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Reading with Android 101, a reading app guide – Revisited

Reading with Android 101, a reading app guide – Revisited

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.

 

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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.

 

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Kindle

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.

 

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Kobo

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.

 

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Nook

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.

 

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Google

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.

 

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Overdrive

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.

 

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Aldiko

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.

 

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Mantano

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.

 

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Bluefire

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.

 

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Moon+

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.

Review: Kobo Aura HD

Review: Kobo Aura HD

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A couple of weeks ago Kobo announced a new reading device, the Aura HD. The Aura brings something new to the table when it comes to eInk readers, a little bit larger screen with a higher resolution than ever before. While the most common size for eInk readers has for years been the 6 inch device the Aura’s screen in 6.8 inches. Not only is this screen a bit larger its resolution is higher, 1440×1080 (265 ppi) when compared to other flagship devices such as the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Glo which come in at 1024×768 (212 ppi) or the Nook Glow and Sony T2′s 800×600 (167 ppi). The Aura also incorporates the front lighting that has become popular in the past year or so. For right now the Aura is available in Canada, the US, and the UK. In the US it’s only available directly from Kobo at this point. From what I’ve been able to glean around the Internet it should be available in other countries soon.

Having had some issues with Kobo’s customer service in the past I was a bit leery of giving Kobo another chance, but I found the device compelling enough that my gadget lover side gave in and picked one up. This device runs pretty much the same software as the Kobo Mini and the Kobo Glo which were released back in October of last year. I like that Kobo appears to have decided on a path where their readers will be more or less consistent from device to device (the home screens are a bit different). I also bought a Kindle Paperwhite when they were released, but returned it to Amazon as I decided it wasn’t the device for me. I went back to my Kindle Touch. I had it long enough however that I will comment on some of the differences throughout this review.

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What’s in the box:

The Aura comes packaged in a nice minimal box that contains the device, a short getting started booklet and a micro USB cable. There is no power adapter for charging from a wall outlet included, but I had no problems using a couple of different USB power adapters I have from various phones. You can, of course, also charge from your computers USB port; and you can read from the device while charging via a computer.

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Hardware:

The Aura HD has a nice clean design and looks much like any of today’s crop of touch screen readers. The only buttons are along the top edge, a slider to put the device to sleep and wake it, and a flush fitting button that turns the light on and off. Along the bottom edge are a small reset hole, a micro USB port and a microSD card slot which supports cards up to 32GB. I’ve seen one report of someone having no problems using a 64GB card, but Kobo officially lists 32GB as the max. The device housing is, like most other devices, plastic and is available in three colors, Ivory (white), Onyx (black) and Espresso (a dark brown). It feels nice in the hand and has a matte/satin finish which produces no glare although I find mine (in Espresso) to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet, not as bad as my Paperwhite was. The device’s back has a unique shape to it that I find comfortable to hold although it is the same smooth plastic as the front, not rubberized or quilted like earlier Kobo’s. I’m still not 100% used to the device and sometimes wonder if the back is too smooth, but so far it’s been fine.

The display is simply stunning. The higher ppi stands out nicely against older screens like the Nook and Sony still use (and previous generations of other brands) and it’s a big improvement. For me it especially stands out with the clarity at smaller text sizes and I love it. When compared to the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Glo the ppi differences aren’t as significant or noticeable. I found the IR touchscreen to be very responsive with no delays or missed touches.

Like most of the readers that have come out this generation the Aura features a front light. Here Kobo has done a wonderful job of providing even lighting with no shadowing as I saw at the bottom of the Paperwhite screen or color blotches which have been an issue for some Paperwhite owners. Kobo has dubbed this light the ‘ComfortLight’ and it really is a nice comfortable light to read by with a warm feel to it. Unlike the Paperwhite this light can be completely turned off by a physical button. The light’s intensity is easily controlled via a percentage slider control that goes from 1% to 100%.

 

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Software:

Overall I like the Kobo’s software quite a bit, with a couple of reservations.

The home screen has a search bar and links for the Library, Bookstore and Reading Life at the top and bottom of the screen. In the middle is a widget that shows some of your most recent activity. It’s not bad, but I’d like the option of hiding it and having the Library shown as my home screen instead.

The Library screen is really nice. You can view all books, which shows both books on the device and also books you’ve bought from Kobo with the option of downloading a book if it’s not already on the device or you can have it show just the book which are on the reader (my preference). You can sort your books by Recently Read, Title, Author, File Size or File Type. Books can be viewed as a list or as a cover view. In list view you also have the option to have a tiny cover image beside the title and author name. From library view you can also tell the device to download all titles in your online Kobo library at once and you can also have the device archive all of the title at one time (for titles from Kobo only). Besides Books there are also options to view your News & Magazines, Previews and any Shelves you’ve created. Shelves are similar to collections on a Kindle or Sony device and to shelves on the Nook. Books that are on shelves also still show in the main library list which I’m having to get used to since they can be hidden on the Kindle.

Reading Life has two aspects on the Aura. The first is Reading Stats which shows you stats for the current book like hours spent reading, page turns, average pages per minute, and the entire library like number of books finished and total hours reading. The other aspect is Awards where you earn badges for things like turning 10,000 pages, Reading all night long, reading during specific time periods and other things. For me it’s a novelty I might peek at on rare occasion, but it nothing I’ll use regularly.

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Reading a book on the Kobo is generally pleasant. Page turns are quick and smooth and the screen looks great. You can tweak things so the screen refreshes anywhere between every 1 and 6 pages and there are three options to adjust the ‘zones’ for where you tap for page forward, back and menu. Besides a few oddities mentioned below (that are personal preference things) I can say that reading on the Aura is just great.

There are two main reading engines on the Kobo. One for books you download directly from Kobo (kePub) either using their desktop software or over WiFi and a totally separate one for ePub books that you’ve side-loaded using Adobe Digital Editions, Calibre, a direct drag and drop or using the devices web browser. This causes your books to have a slightly different look depending on which type you’re reading.

For books downloaded directly from Kobo, often referred to as kePub’s or Kobo ePub’s (you can also usually download a standard ePub from Kobo), every page has a header that shows the title of the book and a footer that has a progress/page counter for the current chapter.

For side-loaded ePub’s there is no header and the footer shows a progress/page counter for the entire book (as opposed to per chapter).

With regular ePub’s, on some pages I had the text stopping a couple of inches up the screen leaving a lot of room that could hold more text. The space can be minimized to about half an inch by tweaking the ePub, but like most readers I want to spend my time reading not tweaking my book files. I don’t want to over-blow things as it’s possible that this won’t bug you and it’s also possible that it’s something I’ll get used to in time, but coming from the Kindle Touch (which displays the same as the Paperwhite) it’s quite different. The space at the bottom of kePub’s doesn’t seem as bad to me partly because it’s balanced by the header shown when reading those files.

With both types of files you have options to choose your font face, font size, line spacing, margins and justification. With ePub’s sometimes publishers lock some of theses settings by hard coding them and sometimes they’re locked if you’ve done a Calibre conversion. There are ten different fonts to choose from plus you can add your own. You can also tweak the font by adjusting it’s weight and sharpness (not available with all fonts). Kobo has really tried to make it so you can customize things to your own preferences which is great.

Long pressing on a word will have the Aura doing a dictionary look-up. You can also highlight, make notes and search for selected words/phases throughout the book.

The device also reads PDF and drm free Mobi files. For Mobi I’d say convert to ePub as the Mobi reader isn’t great overall, but it does work in a pinch. The PDF reader seemed OK unless you need to zoom. Zooming works OK in itself, but there is horrible ghosting if you try panning around while zoomed in. With the few PDF’s I tried the little bit of extra screen size and the higher resolution meant I could comfortably read a PDF without zooming although things were on the small size. This is something I couldn’t really do on the smaller 6” devices.

The Aura has no audio capability, so there is no text-to-speech available.

When the device is put to sleep the cover of the book is displayed as your ‘screen saver’ or you can turn that off and just have a blank screen that says ‘Sleeping’. Also, Kobo offers a sleep cover that makes the device automatically sleep/wake when opened and closed.

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Extras:

In the Aura’s settings menu you’ll find a menu item for Extras. The Extras are some games (Chess, Solitaire, Word Scramble & Sudoku), a Sketch Pad (for drawing or taking notes) and a Web Browser. Like the web browser on most eInk devices it works OK, but isn’t really for extended browsing. I did use it to log on to the Dropbox mobile site and download an ePub just fine.

 

Conclusions:

Overall I really like this reader. It has it’s quirks like any other device and coming from using Kindle’s for the last three generations I’m still getting used to the differences in the way the Kobo and Kindle display things. I don’t necessarily think one is better than the other, they’re just different.

I don’t have a huge need for the light, but I do like that it’s there if I need it and that when I don’t I can just switch it off.

If I had been happy with my Paperwhite I doubt I’d even have considered this device, but since I was still on an older device this is a pretty nice upgrade. If you already have a Kobo Glo or Kindle Paperwhite the upgrade isn’t as significant, although the little bit of extra size and resolution will make it tempting. I definitely like the slightly larger size of the Aura when compared to 6” devices. Especially since it doesn’t make the overall device much bigger or heavier.

I think Kobo has a winner with this device and I’m looking forward to using it more.

 

Technical Details:

Size: 175.7 x 128.3 x 11.7 mm (6.91 x 5.05 x 0.46 in)

Weight: 240 g (8.4658 oz)

Processor: 1 GHz; 20% faster processor than other leading eReaders

Display: 6.8” WXGA+ Pearl eInk Screen, ClarityScreen+: 265dpi, 1440x 1080 resolution

Light: Built-in ComfortLight technology with micro-thin coating for durability and even light distribution.

Buttons: Power on/off, Light on/off

Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Micro USB

Storage: 4GB, expandable up to 32 GB with a Micro SD card

Battery: Up to 2 months (reading 30 min. a day)

Colors: Espresso, Ivory and Onyx

File Types: eBooks; ePub (drm free & with Adobe DRM), PDF and Mobi – Images; jpeg, gif, png and tiff – Text; txt, html, xhtml and rtf – Comic Books: cbz and cbr

Dictionary: Built-in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate dictionary

(full specs at http://www.kobo.com/koboaurahd/techspecs/ )