My Experience with Reading Digital Books on the New Droid Phone by Gwen Hayes
Author Gwen Hayes emailed me that she had recently purchased a Droid phone from Verizon. A Droid phone is a smartphone that runs on the Google Android system. I asked her what she thought of the device for reading and she agreed to write a post for Dear Author. (Beware people who email me lest you, too, be roped into writing something for Dear Author). Just in time for the Holidays, these are Gwen’s thoughts on the Droid phone.
Last week, I got the new Droid phone from Verizon. I’ve been coveting the iPhone for-‘well, since they released it, so I was super excited that I could keep my carrier and eat my cake too.
While talking to Jane about the possibility of reading books on my phone (because Jane is my Digital Goddess in a totally non-smutty way) she asked if I’d be willing to write up my experiences. I blanched at first-‘I love writing fiction but writing about techy stuff is daunting. I mean, I love techy stuff, obviously, but I don’t really understand what I’m doing. I push buttons and hope they work. When they don’t, I push more buttons really fast in random order and hope that takes care of it.
So, yeah, I’m not really the best resource.
But I figured there must be a lot of people just like me out there-‘people who have a basic understanding of cut-and-paste and "click here". People who love the idea of new toys and yet have no idea what to do with them. People who probably have no business operating handheld digital devices worth hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars.
This one is for you.
Available at http://www.aldiko.com
Alkido reads Non-DRMed ePub format (the extension is .pub).
To get books:
Alkido comes with an extensive online catalog of free public domain books, free books from Feedbooks.com, Smashwords, and others. It also has an affiliation with All Romance ebooks http://www.allromanceebooks.com . The process for each of these was simple, click download or "buy" and it shows up on your bookshelf a little later.
(I will say that the ARe website was not the very best in terms of mobile viewing. The links were small and close together making it hard to use the touch screen when I had to sign in.)
To put your own content on Aldiko:
First, don’t panic.
I was pleasantly surprised how well I handled the terror. Don’t forget to breathe and don’t push any extra buttons.
I didn’t have files on my computer with the .pub extension, but I read Jane’s Calibre tutorial http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2008/12/28/calibre-the-ebook-readers-best-friend-part-1-of-2 . Armed with that knowledge, I downloaded Calibre and converted files for multi-format books I did have to the .pub file extension.
The Alkido website has easy instructions regarding importing data. Basically, you plug your phone into your computer and it shows up as a removable disc. You drag your files into the ebooks folder, disengage, open the Alkido program on your phone and click import, and you are all kinds of genius and done.
You can turn pages several ways. Tapping the screen, using the volume controls, and flinging, which to me is just silly and made no sense. Apparently, flinging is a different finger movement than tap. It stumped me.
You can adjust font type, size, and color, brightness of screen, and the amount of time it takes to turn pages (1.2 seconds works best for me). You can look up words in the dictionary while reading, toggle from black screen with white letters to white screen with black letters, bookmark at will, show progress, and search for words in text. The files I imported didn’t have any strange characters and were formatted well.
You can create tags and create collections. I like to keep track of the year I read a book, where I purchased it (for all those online bookshelves I have floating around), and how I rate it.
Available at http://www.word-player.com/
Wordplayer has many of the same features as Alkido. It reads the same file extension, you can change fonts, etc.
What’s the diff?
The bookshelf for Wordplayer was not all that or even a bag of chips. No tagging, no collections-‘very meh. If you want to find a book and you have more than a few, good luck to you. Enjoy your scrolling. It does have a browse by subject which uses the metadata I guess-‘but that just isn’t how my mind works. For instance, I uploaded only two books to the shelf, clicked on browse by subject and there were fifteen keywords for them. About thirteen of those were very strange. I’d rather use my own tags because I never would have thought to look for the ones listed.
The big whoopdidoo about WP is that you can wirelessly synch your Calibre library to your phone. I am going to say this I bet this works. I could not find the WEP password for my wifi at home, and you have to be on the same wifi connection. You can still do the cut and paste method. I am a pro at both the cutting and the pasting, so this was the method I chose.
There is a text to speech in WP. If you like that, more power to you. I’m not a fan. If the speaker was Richard Armitage this would be my favorite feature. Also, there is a setting to turn pages by flicking your wrist/shaking the phone. It was kind of odd.
The website suggests that there is a highlighting feature-‘remember who you are dealing with here-‘but I could not find it. Also, Wordplayer was much slower to open the books.
I should mention that both Alkido and Wordplayer have a "share" feature that you can send a little note to Twitter, Facebook, or your gmail contacts that says something along the lines of "I’m reading a great book called "Oh Goddess" on my Droid phone-‘you can too." And then shows the website of the program you are using. Which is good. I think EVERYONE who reads "Oh Goddess" should do this.
The mid-post recap-
So, for my DRM free books, between the two, I much preferred Aldiko. It was faster, and better organized to me, allowing me to tag books the way that makes sense to me. It didn’t have the robot voice to lull me to sleep while she read with her sexy stilted voice, though. I might have to upload an erotic romance to Wordplayer just to laugh like a 12-yearl-old when she says the names of certain body parts.
But Gwen, you ask, what about new books?
Fear not, grasshopper, I know Courtney Milan has a book coming out in January. I know it won’t be DRM free.
You know how on Fictionwise they are always offering you that 5% discount if you buy the book in eReader format?
Solid Gold, baby. Because now Fictionwise offers a Droid app.
Available at www.fictionwise.com
The Fictionwise reader, called eReader Pro, doesn’t have any bells and whistles. It’s a beta version. If you want to buy books from your phone, you have to buy them from the ereader.com store which is related to Fictionwise, but not Fictionwise. Both are owned by Barnes and Noble (pay attention, that becomes important in a minute). However, when I connected to my Fictionwise account using the reader app on my phone, it automatically preloaded my online bookshelf to the screen (any books in the right format anyway). I could then download to my phone any of the books already on my online shelf if they are multi-format or .pdb extension. If you are a fan of the Micropay dollars and Buywise Club, I suggest buying online at Fictionwise and then getting them to your phone via the online bookshelf.
The reader still needs a little work. The screen didn’t always recognize my taps. Perhaps I am not tapping correctly. Heaven knows it’s confusing to tap. Cutting and pasting, I’m your girl. Tapping and flinging are debatable.
You can change font size, and there is a note taking feature. The website states more features are coming. I’ll cut them some slack, it just got released; I know my rough drafts are sometimes lean too. I’m sure with the right critique partner, this application will rock.
I was unable to move any personal content. For one thing, I didn’t have any .pdb files to transfer to the Personal Content Server. For another, the little + mark that is supposed to be on my bookshelf isn’t there. When that gets fixed, I should be able to get content from other websites. Which is nice, right?
If you are going to be getting a Nook soon, you should know that Nook uses the same operating system as the Droid and Barnes & Noble currently sells ebooks in the eReader format. It’s all nice and incesty for you. This makes me happy because while I like having books on my phone for convenience, I still like a dedicated reader for curling up on the couch. And Nook appeals to me the most at this point.
One more and I’m done-
Available at http://www.shortcovers.com
This app reads DRM’d ePub files. This will be better for those of you who have Sony ebook readers and a Droid phone. I personally don’t like going through all the Adobe nonsense. However, the ShortCovers reader has a much better online catalog than eReader.com for buying right to your phone. It was much homier to me than the Fictionwise/ereader.com set-up.
And there you have it. If you were hoping for screenshots and any real help-‘sorry for your luck.
Gwen Hayes writes fiction for adults and young adults. When she’s not saving the world, you can find her blogging every Friday at The Fictionistas http://fictionistas.blogspot.com or her website www.gwenhayes.com . Also, she sometimes accidentally gets into Twitter fights with chachbags.