Reading with Android 101, a reading app guide
The world of Android reading apps can be overwhelming and confusing. To help with that Jane asked that I put together this post in hopes it will guide folks through what’s out there.
There are currently a huge number of reading apps available to Android users in the Android Market. 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. Because searching the Android Market can sometimes be an exercise in frustration I've also included the apps QR code (the square “bar” code) so folks who want to can find a given app easily with their devices camera and a barcode scanner app.
Note: I have purposely left one fairly popular app out of this guide entirely as it links to sources of pirated versions of many titles.
While not as feature rich as some of the other apps out there I find that the Kindle app does pretty much everything I need it to.
Upon opening the app you are presented with the "Home' screen which displays any books currently loaded onto your device. You'll see the book's cover, the book's title, the author's name and a row of dots some of which may be filled in to indicate how far along you are in the book. Pressing your devices menu key will bring up a menu with various options on it including "Home', "Archived Items' which are the books you've purchased through Amazon, "Kindle Store' which opens in app shopping, "Sort By' which lets you sort by Most Recent, Title or Author, "Sync' and "More' which allows you to remove items, switch your library to a grid view (covers only), turn on page turning with volume controls, search for a title/author and get help/send feedback.
When opening a title you're taken to the beginning of the book or to our last page read for books you've already started. Tapping the center of the page will bring up a header with the book's title and a footer giving a progress bar, the percentage of the book read and our location number. To switch your page view from portrait to landscape simply rotate your device, when you do this a small lock icon will appear in the bottom right of the screen allowing you the option of locking the screens position. A page can be bookmarked by simply tapping the upper right corner of the page. Tapping and holding on a word on the page will highlight it and bring up a small menu asking if you want to make a note, a highlight or "more-". More gives you options to search the book for your selected word, search for that word in Wikipedia or look up that word at Dictionary.com. Tapping and holding on a word and then dragging will allow you to highlight entire passages. If your book has images you can zoom in on them by double tapping.
Pressing your devices menu key while reading will bring up a menu with some options, the first of which is "Home' with others being "View Options' which lets you change font size (five options), color scheme (three options) and brightness, "Go To' which gives us various options to navigate the book, "Back' which brings back you to where you were if doing something like using a footnote, "Bookmark' and "More-' which offers to let you search the book, sync or share your progress via Facebook, Twitter, email or text message.
DRM Free Mobipocket files (.prc/.mobi) can be sideloaded into this app by adding them to your devices Kindle folder, they will then show up on your home screen.
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.
Kobo has put out an OK app with a nice interface, I just wish it had a few more features.
Upon opening the app you are presented with the "I'm Reading' screen in list view which displays all of the books in your Kobo account. Unfortunately it tries to download everything automatically, fortunately you can pause the downloading and download a book at a time. You see the book's cover, title, author's name and the percentage read. A menu along the bottom give you options for shopping (browse, search, discover) and shopping is done from within the app. Pressing your devices menu button brings up "Sorting Options' (Last Read, Title, Author), "Shelf View' (book covers are shown on a "shelf" without the data from the "List View'), "Refresh', "Resume All'/'Pause All', and "Import Contents'.
When opening a title you're taken to the beginning of the book or to our last page read for books you've already started. Tapping the center of the page will bring up a header menu (Library, Contents, Overview, Settings) and a footer giving a progress bar for the chapter along with the percentage of the book read. To switch the page view from portrait to landscape, simply rotate your device, however there is no way to lock the screen. There is no way to bookmark a page in this app and it also lacks any notes or highlighting features. There is no way to adjust brightness from within the app or to search your book.
Pressing your devices menu key while reading will bring up a menu with some options, the first of which is "Font Size', the other is "Reading Settings' which lets you pick font size (five sizes), font style (two choices) and night mode.
DRM Free ePub files can be added 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 checkboxes to select what books to add.
With a few more features this app could be right up there with the best of them. As it is it's just OK.
Options abound in the Nook app from Barnes and Noble.
Upon opening the app you are presented with a screen which displays six icons (reading now, library, archive, settings, shop and my files). "Reading Now' will open the book you were last reading, unfortunately if you're reading more than one book at a time you have to hunt up the other books in the library listing (no mean feat if you have a few hundred books). "Library' is a listing of all the books in your B&N account and can be sorted by Recent (most recent purchases first), Title and Author. This screen also gives you options to archive a book to get it off the list, delete the book (which will delete it from your account completely!) and use the lending feature available on some titles. "Archive' is a list of books you've archived (they can be un-archived as well) and I have a feeling that most of my books would be archived if I used this app in order to keep the Library list manageable, "Settings' more on that shortly, "Shop' opens up the in app shopping feature and "My Files' are DRM free ePub files you've added yourself.
When opening a title you're taken to the beginning of the book or to our last page read for books you've already started. Tapping the center of the page will bring up a header with the book's title and a footer giving a progress bar. To switch your page view from portrait to landscape simply rotate your device, too lock the screen you must dig into the settings menu. A page can be bookmarked by simply tapping the upper right corner of the page. Tapping and holding on a word on the page will highlight it and bring up a small menu asking if you want to make a note, a highlight or search, search allows you to search the book for that word, Wikipedia, Google or Dictionary.com. To do a regular text search of the book just press your devices search button assuming it has one. Tapping and holding on a word and then dragging will allow you to highlight entire passages.
Pressing your devices menu key while reading will bring up a menu with some options, the first of which is "Home' with some others being "Font Options' (five sizes, eight fonts and more can be added) "All Settings' and "Go To' which gives us various options to navigate the book. "All Settings' gives you a bunch of options, you can turn publisher defaults on/off, page theme (four options), animated page turns on/off, lock page orientation, hide status bar, two page mode, margins, line spacing, justification, adjust brightness, remove ePub on archive.
DRM Free ePub files can be sideloaded 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 sideloaded did not display their covers.
This is a good app if a little over thought. The lending feature is a nice thought I just wish you could lend a book more than once (maybe once every so many months or something?). I personally find using this apps Library/Archive/Reading Now interface a pain to use, but YMMV.
Google are the new kids on the retail block, how does their app hold up?
Upon opening the app you are presented with the "My eBooks' screen which displays any books currently on your device. You'll see the book's cover, the book's title and the author's name. At the top of the screen you can tap where it says "Get eBooks" to launch your browser and go to the Google eBook store. Pressing your devices menu key will bring up a menu with various options on it including "Sort Order' which lets you sort by Recently Read, Title or Author, "Manage eBooks' which has options to remove a book from "My eBooks', this appears to also remove it from your account altogether but I'm not 100% certain of that, there is also a "push pin' icon you can click to ensure a title can be read offline. Other menu options are "Refresh', "Accounts', "Settings' and "Help'.
When opening a title you're taken to the beginning of the book or to our last page read for books you've already started. Tapping the center of the page will bring up a header with the book's title and a footer giving a progress bar. There is no landscape view in this app, only portrait, nor is there a way to bookmark. There is no note taking or highlighting available and you can't search your book either.
Pressing your devices menu key while reading will bring up a menu with some options, the first of which is "About' with others being "Contents', "Original Pages', "My eBooks', "Settings' and "Help'. "Original Pages' is a unique feature which allows you do view scans of the paper books pages, Note: some books from Google only offer one viewing mode or the other (flowing text or original/scanned pages). "Settings' include text size (three choices), typeface (two choices), line space, justification, Day/Night mode and brightness.
You cannot add your own content to this app. Some books from Google will say "Better for larger screens" this means only scanned pages are available. Some books will say "No download files included", these books can only be read from the "cloud' with an internet connection.
This is the first release of this app and hopefully it will get better with future releases, it's certainly useable as it is, but more features would be nice.
The Borders app is basically an earlier generation version of the Kobo app (Borders apps are done by Kobo), it works, but has even fewer features than Kobo.
Upon opening the app you are presented with the "I'm Reading' screen in list view which displays all of the books in your Borders account tapping a tab will bring you to shelf view. Unfortunately it tries to download everything automatically, fortunately you can pause the downloading and download a book at a time. In "List View' you see the book's cover, title and author's name, "Shelf View' shows book covers on a "shelf" without the data from the "List View'. A menu along the bottom give you options for shopping (browse, search, discover) and shopping is done from within the app. Pressing your devices menu button brings up "Resume All'/'Pause All' Downloads.
When opening a title you're taken to the beginning of the book or to our last page read for books you've already started. Tapping the center of the page will bring up a footer giving a progress bar for the chapter along with the percentage of the book read. Books are read in portrait mode, there is no landscape viewing in this app. There is no way to bookmark a page in this app and it also lacks any notes or highlighting features. There is no way to adjust brightness from within the app or to search your book, there is no note taking or highlighting available either.
Pressing your devices menu key while reading will bring up a menu with some options, the first of which is "Table of Contents', the others are "Day/Night Mode', "Font Size' (5 options) and "Font Style' (3 options).
There is no way to add your own content to this app.
This app is one of the most basic out there. Hopefully it'll at least see an upgrade to the level of the current Kobo app soon.
Overdrive has recently updated their app to allow folks to read DRM'd ePub's from Overdrive sources, including Public Libraries.
Upon opening the app you are presented with the "Library' screen which displays any books currently on your device. You'll see the book's cover, the book's title and the author's name. Pressing your devices menu key will bring up a menu with various options on it including "Get Books', "Sort' (by titles, author and recent), "Last Read', "App Settings', "Downloads' and "More' which lets you view all bookmarks, view deleted titles and check for messages & updates. "App Settings' lets you adjust various general setting for both Audiobooks and eBooks it's also where you enter your Adobe ID to allow DRM'd ePub's to be read. "Get Books' will bring you to a list of websites you've downloaded books from before and an Add a Website setting, adding a website brings up a search tool to browse for libraries. To add books from Overdrive retailers (Books on Board, Harlequin & Waterstone's are examples) you go to the site in your devices browser and download your book like you would on a desktop/laptop. Unfortunately you have to know that the retailer uses Overdrive as the in app finder only works for public libraries. This will launch the Overdrive app and take you to the library screen where you must click download and are taken to a download queue where you select your file and click download again. This is an area that could probably use a little refining to lessen the steps needed.
When opening a title you're taken to the beginning of the book or to our last page read for books you've already started. Tapping the center of the page will bring up window showing your progress both in the book and in the current chapter. To view your book in landscape mode simply rotate your device, there is no way to lock the screen. There is no note taking or highlighting available and you can't search your book either. From what I can tell there is no way sideload contents to this app.
Pressing your devices menu key while reading will bring up a menu with some options, the first of which is "Details' with others being "Navigation', "Delete', "Library', "Bookmarks', which lets you set a bookmark as well as view all bookmarks and "Reader Settings' which lets you adjust brightness, font size (seven choices), font style (three choices), default layout/CSS on/off, night mode on/off and page animation on/off.
Another feature of this app is to download MP3 audiobook titles from the public library (and I'd suppose OD retailers), it would be even better if it also allowed for WMA audiobooks which a lot of popular titles are.
This is a brand new app (at least the ebook portion is) and Overdrive has already updated it twice adding features each time, adding a few more will make this pretty good app even better.
Aldiko is nice app with lots of features available.
Upon opening the app you are presented with your recent read on a side scrolling "shelf" at the top the page and links below that to your bookshelf and the download books. Pressing the menu button from this page allows you to search and also to import your own DRM free ePub files. Importing is done by placing your ePub's into the eBooks/import folder. On the library screen you'll see the book's cover, the book's title and the author's name. The downloads screen will bring up in app catalogs for All Romance eBooks, Smashwords, O'Reilly and Feedbooks. Books from Feedbooks can be downloaded from within the app, books from the other sources require the use of your browser to make your purchase, you can also create your own custom catalogs (such as a calibre2opds catalog) for this screen. The menu from the apps bookshelf screen lets you sort (by title, author, download date, last read and rating) it also lets you browse lists by author, tag and collection.
When opening a title you're taken to the beginning of the book or to our last page read for books you've already started. To view your book in landscape mode simply rotate your device, this can be lock in settings. There is no note taking or highlighting available.
Pressing your devices menu key while reading will bring up a menu with some options, the first of which is "Contents' with others being "Bookmarks', "Settings', "Get Books', "Day/Night' on/off and "More'. "Settings' gives you options to customize the colors of your day and night themes, font family (three choices), font size (eleven choices), font weight (four choices), line spacing, horizontal and vertical margins, text alignment, setting for page turning (including using the volume keys), page turn speed, progress bar on/off, brightness adjustments, lock display and enable CSS. "More' gives you options for search, dictionary, go to, show progress, help and share. While you're given a lot of settings I find you're generally fine if you leave most of them set at their defaults.
This is one of the first reading apps to come out for Android and it shows in its refinement. Aldiko 2 has been announced as coming soon and will add support for DRM'd ePubs and PDF's and also library books, I can't wait. There is also a $2.99 "premium' version of this app which as far as I can tell doesn't add any features it just acts as donationware for folks that want to support Aldiko's development.
If you don't like Aldiko for whatever reason I can also recommend FBReader, Moon+ Reader or Books Wordplayer in its place.
Other reading apps include:
Books Wordplayer – formats supported include cbz, cbr, cbc, ePub, fb2, html, lit, mobi, odt, PDF, pdb, pml, rb, rtf and txt. A great choice for a reading app due to all the formats it supports. It also offers text to speech and integration with Calibre. This is a good alternative to Aldiko, but personally I don't care for the way books look in it as much.
FBReader – supports ePub, fb2 and mobi formats. This is a very popular app for a lot of people. While it works great it isn't as user friendly for your average user I don't think. A great option if you want an alternative to Aldiko.
Moon+ Reader – supports txt, html, ePub, umd and zip formats. Another good alternative to Aldiko.
iReader – supports txt, chm, umd and Palm pdb. Some folks might be interested in the pay version of this app ($1.99) as it includes support for DRM'd Mobipocket and DRM'd eReader files.
eReader – supports eReader DRM’d and DRM free palm pdb’s. Not a great app, the best thing it has going for itself is that it connects to your Fictionwise and eReader accounts for easy access to those books. Note: This one isn’t in the Android Market and must be installed by downloading the .apk file and tapping to install. Some devices don’t allow this and only allow installs from the Market.
Txtr – allows you to read Adobe ID DRM'd ePub's that you've uploaded to your account through their website. This app leaves a lot to be desired as far as look/feel/interface goes, but it works and is a way to read DRM'd files. It does not work with DRM'd library books.
iSilo – works with iSilo PDB's which I know some folks have from the days when iSilo was a popular reader for Palm. It's also the most expensive reading app out there at whopping $15.99 on sale ($19.99 regular price).
Reveal Reader – supports ybk format which is used for a lot of books for the LDS church.
Cool Reader – supports txt, ePub, jar, umd, zip, gzip, xml and html formats
Wordoholic – supports ePub, fb2 and txt formats.
Look for an app from Sony coming soon as well.
Other apps that book readers might find of use include:
Dropbox – An great service that gives me an automatic off site backup of all my books (for free). The Android app makes it even better!
Comic Book apps like Comics by comiXology, Droid Comic Viewer, Manga Browser & Vintage Comic Droid.
Apps that work with Instapaper like Hard Copy, InstaFetch and EverPaper.
PDF readers such as Adobe Reader, ezPDF and RepliGo Reader
Audible – allows you to download and listen to audiobooks from Audible.com
Book inventory apps such as Book Catalog, MyBookDroid, Bookworm, Book Mobile and Book Free. This type of app was cover earlier by Artistkem HERE
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 three reading apps on my device (a Samsung Epic/Galaxy S smartphone) Kindle, Aldiko and Kobo.
Any truth to the rumour that Aldiko 2 will also support Nookbooks, ie the B&N DRM?
@willem: I’m not sure. I asked in a comment on the developers blog, but they never answered. Since it’s a form of Adobe DRM and not exclusive to B&N (although they’re the only ones I know of using it so far) I’d love to see it happen.
Thank you, Brian, for such a comprehensive Android reading guide. Between my love for the Kindle 3 and the fact that, as a brand new Droid X owner, I’m already afraid to be more than ten feet from a power outlet by mid-afternoon, I probably won’t read on mine. But, as a digitally published author, I try to keep links to informative how-to guides on hand for the occasional how-do-I question from readers. This one’s definitely going in my file.
iReader in the pay version I like a lot better than you do here. I expect it to to support ePub flavors soon, and I’m a lot more excited about the support of older DRM formats because I have a huge investment there – I have access to the tools to strip, but don’t care to have to bother for something like 2500 DRM’d ebooks. A minor think I like about iReader is that it will navigate to wherever on the Android device you have the books.
@Shannon Stacey I agree. This is such an awesome guide and I am really thankful that Brian wrote it up.
I rooted my nookcolor and having been testing out different android reading apps and this post is very helpful.
@romsfuulynn: I don’t dislike iReader really. I just didn’t have a reason to buy the pay version and it doesn’t support much in it’s free version. You’re absolutely right that if you have a huge investment in older DRM forms and they’re still locked down that it’d be a great app to have.
Well done, Brian. I enjoyed reading this and will bookmark for future reference. I’ve used iReader and liked it for the most part. It has a lot of customizations. I would love to use Aldiko and have begged them to make this available for the iPhone but of course, that’s their competitor. A year ago I was reading on my iPhone but now, not so much anymore. I find that I go back and forth, depending on my reading mood. Thanks again for the write up.
While I don’t have a Droid or Android-based device (other than the nook color) I do find myself fielding a lot of questions about what programs to use on the platform, so this was very informative for me.
I do have one question. Do you know of any app that functions similar to Stanza with the collaboration/access between Calibre and Dropbox. My brother uses a Droid and would like to be able to access our Calibre library in the same way he can on the iTouch via Stanza. Any thoughts?
@Angela James: He can create a custom catalog in Aldiko using the XML catalog created by calibre2opds. This works pretty good, but when you click a book you have to tap the blank area that says ‘Links’ (kind of confusing since no “link” is visible) which will bring up the book on a shelf, when you tap that book a download link comes up and the book will download to Aldiko.
Or he can create a custom catalog in Aldiko using the HTML catalog created by calibre2opds. This will basically just be a link that will launch the phones browser where he can browse and download a book. It will automatically be added to his Aldiko library.
I find I often add books by just using the Dropbox app and downloading that way, but I’m often downloading Mobi files to the Kindle app.
One thing I thought I’d mention. For folks who don’t have a local public library with Overdrive ebooks/audiobooks (or if you do and just want another source) you can get an Out-of-State card to the Free Library of Philadelphia for $15 a year. They add books fairly often and are over 3,800 books right now.
According to some folks on MobileRead this is open to folks outside the USA as well.
@willem: The Android version of Bluefire Reader app, when it becomes available, will probably support B&N DRM. Their iPhone app does, so hopefully their Android app will have the same features: Adobe Adept DRM, B&N DRM, and Overdrive library ebooks.
Yes, it will be nice when Bluefire has their app out. As of a few weeks ago they were still hoping to have it out before the end of the year.
There is no reason for any app that does one form of Adobe DRM (ID encryption and Password encryption) not to do all of them, it’s the developers choice. Sony left support for Adobe Password encrypted DRM (this is what B&N uses) out of their Readers and will likely leave it out of their app, but I think it’s a dumb choice.
Thanks for the reviews! I downloaded most of these last week to try them all out.
I ended up going with the Nook Reader. I liked that I could highlight text and write notes as I read.
Being able to side-load other ePubs means I can use it to read just about anything I want.
Thank you so much! I am bookmarking this post. I was especially excited about the overdrive app. I downloaded it last year to get audiobooks from my library–and at the time, I don’t think it supported ebooks. This is great news.
@Gwen Hayes: eBooks are very new in the Overdrive app. The new version that includes eBooks was released not even two weeks ago. Overdrive seems to be on top of adding features (two updates already) and hopefully that will continue.
Of course if/when Aldiko 2 and Bluefire come out (and possibly the Sony app) we’ll all of the sudden have all kinds of options that folks have been hoping for since the early days of Android.
Thanks so much for this guide! I will also be bookmarking it. Thank you!
I think I have all of the big apps reviewed here on my Evo (I recently realized that I have more reader apps on my phone than games…I’m that kind of geek I guess). I agree that the Borders app is not as good–my biggest beef with it is that it won’t rotate the screen to let me read horizontally like the others do. I have a Sony Touch also, so I mostly read Kindle books on the Evo and everything else on the Sony.
What I haven’t figured out is if there is a good way to share the DRM’d purchased books I have on my Sony with any of the reader apps on my Evo (i.e the ePubs I’ve bought from eHarlequin and the like).
I have used Calibre to transfer non DRM’d stuff around (thank you Carina). I haven’t really looked into DRM-stripping plugins or whatever for Calibre yet (nor have I rooted my phone, despite pressure from my husband…I am squeamish about rules) :)
@Kristi: To use ePub’s from Harlequin you can use the Overdrive app (you can’t sideload them, you’ll need to download them with your phone’s browser w/ the OD app installed).
You could also use Txtr, but IMO it’s really not that great, especially since you mentioned landscape mode. While the app has it the books I tested had huge margins in that mode and didn’t display much wider than portrait mode. With Txtr you create an account with them and then upload your books to their server and then download to the app.
Very soon we’ll have Aldiko2 and Bluefire which should give more options for reading DRM’d content without disinfecting it. Sony also said they’d have an app out this month but it’s unclear what all that app will do.
YEAH! THANK YOU so much! I’ve been anxiously waiting for DA to publish a guide for the android. I just got one and I’m struggling with finding apps that will work for me. I’m especially interested in the ereader apps. So this article is so timely for me. Thanks again!
The paid version of Aldiko2 has been released in the Market! Support for Adobe DRM’d ePub and PDF, support for password encryption (like B&N uses).
AFAIK the free version will be getting updated too, don’t know when.
Comments so far are mixed with some folks loving it and others are unhappy with lost settings, font issues, loss of some customization from older version, slower, size of the app.
If you’re into using paperbackswap.com, BookSwapDroid is pretty cool for managing your Book Shelf, Wish List, etc. Not only can you keep inventory, but you can trade books with people!
Thanks for the thought and work you have put in Brian.
I am looking for an “academic” reader – one that supports notes, highlighting, cut and paste, bookmarks, annotations etc.
A friend suggested RepliGo Reader do you have any thoughts about a reader suited for college work?
@Alan: Alan, you might want to take a look at Mantano. It does a great job with epub’s and pdf’s. Notes, multi color highlights, your notes can be typed or written/drawn on screen. We had a review here, but I’m not finding it at the moment.
Here’s a link to our look at Mantano…
i think ‘cool reader’ isn’t support jar files