Reading with Android: Aldiko 2
Aldiko has long been a favorite among Android users, now the developers have taken things a step further by adding support for Adobe DRM’d ePubs and PDFs. Not only can you sideload books using “regular” Adobe ID based DRM from sellers such as Books On Board, Diesel, Kobo and Sony, but you can also sideload books using Adobe Password based DRM from Barnes & Noble. While it’s far from perfect adding this ability has made a great app even better. Please note you must be running Android 2.1 or greater to run Aldiko 2.
The first thing I noticed is the addition of a ‘Home’ screen. This screen presents you with a clean and easy way to access Aldiko’s main features. There are six options available on the home screen, ‘Shelf view’, ‘Store’, ‘List view’, ‘My catalogs’, ‘SD card’ and ‘Last read’.
‘Shelf’ and ‘List’ view of course show you your books and each view has six sorting options. Shelf view shows you your books covers on a virtual shelf. This view is visually appealing although I wish it also showed the book’s title along with its cover since eBooks don’t always have cover art. List view presents your books in a list showing cover art, title, author, file type and rating. It also has tabs to view an author list, a tags list, and a collections list (tags & collections can be added by tapping the + sign). You can also edit the metadata/details (author, title, cover, tags, collection) by applying a long press to the book while in ‘Shelf view’.
The ‘Store’ option brings up various places you can get books from within the app (kind of). The app has options for Feedbooks, O’Reilly, Smashwords and All Romance eBooks. This all works pretty much like it did in previous versions of Aldiko, books from Feedbooks can be downloaded/purchased in app while the other stores use your devices browser for at least part of the process.
‘My Catalogs’ can be a nice feature to provide yourself with access to your books while on the go. Using Calibre and Dropbox (may work with Sugarsync and other storage services) along with calibre2opds you can create a catalog of your books (while maintaining an offsite backup at the same time) that can then be viewed and downloaded from using Aldiko. Note: When inputting your catalogs URL use the HTML version of the catalog not the XML version as your destination.
‘SD card’ will allow you to browse your phones file system for ePubs and PDFs to import into Aldiko. I prefer this to the way Aldiko used to require you import books, but I’m sure some folks won’t like it as much. Unfortunately there is no way to just import your 1.x version library as a whole. It would be nice if you could set a default folder that the app just read from automatically and included any books there in your library without the user doing anything special.
Going into settings from any of these screens will bring up options for tips and help and also is where you register your Adobe ID.
‘Last Read’ is pretty self explanatory and will bring you to the last book/place you were reading.
The new menu setup is nice and more streamlined than in earlier versions, overall they’ve done a nice job of updating things.
Now for the important part, reading.
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. To view your book in landscape mode simply rotate your device, this can be locked in settings. Highlighting a word(s) will allow you to do a dictionary lookup, search Google, Wikipedia or the book for that word. While this works pretty well I found that sometimes highlighting/selecting a word can be a pain. There is no notes & highlights functionality available.
A note about PDFs. For the most part I found Aldiko worthless with the PDFs I tried. It doesn’t allow the PDF to reflow or to be zoomed & scrolled which probably won’t bother folks using Aldiko on a tablet with a bigger screen as much, but on a phone with a 4 inch screen most PDFs are unreadable or at the very least hard to read.
Pressing your devices menu key with a book open will bring up a menu with various options (you can also just long press the screen). Across the top of the screen is a home button and a search button with the book’s title and author in the center of the screen. Across the bottom is a progress bar and the options ‘Go to-‘, ‘Day/Night’, ‘Settings’ and ‘More’.
‘Go to…’ has options for Table of Contents, Bookmarks, Add Bookmark and Go to, where you can enter a page number to jump to.
‘Day/Night’ is straight forward and toggles you between your chosen color palate for each mode.
‘Settings’ gives you options called ‘Text’ which allows the adjustment of text size and margins, ‘Brightness’, ‘Orientation’ (Auto, Portrait, Landscape) and ‘More’ which allows you to customize the colors of your day and night themes, font size, line spacing, margins, text alignment, setting for page turning (including using the volume keys), page turn animation on/off, show page number on/off and screen timeout. There is also an option called ‘Advanced formatting’ which when activated overrides the publishers layout settings (CSS) you must override those settings for options like margins and line spacing to be adjustable.
‘More’ will allow you to ‘Share’ where you can send someone a message about the book you’re reading and ‘Help’.
In general the overall reading experience can be quite pleasant, but from time to time I’ve run across a book where none of the formatting options are ideal. For example, sometimes the publishers settings have margins set in such a way that you end up with just a narrow strip of text down the center of the screen, but when turning those settings of all the paragraphs run together with no indents. It’s a bit hit or miss, but with the books I tried I was generally able to find a setting which worked for me although not always to the extent I would have liked. I did notice that page turns are a bit more sluggish than in the previous version of Aldiko, but they weren’t too bad and hopefully things will speed up in a future update.
Purchased books and library books that use “regular” Adobe DRM-
You can follow this link to see the Aldiko developers steps for getting your library books (or purchased books) into the app. Basically they want you to copy the .acsm file you get when downloading a book onto your devices SD card and using a file manager to open that file with Aldiko.
I found this to be kind of clumsy, but it does work (and might be nice for folks who have ADE troubles). For me the easiest way to transfer any Adobe ID DRM’d book, library or purchased, was to drag and drop the downloaded book in Adobe Digital Editions (where Aldiko shows up as a device) or just copy the book to your SD card after downloading to your computer and import through Aldiko.
An example of stores using “regular” Adobe DRM (Adobe ID) on their ePubs would include; Harlequin, Mills & Boon, Sony, Kobo, Borders, Waterstones, Books on Board, WH Smith, Diesel eBooks, eBook Diva, All Romance eBooks, Direct eBooks and eBooks.com. Basically anyone who sells DRM’d books except Amazon, B&N and Apple.
Barnes & Noble DRM’d eBooks (ePubs using Adobe password DRM) can also be read in Aldiko using the following method. Use the ‘SD card’ option on the home screen and navigate to the folder with your book(s). Once you’ve found your book tap on the book (not the check box) and a menu will pop up where you will tap ‘open’. You will then be asked for your Username and Password. The Username is the name on the credit card associated with your B&N eBooks, the Password is the credit cards number. Once you’ve done this setup process you can import B&N books just like you would any other book as Aldiko stores the access information.
It would be nice if one could add DRM’d books by simply visiting the site you purchased it from, but at this time, unless buying from the Feedbooks store which doesn’t always have good prices, it is necessary to transfer them to your device manually.
While I used the paid version of Aldiko for this review the free version has all the same features. The paid version appears to work as donationware (similar to Calibre) and occasionally sees new features a few weeks before the free version does.
Overall this is one of the best reading apps available for Android. It sits on my phone all the time along with the Kindle app and I download/delete other apps (Kobo, B&N, etc.) on an as needed basis. I hope you’ve found this write-up useful.
This app was reviewed using a Samsung Galaxy S (Epic 4G) running Android 2.1. The books used during the review process are; Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey (ePub), Hareton Hall by Lynne Connolly (ePub), Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher (ePub), Loving Little Egypt by Thomas McMahon (PDF) and The Chicago Manual of Style 1906 edition (PDF).
Here’s a demo video the Aldiko developers put together…