scores and even invite friends to try out the app.

Battleship for iPad

Chess Free HD: There’s nothing like a good game of chess to challenge your mind.  You can play one or two players, set times, set the difficulty and more with this great looking chess game for the iPad.

FarmVille: TechnoBuffalo doesn’t believe in promoting addictive drugs, but yet, here’s FarmVille on one of our lists.  You can access your current Facebook farm so you can play any time, or create a whole new farm to see what all the hoopla is about.

Harbor Master HD: You control the course of boats coming into the harbor to offload their freight, but be careful that none of them collide with one another.  The game is free, but there are additional maps you can choose to purchase, although the free initial free map is enough to keep you busy for ages as you try to master the game.

Lux Touch: Lux Touch is a game of world conquest … that only slightly resembles a certain famous board game of world conquest.  If you’re a fan of “Risk”, you’ll love this game.

Paper Toss HD Free: Why not waste time just like you would in the real world by throwing paper wads at targets.  This free version restricts the locations you can choose, but do you really need more than one place to throw virtual paper?

Pocket Legends (3D MMO): Now you can play in a full-on MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) without the need of a computer.  Choose your race, go on quests, engage in battle, challenge people from around the world, buy upgrades for your characters and a whole lot more in this 3D adventure game.

Pocket Legends

Simon Says …: Based on the classic electronic memory game of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Simon Says … allows you to play single-player, co-op mode and via Game Center.  Challenge yourself with different modes, earn achievements and a whole lot more.

Solitaire Ace: I’m surprised there isn’t a law yet requiring every device known to man to come with a built-in game of solitaire.  Since the iPad is lacking in that department, you can easily fix that issue with this solid card game that lets you play Spiderette and both single-card and three-card Klondike.

Top 5 Free iPad Music Apps

Pandora for iPad

AccuRadio: AccuRadio provides hundreds of radio streams (480 at the time of this writing) for all sorts of different music genres.  Don’t like a song that’s playing?  Simply skip it.  Ban songs, build a list of your favorite channels and look at a history of  the channels you’ve listened to if you want to refer back.

Aweditorium: A visual musical exploration tool that lets you jump through similar artists, see trivia about them, display lyrics and more.  Almost as much fun navigating as it is to listen to.

Goom: Listen to themed and corporate sponsored stations that bring you a wealth of musical entertainment, all in a pretty, pretty wrapper.

Pandora: Pandora has become the favorite free music application on just about every mobile device out there, and with good reason. The service itself is top notch for music discovery by letting you create intelligent “stations” built on what you already like, but the iPad app brings all that to your finger tips and lets you easily do it any time you want.  This app is probably one of the first you should download, period.

Shazam for iPad: Don’t you hate it when you hear a song, but you have no clue who sings it or what its name is?  Open up Shazam, let it hear the tune via the built-in microphone, and you’ll no longer have to wonder.  Besides music identification, this app also allows you to listen to samples, tag songs, share them with friends, see what others are listening to and more.

Top 5 Free iPad News Apps

NPR iPad App

AP News: The Associated Press is one of the largest news wire services in the world, and even if you don’t realize it, you are sure to have read at least a few of its stories in your life.  With the AP News app you can read all of their wire stories, check out local stories, watch videos, choose different categories and personalize the app to deliver the news that matters most to you.

BBC News: The BBC (British Broadcasting Company) has long been one of the most trusted names in news, and that continues into the 21st century as they deliver the news to you where you want it.  You can view news by geographical region, by category, watch short video clips that will help you keep current while on the go and you can download stories for offline reading at your convenience.

Flipboard: If you don’t want to get your news from just one source, and you really enjoy the social aspects Twitter and Facebook have brought to news gathering, then Flipboard is for you.  This app brings together all the things your friends share on those services into a magazine layout so that you can flip through them at your leisure and not feel overwhelmed by clicking on tons of links.

NPR for iPad: When the iPad first launched back in April, this was the app that everyone pointed to as the potential of the device.  You can side scroll through the different categories, listen to audio stories while reading others and download stories for offline reading.  See a story you really like, share it with friends and family by email, Facebook or Twitter.

Reader for iPad: Why not build your own news network with this handy RSS (Real Simple Syndication) reader?  Sync it with your Google Reader account and keep up-to-date with all of your favorite news sources no matter where you are.

Top 5 Free iPad Reading Apps

Marvel iPad App

Free Books – 23,469 classics to go: Who needs single apps of classic books when you this one is just waiting for you to download it?  Free Books works like other e-reader apps in that you have to download the books from inside of it, but you have 23,469 classic titles you can choose from including titles such as The Art of War and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

iBooks: Apple’s official e-reader solution for its iOS devices is graphically slick, but it does lack the number of titles some of the competitors offer.  However, if you’re into an app that takes full advantage of the iPad’s design features, this is probably the one for you.

Kindle: Amazon’s Kindle app is a great choice for an e-reader solution as it allows you to read across all of your devices with ease.  Whether it be an actual Kindle, a computer, an Android phone and the iPad, all of the devices sync up so you can pick up reading in the same spot at any given time.

Marvel Comics: The Marvel Comics app was one of the early hits of the iPad, and with good reason: it’s a must have for comic readers.  Whether you want to read a comic a full page or one panel at a time, the transitions are smooth, the colors are vibrant and it really captures the comic reading experience.  While the app is free, most comics do cost you, but Marvel puts up about six free complete comics a week for you to try and sample.

Shakespeare: This e-reader is about one thing, and one thing only: Shakespeare.  With this app you get 40 plays, six poems and all 154 sonnets with full search capability so you can find the passages you want.  This is an essential app for fans of his work and any one who may be taking a lit class.

Top 5 Free iPad Social Networking Apps

Twitter for iPad

GetGlue for iPad: While there is always talk of location based apps that allow you to check-in at various physical locations you visit, why not also share with people what you’re watching, reading and listening to?  GetGlue is a check-in service that allows you to do that and more, while also earning “stickers” for your accomplishments.

Gowalla for iPad: The Gowalla location based service on the iPad is basically just a blown up version of the iPhone version (i.e. you still can’t move items to your vault), but it is still a great way to interact with your account and see where your friends are.

IM+ Lite: A universal chat app that allows you to talk with your contacts on AIM, Gtalk, ICQ, Jabber, Live Messenger, YIM, Twitter, Facebook and so on.  Once you’ve signed in to the accounts you want, all your contacts show up in one master list to make for a seamless chatting experience.

Miso – Social TV: Miso aims to make TV and movie viewing more social by allowing you to check-in to a program and then chat as it airs with others who are watching the same thing.  And, of course, you can earn badges as you go along.

Twitter: There are a ton of Twitter apps out there to choose from, but the official one from the company is a very solid choice.  Not only can you see all of your messages, and, of course, reply to them, but you can also open links in a built-in browser, view images, play videos and a whole lot more.

Top 5 Free iPad Travel Apps

Google Earth for iPad

Google Earth: While most people think of Google Earth as just a fun toy to play with, it can also be an extremely useful tool for planning a trip.  It can work just like Google Maps to look up locations, see what sort of businesses are nearby, bring up Street View and more.  Very handy for seeing what is an area before you get there.

KAYAK HD: Book flights and hotels while on the go, and also explore the locations you wish to visit, or are already in.

OpenTable for iPad: When travelling on business, it can be rough finding some place to eat when you’ve just stepped off a plane.  OpenTable will not only tell you what restaurants are near you, but you can also reserve a table from the app.  With free registration you can even earn rewards for free dining at participating locations.

Wi-Fi Finder: While the iPad scans for nearby Wi-Fi sources, it is limited to what is in the general vicinity.  Wi-Fi Finder lets you see whats in your area as well as look in places where you want in advance, browse locations while offline, filter it by provider, type of location and more options.

Wikihood for iPad: Wikihood leverages the information of Wikipedia to give you the best information possible about the place where you are to make sure you don’t miss anything of importance during your visit.

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