Jun 2 2013
The following is a revised and updated version of my very first post for Dear Author a few years ago. With tablets and smart phones becoming more and more popular, and with more apps than ever, we thought it might be a good idea to give this topic another look. For reference sake, these apps were all tested on a Google/Asus Nexus 7 tablet. While display on other tablets should be similar, it may be a little different on smart-phones. I’ve tried to put enough detailed info in about each app without going into too much detail.
There are currently a huge number of reading apps available to Android users in the Google Play Store. This can make for lots of trial and error until you find the apps that work for you and while this guide won’t cover every app I’ll cover what I’ve found to be the better ones. Really, most apps are now to the stage where they all work perfectly fine for basic reading and note taking so it’s just a matter of finding the feature set that’s for you. For a listing of almost every reading app available for Android refer to this previous post.
While not as feature rich as some of the other apps out there I find that the Kindle app does pretty much everything that I need for reading. The most recent version of the app has had some changes made to the home screen that I could do without.
Upon opening the app you are presented with the Home screen which displays a “carousel”/cover flow of your most recent purchases and most recently opened items, items already on your device show a small check mark. Below the carousel the app displays a selection of books Amazon is trying to sell you. Personally I liked it better when the home screen just showed your library. There are menu options to view your library by showing “All Items”, which shows items both on device and available to download from your Amazon cloud, and “On Device”, which shows only stuff actually on the device (both downloaded and side-loaded). You can also narrow things down to show only “Books”, “Docs” or “Newsstand” items. All of these views can be displayed as either a “grid” which shows only book covers or “list” which shows a very small cover, title, author name, and percentage complete. The store can be accessed from any of the Home or Library screens and also from the menu while reading a book.
When opening a title you’re taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Page changes are accomplished by either tapping the page edges or by swiping. The app offers only simple non-animated page turns (which personally I prefer). Tapping the center of the screen brings up a progress bar at the bottom and menu items at the top which allow you to quickly adjust things like font size (font face can’t be changed in app), margin size, line spacing, screen color and brightness. Things like search, sync and go to are also accessed here. Bookmarks can be added and removed by simply tapping the upper right corner of a page. Rotating the device changes the page from portrait to landscape and it appears there is no way to lock orientation which I know used to be an option. Tapping and holding on a word will select it and the first time you do this you’ll be asked if you want to download an optional free dictionary. Once the dictionary has been downloaded (New Oxford American for US English) a small definition box will pop-up when the word is selected (you can also search Wikipedia & the Web) and this box can be expanded to receive a more full definition. Dictionaries can be downloaded for US English, UK English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and four Asian languages which I’m not smart enough to figure out. You can also tap, hold and drag to select as much text on the page as you want and with any selection you’re given options to make a note, highlight or search in the book. Double tapping an image will cause it to zoom to fill the screen.
DRM Free Mobipocket files (.prc/.mobi) can be side-loaded into this app by adding them to your devices Kindle folder. The app also supports the newer KF8 format (basically ePub in an Amazon wrapper). Books can also be added for download by emailing or using the Send to Kindle program from Amazon. This will add them to your Kindle cloud.
While this app doesn’t have all of the adjustment features some of the other apps we’ll talk about its easy to use and works great. I do wish it had more margin and line spacing adjustments than the few that are offered. I don’t need quarter inch margins (the smallest setting) for my books. I’m also not overly crazy about the title of the book being displayed at the top of every page.
Kobo’s app has come a long way in the past few years & I find it to be a really good option.
Upon opening the app you are presented with the Home screen which shows your Recent Activity, Recommendations, New Releases, Friends are Reading (tied to Facebook) and My Awards, which are badges that are part of Kobo’s Reading Life system. From a drop down at the top of the screen you can switch from the Home screen to your Library, the Store or Reading Life. The Library screen shows all of your Kobo purchased books and side-loaded content. Side-loaded books have a small icon in the corner to identify them and covers for Kobo books not actually on the device are ghosted with a magenta download icon in the center. The Library can be viewed as either a cover grid or a list with smaller cover, title, author name and percentage finished. Reading Life shows you various reading statistics (such as total time read) and the awards/badges you’ve earned (such as Juggernaut for reading 10,000 pages).
When opening a title you’re taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Page changes are accomplished by either tapping the page edges or by swiping. There are four options for page transitions None, Fade, Slide and Curl. Tapping the center of the page brings up a top menu, which has options to bring you to the table of contents, overview & annotations and also share on Facebook and access Reading Life notifications. A right side menu also pulls up which is where you adjust Font Style, Font Size, one or two columns in landscape view, reading theme (classic, night, sepia), advanced settings and more. This side menu can also be pulled up by itself by tapping the lower right corner. To switch the page view from portrait to landscape, simply rotate your device. The orientation can also be locked in the advanced settings. Tapping the upper right corner adds/removes bookmarks. A tap and hold on a word will bring up it’s definition along with options to highlight it in four different colors, add a note, share on Facebook, share through other methods (such as copying to clipboard and emailing) and searching Wikipedia or Google. All of these options are also available when tapping and dragging to select text. There are dictionaries for English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch and Portuguese. Double tapping an image with allow you to pinch to zoom in/out.
DRM Free ePub files can be side-loaded to this app by using the “Import’ menu option, the app will search your device (it will also find any DRM’d ePub’s) and there are check boxes to select what books to add.
Kobo’s app has gone from meh, to very good and I find I use it a lot more than I used to. An option to adjust margins and line spacing would be nice.
Options abound in the Nook app from Barnes and Noble.
Upon opening the app you’re taken directly to your Library which is presented in a cover grid style. Side-loaded content and your B&N books reside side by side when viewing is set to All Items and their are also options to view only Books, Magazines, Newspapers and My Files. Nook books that aren’t already on the device have a green download bar across the bottom of the cover.
When opening a title you’re taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Page turns are done by tapping the page edges or swiping. There are page turn animations which can be toggled on/off although you have to leave the book to do so. Tapping the center of the page will bring up a progress bar and a bottom menu where you can view the table of contents, search and make adjustments to font size, margins & line spacing. In the text menu turning off Publisher Defaults will also open up options to change font face (six options), theme (six options) and justification. To switch your page view from portrait to landscape simply rotate your device, to lock the screen you must dig into the settings menu from the home screen. You can also switch landscape viewing between one and two columns. Tapping the upper right corner adds/removes bookmarks. A tap and hold on a word will bring up it’s definition along with options to Add Highlight, Add Note, Look Up & Find. All of these options are also available when tapping and dragging to select text. The dictionary must be downloaded for free before definitions work and the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition is what’s used. I could find no way to zoom images in this app, although I know it does have a zoom view for comic books.
DRM Free ePub files can be side-loaded into this app by adding them to your devices Nook/MyDocuments folder. They will then show up under My Documents on the main screen. The titles I side-loaded did not display their covers.
This app’s ease of use is much improved from versions out a few years ago. Much more streamlined, although having to exit a book to adjust some settings isn’t real user friendly. Like the other apps so far more margin and line spacing adjustments would be welcome.
Google was new to ebooks a couple of years ago, they’ve come a long way since then.
Upon opening the app you are presented with the Read Now screen which your most recent books/reads. Books on this screen are presented as pretty large cover images. There is a pop out menu that allows you to go from this to your Library or the Store. The Library view shows books as a cover grid along with the book’s title & author. There are options to view All Books, Uploads or Purchases.
When opening a title you’re taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Page turns are done by tapping the page edges or swiping. There are page turn animations which can be turned on/off. Tapping the center of the page will bring up a header with the book’s title and menu options, plus a footer giving a progress bar. Options include view table of contents, bookmarks & notes and also theme (three options), typeface (six options), alignment, font size, line height and settings. Although there is no margin adjustment at all I found the margins in this app more to my liking than in most others. Rotating the device from portrait will switch you to a two column landscape view and rotating can be locked in one position. Tapping the upper right corner adds/removes bookmarks. Selecting a word will bring up a definition and options to highlight (four colors), add a note or translate. The same options are available when selecting more text. Double tapping an image will zoom in/out. Enabling TalkBack on your device will allow you to have a read aloud/text to speech function with this app which can be turned on/off from the settings menu when reading a book.
To add your own content (ePub or PDF) to this app you can upload it through the Google Play website (up to 1,000 documents, 50MB or less) to the cloud for download to the app.
When the original version of this post was written this app had just launched and was pretty lackluster. It’s come a long way since then and become a very good app.
This is another app that was pretty new a couple of years ago. It’s become a pretty solid reader, allowing folks to download books from public libraries who get their eBooks from OverDrive.
Note that while the majority of libraries who do eBooks get their stuff from OverDrive there are also library programs from 3M and Baker & Taylor (Axis 360). Both of those other programs also have apps available if that’s who your library uses.
Upon opening the app you are presented with the Bookshelf screen which displays any books currently on your device. You’ll see the book’s cover, title, author’s name and an indicator of the time left on your library checkout. There is a header menu and one of the items is a book icon with a plus symbol. Tapping this will open Get Books, where you can add libraries to checkout books from. Once the list has at least one library added all you have to do is tap the library that you want to get a book from. Checkout through the app works basically the same way as it does through the libraries website. In order to read most library books you’ll need to register your Adobe ID and password in the apps settings. The app also works for downloading from retail stores who use OverDrive as their distributor. For Harlequin I logged into their store using my devices browser and initiated a download from my bookshelf. It automatically downloads into the app and the website is then added to your Get Books list.
When opening a title you’re taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Page turns are done by tapping the page edges or swiping. Tapping the center of the page will bring up window showing your progress both in the book and in the current chapter and also menu options at the top. Among the options are Color Scheme (three options), Font Size, Font Style (seven options, including three fonts in bold), Line Spacing, Margins, Page Animations on/off, Bookmark, Sharing options for Goodreads & Facebook, and more. To view your book in landscape mode simply rotate your device, there is no way to lock the screen, in landscape you can view one, two or three columns. There is no note taking or highlighting available and you can’t search your book either, but you can select a word and do a lookup on Dictionary.com or Wikipedia (provided you have internet access). To zoom an image simply double tap it. From what I can tell there is no way side-load contents to this app.
Another feature of this app is to download and play MP3 audiobook titles (no WMA support) from the public library.
This is a good app and OverDrive keeps adding features to make it even better. If your public library offers eBooks and uses OverDrive it’s almost essential.
Aldiko is the go to app for many Android users and has been for years.
Upon opening the app you are presented with your recent read on a side scrolling “shelf” at the bottom of the page and links above that to Shelf View, Store, List view and Files (file browser for importing books). You can also search your library from this page and access a settings page where you can register your Adobe ID. Shelf View presents a pseudo bookshelf to view your titles by covers, while List View gives you cover, title author and the ability to rate your books. In list view you can also create/view collections and also view by tags as well as the more traditional sorts. Store lets you get books from Feedbooks, All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords & O’Reilly and also access custom catalogs such as a custom Calibre OPDS catalog of your books.
When opening a title you’re taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Page turns are done by tapping the page edges or swiping. Tapping the center of the page brings up a header menu with Search and Bookmark and also a footer menu with Progress Bar, Go To, Day/Night modes, Settings, Sharing options and more. Settings include Font size, Margin size, Brightness, Orientation, Alignment, Line Spacing, Page Turn Animation on/off and more. To view your book in landscape mode simply rotate your device, this can be locked in settings. Selecting a word or passage allows you to Highlight (premium version), Note (premium version), Share, Search the book or Dictionary look-up (which is really a Google search). It appears there is no image zooming in this app.
This app supports DRM-free ePub and PDF and also Adobe DRM’d ePub’s & PDF’s and B&N DRM’d ePub’s.
The original Aldiko was one of the very first reading apps for Android. It continues to be a top tier reading app and comes pre-installed on some devices now. There is also a $2.99 “premium’ version of this app which gets you Highlights, Notes and a home screen widget option, no ads and faster updates.
Mantano has quickly become a favorite among hardcore users thanks to it’s rich feature set. I should mention that there are three versions of this app, the free Lite version, the $2.99 Essentials Version and the $6.99 Premium version. I’m using the Premium version so some features mentioned (such as TTS) won’t be included in other versions (see Google Play store for more info).
Upon opening the app you are presented with your Bookshelf showing books on the right two thirds and a menu on the left third of the screen. Books can be displayed in three cover sizes, as a basic list with cover, title & author, or in a detailed list with the basic info plus tags and ratings. The left side menu offers a bunch sorting options plus collection management. There are also tabs across the top for Bookshelf, Notes and Bookstores. The linked bookstore is Feedbooks. At the bottom of the screen is a small menu with options for Views, Refresh, Import & Explorer.
When opening a title you’re taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Page turns are done by tapping the page edges or swiping. There are page turn animations which can be turned on/off. Tapping the center of the page will bring up a header menu with a day/night mode toggle and an icon for settings. Also a footer with a progress bar and many menu options including Annotate, Highlight (pretty much any color available), Theme (two by default, plus any custom ones you create), Display (font size, orientation), TTS, Dictionary (Google web search), Search and Info. By default there is s small icon (can be toggled off) in the lower right corner of the page that brings out a menu that shows the table of contents, bookmarks, highlights & notes. Pages can be bookmarked by tapping the upper right corner of a page. To view your book in landscape mode (one or two column) simply rotate your device, this can be locked in settings. Font sizes and also be changed by swiping up & down and the brightness can be changed by sliding up and down along the left page edge (all can be toggled on/off).
This app supports DRM-free ePub and PDF and also Adobe DRM’d ePub’s & PDF’s and B&N DRM’d ePub’s.
This app has tons of features and the developers have shown themselves to be very open to adding things at user request. If you’re into annotations this app might be the one for you as there are tons of options on that end of things. They also offer a paid cloud service (starts at $10 year) that allows you to store books and sync them between devices and store your annotations.
Bluefire, a popular iOS app, is one of the newer kids on the Android block.
Upon opening the app you are presented with a view of your books, there is a choice between List view and a Cover Grid. At the bottom of the screen is a menu for Library, Read Now (opens most recent read), Get Books (Store) and Info. The in app stores are Books A Million, Books On Board (which is currently closed/out of business), Feedbooks & Diesel. Info is where you can authorize the app with Adobe and also where you can import books to your library. Importing is done by placing your books into the bluefire/imports directory.
When opening a title you’re taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Page turns are done by tapping the page edges or swiping. Tapping the center of the page brings up a header menu, where you can tap to bookmark, and a footer menu with a progress bar, and options for Library, Contents, Bookmarks, Search and Settings. Settings takes you to a separate page where you can adjust things like Font Size, Margins, Page Turn Animations (four options), Night Mode, Orientation Lock, and by overriding the books coded formatting you can also adjust Font Face, Line Spacing, Alignment, Text Color, Background Color and more.
This app supports DRM-free ePub and PDF and also Adobe DRM’d ePub’s & PDF’s and B&N DRM’d ePub’s.
While this is a good reader, it sometimes feels a bit clunky or dated when compared to other apps in the way settings are done and books are added. Not that that’s any reason not to use it, the Bluefire folks have put out a solid app.
Moon+ has tons of options, making a very popular reading app with lots of folks. Note that there is a free ad supported version of this app and a paid $4.99 Pro version which adds things like PDF support, Dropbox sync and TTS, among other things (see Google Play for a full list).
Upon opening the app you are presented with your recent read on a side scrolling “shelf” of your most recent reads (can be toggled on/off) at the top the page and links below that to Local Files (file browser), Net Library (various OPDS catalogs), My Shelf and Statistics (various reading/book stats). My Shelf shows a virtual bookshelf as a cover grid or list view or a cover-flow view similar to the optional one in Calibre. The menu icon at the top of the screen lets you access various customization options for these screens.
When opening a title you’re taken to the beginning of the book or to the last page read for books you’ve already started. Page turns are done by tapping the page edges or swiping and you can also do away with “pages” and read by scroll/auto scroll. Tapping the center of a page brings up a header that shows percentage read and a footer menu with options for Orientation, Day/Night mode, TTS, Auto Scroll, Bookmark, Contents, and Settings. There are separate settings menus for Visual Options, Control Options, Miscellaneous, Themes and More Operations. There are way to many options to list here, but some of them include Font Size, Font Color, Background Color, Background Image, Font Face, Paragraph & Line Spacing, Orientation, Swipe left edge brightness, Swipe right edge font size, Password protect startup (pro version) and many, many more.
Moon+ supports ePub, PDF (pro version), mobi, chm, cbr, cbz, umd, fb2, txt, html, rar, zip and OPDS formats.
You can spend all kinds of time tweaking this app to get things just how you want them which is one thing that make it very popular among certain readers. I’ve used it quite a bit and it’s become one of my favorites.
There are of course many more apps out there such as the Sony app, Cool Reader and FBReader so if none of the above are the ones for you there are plenty of other options.
That about does it. I hope this give you an idea of what’s out there and points you in the right direction. For myself I keep four reading apps on my devices Kindle, Kobo, Mantano Premium and Moon+ Pro.