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|Printed books are far from dead and with the introduction of portable ebook readers and apps, reading has become more popular than ever. The ability to take a multitude of ebooks in one device, rather than require a lorry to follow you everywhere with the printed equivalent, is truly amazing. So, let's begin our journey by looking at some of the best freeware ebook apps available for Android.|
Google Play Books is Google's answer to an ebook reader for Android. After enabling Sync it takes a moment for the main screen to appear but when it does, it looks very fancy. If you have multiple books stored on your device it displays them as little books (with drop shadows) that move and scroll when you slide your finger over them. I opened up Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (horizontally) and I'm presented with a clean crisp 2 page display that has that neat page turning animation you can find on some ebook readers and apps. I can flip pages forwards and backwards and the images are clear too. Turning my device vertically, the two pages become one but still the page flipping animation works and the text and images are sharp. So back to horizontal.
When you tap on a page, at the bottom of the screen it tells you what chapter you are on and at the top it tells you the name of the book and the author. To the right of that are 3 icons. Search (magnifying glass), Chapter list, and Font.
Search allows you to search in the book and when you click on the magnifying glass, the keyboard appears at the bottom of the screen allowing you to type whatever you are looking for.
Chapter, after a microsecond delay, will take you to the chapter you want.
Font, apart from what you think is the obvious, does something more besides. First is Theme. By default it is set to Day, i.e. black text on white background, but if you choose Night, then it reverses to white text on a black background.
Next we have Typeface which allows you to choose 1 of 6 installed fonts.
After that comes Text Alignment which allows you to choose the Default setting (normal I suppose) Left or Justify. I like Justify. Force of habit.
Now after that comes Brightness which is set to Auto as default but allows you to move a slider up or down to set your own preference. Useful if you are in bright sunlight or a dark space.
That's followed by Line Height which increases or decreases the space between lines.
And last, but by no means least, we have Font Size. Self explanatory really. Then when you are finished, tap anywhere on the screen and the icons disappear just leaving the page (pages) you are reading.
There are some other options too. Original pages defaults the book you are reading to the format of the original book rather than using Google's own format. Basically, if you have a book and the font is poor, Google will recognise the book and will show you it in a clean way. Original pages shows it how it originally looks. I prefer Google's way for Alice and that's achieved by tapping on Flowing text.
About the book takes me to a review page that gives me a description and reviews. Bit of a delay getting to it and if you already have the book then you obviously know about it or you wouldn't have downloaded it and saved it on your device!! You see where I'm going with this....
Google Books gives you another option called Share. This allows you to share the book, your thoughts and feelings, life the universe and everything, to a bunch of different social networking sites including Facebook, Skype, and Twitter. There is also an Available offline option and a really good Help too. Then there is the Read Aloud. Yes, you've guessed it. The Star Trek computer with a stutter is back. Don't get me wrong. For those who have problems reading, then it is a good alternative but after I listened to it reading for 10 minutes, I wanted to drown myself.
Overall it is a very good ebook reader and I like it a lot. I'm not overly keen on the Read Aloud function but each to their own. It's definately up there as one to have.
FBReader is another free ebook reader for Android. Having just downloaded it, and on first impressions I like its straight, no-nonsense look. When you first open the app you are presented with the first book it can see which just so happens to be "About FBReader". This one pager gives you a quick heads-up as to the use and functionality of the app. Plus it gives you a link to access a Network Library that contains a large amount of ebooks either for free or for a fee.
From this screen, by pressing the options button on your device, a menu appears at the bottom of the screen (I am looking at my screen in landscape/horizontally). So, a quick run through the labeled icons.
First is Library. When you tap on Library a list menu appears that reads from top to bottom as follows: Favorites, Recent, By author, By title, By tag and File tree. All these options are, as you see, self-explanatory and when you do click on any of them, any books you have stored on your device or external storage are displayed with both author and title.
File tree, when opened, gives you 3 options to look in: FBReader library, Device and Memory Card. When you click anyone of those three, navigation is very simple and using your device's back button moves you backwards a level. It's a very straightforward and simple way of navigating and the text is displayed bright and clear so you can't lose yourself.
Back at the main menu, the next icon is Network Library. This takes you to another list including a Search option, and various sites to access ebooks. Again nice and easy to navigate. Going back to the main menu, the next icon along is Bookmarks, followed by an icon showing the moon called Night. This is a toggle between night and day. Day shows black text on white, and night shows white text on black. From that is Search which allows you to search your book for words, sentences, etc.
And finally there is More. When you tap the More icon, a menu appears giving you 5 ways forward: Settings, Book info, Zoom in, Zoom out, Navigate. Again all are self-explanatory and easy to navigate. So I will focus only on one which is Settings. There are 11 settings to choose from and each one, when you enter deeper, tells you what it does. Some allow you to 'tick' the setting, some use slider bars to adjust settings. I played with the look and feel of this app through the settings to the point where it looks, feels and behaves exactly how I want it to. And it was a pleasure to play with the settings.
The app supports epub, rtf, fb2 (.zip), mobi, and plain text file formats so you do have some choice. It can also use external TrueType and OpenType fonts, though I haven't yet worked out how to do that. The app also includes integration with several external dictionaries, which may be useful if you get stuck on a word. It doesn't support pdf which is a bit of a pain, or chm either. Maybe in future releases, I can hope.
"So what about reading a book?", I hear you cry. Reading an ebook is a real joy through this app because of the level of options it supports to the look and feel. The ebooks I opened where clear and easy to read including those that contained images. Overall a really excellent ebook reader. There are no adverts and no Star Trek computer voices anywhere!!
Update: Since I wrote the above, I upgraded to version 1.5.5 and now there are a couple of new additions to the More icon in the menu. There is Share book, which brings up a list of social networking links you have on your device and Screen orientation that allows you to set how you want to view the screen and also gives you the option for 'Device orientation sensitive'. That's good.
Also, as a point of interest, if you go to the developers' website it gives you a whole host of further information and release information not to mention some plugins, including, I hate to say, one that allows the app to read to you. Aaaaaarrrrrgghhhhh!!!!! Thankfully, it's only a plugin.
Moon+ Reader is an excellent ebook reader with a neat and clean user interface, complete with rich features and useful controls for you to read ebooks comfortably on your mobile devices.
It's highly customizable to suit your preferences. Other than tapping the one-touch day/night mode, you can fine-tune the screen brightness to suit your eyes by sliding your finger along the left edge of the screen. In visual options, you can set font type, size and color, page flip animation and save your settings as a theme. In control options, you can change key press and multi-touch gestures to your liking too.
Other features include: bookmark, highlight, annotation, dictionary, share, online backup and restore - via Dropbox - and sync reading positions between phones and tablets.
Beside reading books saved in your Android, you can also search and get thousands of ebooks for free with this app which supports online ebook libraries.
This app can read various ebook formats including ePub, txt, html, chm, fb2, umd, zip or OPDS. On the downside, it doesn't support pdf files and has ads in the free version.
Well I've just downloaded Cool Reader, so let's see what it can do. According to the blurb it can read a multitude of ebook formats including: epub (non-DRM), fb2, doc, txt, rtf, html, chm, tcr, pdb, prc, mobi (non-DRM) and pml. But how well does it work?
I opened it up and was presented with a wooden bookcase that lists on each shelf: Recent Books, SD Card, Internal Storage, Online catalogs, Find book, Books by author, Books by series, and Books by title. I've just tapped on Recent Books and it's opened up another bookcase with only one book on show and that is the 'Cool Reader Manual'. Let's have a look. Okay, well reading the manual is a straightforward 'slide your finger forwards or backwards' to go backwards and forwards respectively. So, lets have a look at the options when reading a book.
I am now shown six icons; Open file, Go to, Bookmarks, Select Text, Options and More.
Since my last sentence I've just been playing with all the different options, settings, bookmarks, font sizes etc. and let me say, "WOW!!". It has loads of settings that can manipulate reading a book. And they are not fanciful airy options but they do actually make a difference. Did you know it even has an option that allows the book to be read to you? But don't get your hopes up with that. It's no Brian Blessed or Stephen Fry, in fact it's more like a stuttering Star Trek ships' onboard computer. But the thought is there. And at the end of the day I want to read, not listen.
The functionality of Cool Reader is really good. Because there are so many options, reading a book in any of the formats I've mentioned means that you can view them and use them really well. I have a dedicated Sony ebook reader device but running this on Android puts the functionality of that to shame. I have a lot of technical manuals as chm and this app, so far, has opened them well without crashing. The app has four default fonts as standard but it gives you the option of adding more fonts (.ttf) simply by copying them into the Fonts directory created by this app (info on this and a whole lot more can be found in the Cool Reader manual).
So, do I like it? In a word - yes. It gave the impression of being very simplistic when I first opened it and I was dubious and worried about navigating around the app and about what it could do, but I am impressed. It does a hell of a lot. For a free app, it can make reading a book more interesting, so that's a "well done" in my book!
When the Kobo screen appears, underneath it says "Read Freely". Let's see just how true that statement is. Similar to Kindle, this ebook reader requires you to either sign in with your existing Kobo account or to create an account. As I have one already I will skip past the creating an account and leave that pleasure of discovery to you.
When signing in you can use either a Facebook account or a Kobo account. There is also a link to create an account and one in case you've forgotten your password.
So, after signing in I am presented with a bookshelf showing books I have previously downloaded and it has also awarded me a book entitled "Taming your inner online menace". That should prove an interesting read later!
There is a navigation bar at the top and bottom of the screen that gives you various icons to navigate within the app and do a multitude of things similar to the other ebook readers I have written about but some of the main ones tend to lead you to the Kobo shop to purchase books. There are statistics you can look at and awards you can achieve. Similar to the other apps, by clicking on the options button on your device it brings up yet another menu including: settings, import content, your account details etc.
Thus, let's open up a book and see what it can do. When you first click on a book, before you actually get to the book, a page appears telling you how to navigate by swiping or tapping to turn pages, or a single tap to open the menu. Good to know. Then once you've past that page it tells you if Facebook sharing is off. We might get to the book one day.
On the first page, I swiped it and a dialogue box appeared asking me to share my thoughts. At this point in time I don't think the amount of expletives that have just issued from me are worth sharing. Would you believe it, I said no to the sharing and another one popped up asking if I would like to join a conversation. Finally, I am at the book proper and it looks and reads as well as any other ebook reader app, black text on a white background. Again, similar to the other ebook apps, by using the menu you can change fonts, brightness, automatic orientation, etc. And you can even post to Facebook wall. Oh joy, because I always do that when reading a book (can you read the sarcasm clearly in my writing?).
But seriously, it handles ebooks really well and the amount of options and settings are respectable. The layout is clean and fresh and apart from the really annoying popups asking me to share and join conversations, it's a good app. But now I am going to try and import some of my books from my device. This should be fun.
Words of warning: When it finds any ebooks on your device and you have selected which ones you want to import into Kobo, it asks you if you want to remove the original from your memory card. Don't say, 'Yes' because if you do I have a horrible feeling that if you uninstall your Kobo app at some later date, you will lose those books too!! Anyway, the import was a success and the book opened without any trouble.
Hence, to it sum up. As I said before it's a good ebook app with a lot of functionality - apart from the need to sign-up to Kobo and the constant nags about sharing across social networking sites. There are a few too many information boxes that appear for my liking as all I want to do is read a book but if you are a hardcore Facebooker then you probably won't mind it so much. It can read a multitude of formats including epub, pdf, mobi, txt, html, and rtf but it can't read Kindle. It can also view a lot of the popular image types. And finally, if like me you like to read the odd comic book every now and then, this app happily handles cbz and cbr.
Mantano Reader Lite is another ebook reader that presents your ebook collection in a light, bright, makes-you-want-to-use-it, look and feel type Android app. When you first open the app you are presented with a series of menus to the left and your ebooks on the right, plus a small menu bar to the bottom-right that gives you ways of managing your ebooks. You can view your ebooks by addition date, author, rating etc and you can show all ebooks or ebooks by collection. You even have the ability to create your own collections which I think is quite a cool idea if you want to base it on an author or by series.
You can change the views of your thumbnailed ebooks, sync your app to the Mantano Cloud (a login is required for that), change a vast array of settings to suit your needs and of course import ebooks to your app. When you open an ebook, if you tap once on the screen, you have another menu that offers things like navigation, different themes, night mode, write etc. And like other ebook apps it gives you the option to share your thoughts and views on social networking sites. Reading an ebook is nice and clear and the page turning speed is good. In the top right-hand corner of the page is a small bookmark that you tap once for on and again for off. Simple which is all you really need.
Overall it's a very nice app. I like the fact that when reading an ebook it's black text on an off-white background rather than a piercing snow white backing that can easily tire your eyes. The functionality and controls are respectable and it's not overly complicated. Yes, there are oodles of settings to play with but sometimes you can easily be caught up in them and forget the fact that you only want to read a book. The only drawback is that it only reads pdfs and epubs.
But if you are like me, I like to have 2 or 3 different readers on my device for different formats and this one is definitely one of them.
Bluefire Reader is a very good ebook reader app for Android. On opening the app, once you are past the opening sequence, you are presented with your library. It comes with two ebooks, the Bluefire Reader Android User Guide, and Treasure Island. You can display your books as thumbnails or in a list using the view option at the top of the screen. You can also view your books by Recent, Title or Author. At the bottom of the screen you have 4 options, Library (main page), Read Now (takes you to the first book you have highlighted), Get Books (takes you to an online bookshop), and finally Info (which gives you the option to enable Adobe eBooks, or import from an SD card, Help, About, and About Us). There is also an option on the main screen to edit the ebook metadata. This will allow you to change the ebook values.
When you open an ebook, turning pages is a joy. It's smooth like actually turning a real page. By dragging your finger from right to left moves you forward and vice versa to go back a page. You can also give it a quick tap to do the same. If you tap and hold your finger above a word, a circle appears with a small menu to allow you to either bookmark, or copy the highlighted word. The same thing happens if you tap on a word and drag your finger along the line. It highlights it allowing you to copy or bookmark it. A quick tap on the page brings up a scroll bar telling you a what page you're at and allows you to slide forwards or backward plus a menu with Library, Info, Contents, Bookmarks, and Settings. Click anywhere on the page to make the menu go away. Like any ebook reader app for Android, the settings are important and Bluefire Reader makes good use of them with intuitive and numerous options to make reading a book a real pleasure.
Overall this is another ebook reader app that I like and will keep on my device. There are no adverts, it's clean and straightforward but not overly complicated by too many functions that would steer you away from its true goal which is to give you the pleasure of reading an electronic book. Well done Bluefire Productions.
I was told about Aldiko Book Reader from a couple of friends of mine who are avid ebook readers so I downloaded the app to see what it is all about. When the app opens it automatically defaults your view to portrait (vertical) and on the front screen you are presented with 4 icons: Shelf view, Store, List view and Files. And at the bottom is an area marked 'Recent reads'. As I have read nothing within this app, of course it's blank. In the far top-right corner is a magnifying glass. Oh, and the presented icons, text and banner are in milk chocolate brown (just thought I'd add that). So first things first. I need some ebooks to look at so I will click on the Files icon.
Now on my device it automatically defaulted to my memory card (there is an up arrow that you can tap to take you to your device too) which is fine for me and I can see my Books folder clearly in the list. To the right of the folders listed are tick boxes. Convenient. So when I tick the Books folder box, a bar at the bottom appears giving me 2 choices, Import to Aldiko (and the number of files it can find), and Unselect all.
So let's import them and see what happens. An Importing timeline bar appears telling you the percentage it's at importing the files. An information box has just appeared telling me that it cannot import an epub I have with the only option being Dismiss. Now that's odd because it's imported my other epubs okay and the one it couldn't import reads fine in other ebook readers on my Android device. Oh well, nothing's perfect.
So, I am now looking at a screen called Library and underneath are the books I have imported which include pdf and epub. In the top chocolate brown title bar where Library sits, to the left is a home icon and to the right is a shopping trolley and the search icon. So at this point I am going to tap on the home icon first.
Back at the front screen I am now going to see what the Shelf view looks like. And there we have it. My books on display in the familiar wooden-panel bookcase. There is also a drop-down option that can sort the books by title, author, ratings, recent reads, recently added and recently finished. I'll just leave it by title.
Now I want to see how it looks a different way so I press the home icon again and this time I choose the List view. Now almost similar to the Library screen I mentioned earlier is another Library screen which again can be sorted using the drop-down icon. It lists my books, the author, file type, published, and also has 5 greyed-out stars that you can obviously change. The books listed are in a tab called Books under the main heading, Library. There are also another 3 tabs called Authors, Tags, and Collections. Authors are self explanatory, Tags are what genre the books come under (Sci-Fi, Action & Adventure, Fiction, etc.), and Collections are where you can set up collections of books, e.g. if there are multiple books in a series etc.
So, back to my list of books. I've just tapped on an ebook and it has opened up on the cover, fullscreen. Movement through the book can be achieved by swiping your finger left or right to go backwards or forwards, or by gently tapping the screen. The front cover is in colour, the words are black on white, and if there are any hyperlinks, they are underlined and highlighted in blue. I'll say this, turning the pages are a bit slow but the text is nice and clear as are any pictures, diagrams etc. By either tapping a bit harder or by pressing your options button on your device, a bar appears at the top and bottom. The top one gives you the title of the book and the author along with the home icon and search, whereas the bottom bar gives you 4 icons and a slide bar to move quicker through the ebook if you so desire. The icons from left to right are: Go to, Day/Night (switches between black text on white or white text on black), Settings, and More. More gives you two options; Share (networking) and Help.
Settings gives you 4 options including: Text (allows you to manipulate text size and margins and works well) Brightness (adjustable) and Orientation (very useful). Now at this point I thought it stayed as portrait because of the front menu. It's only when you open a book that it uses the default automatic orientation to adjust when you hold your device in landscape (horizontal). You live and learn. And finally there is another More option that gives you a whole host of extra settings (too many to list and write about) including the ability to download different fonts.
So overall impression? It's another ebook reader but it can only read pdf, epub and Adobe DRM which is a bit limited in my book (no pun intended). Yes it's fully customizable, and you can shop for ebooks online, and with the tweaking you can make the look and feel however you wish. It's straightforward to use and it's not gimicky but I did find it slow turning pages. And while it can read these 3 format types with no problems, I would have liked it to read more formats as I said above. If it did that then it would be a high scorer.
On a final note, if you do have it preinstalled on your device, it's still a good app to have but I would also recommend having another ebook reader as well to read other formats.
I am sure we have all heard, seen, or even held a Kindle so there will be no suprise to know that there is also a Kindle app for Android. When you first make that scary tap on the app you are presented with a dark screen that has the word "Kindle" emblazoned in the centre. After about 10 seconds (for me anyway) it takes me to a "Register now to get started" screen. So far I don't like it. I just want to read a book, not register my details with anyone. But heigh-ho, here we go. Thankfully, I already have an Amazon account so I have tapped in my details and then I get to the next screen. (By the way, if you don't have an Amazon account, there is also an option on the first screen to register for one.)
So let me describe what I am now looking at. In the centre is an advert telling me that the Amazon shop has over 950,000 books in the Kindle store (yawn). At the bottom of the screen is a row of miniature book covers under Editor's Picks. And at the top of the screen are 4 tabs. The first is Home, i.e. the page I have just described. The second is titled On Device. So let's see what that does.
Nothing happened and I am left with a blank screen and the tabs at the top. So moving on we tap on Archive. Ditto. So let's go to the final tab, Store. And surprise, surprise, that takes me to the Kindle Store. I won't lie to you when I say I am not a big fan of Kindle as I don't like the idea of being tied-in to one supplier of reading material in only one format. But on the other hand they do have a huge range of books that can easily be downloaded quickly to your device and they do have thousands of free ebooks too.
Anyway, back to the review. I've now tapped on the Home page and this time I have chosen one of the Editor's Picks. But I don't really want to spend any money so I am going to try a sample of a book to see how well that works in the app. So, the sample has finally loaded and the page format is simple black text on a white background with the pages slideable to the left or right. Similar to the Kindle device itself you have options for font sizes, page layout, line spacing, font colour/page colour, and brightness. You can Go To, Bookmark, and Search, and apart from actually buying the book, that's about it. Kindle lovers will love the app, that I have no doubt, but if you are a Kindle lover that means you already have a Kindle, so there is no point in having this app too (apart from being able to use it in the dark).
As ebook readers go it's simple, though you can sync across multiple devices. It is based on the popular Kindle and in portrait and landscape mode, the text from the book reads really well. On the downside, you are tied into Amazon. So, if you are like me, have different ebook reader apps on your device.
Android Chm EBook Reader was created to view chm files (a chm is a Microsoft Compiled HTML Help File that may contain text, pictures, hyperlinks etc). These files are sometimes whole computer manuals, but rather than saving them as a pdf or another well-known format, it's saved as a chm. The reader app itself is very basic and not pleasing to the eye at all.
When you open it you are presented with a blank screen, apart from the app title at the top, My Book List underneath and an Upgrade button to the left. That's it - nothing more. Tapping the screen does nothing so you have to use the options button on your device. Once clicked you are presented with two icons: Bookmarks and Add Book. When you click on Add Book, you are presented with a folder list view of your device. I have not found a way to open my memory card that holds my chm files and the options menu only gives you a choice of viewing the files as a list or a grid, and chm files only.
Overall, a very poor app. There is no way I'm going to fork-out any money for the pro version. If I get it for free then I might update the review, so watch this space but don't hold your breath.
EbookDroid is a new open source (GPL) app that supports PDF, DjVu, XPS (OpenXPS), comics books (cbz,cbr), FictionBook (fb2, fb2.zip) formats. It is stuffed with features, as it should be, being the new kid on the block.
EbookDroid can not only add bookmarks like most other readers in the market, it can also give the outline of an ebook that doesn't have a table of contents. It has the standard "go to" feature too, which comes in really handy if you want to jump to a page number. Don't use this utility for reading scanned books though; it takes a really long time to load. It also has a night reading mode which is excellent.
EbookDroid also has a crop pages feature that crops margins and makes the page more readable. And it can split pages for a two-page spanning book. But the best feature of this app has got to be the inclusion of OPDS catalog feeds. You just need to feed in the alias, URL, and authentication details to view an online catalog such as feedbooks.
PDF Reader is another free reader that android users can try for fun, but I seriously doubt it being their favourite. The first thing that annoys the hell out of me is the advertisements. If you have a small tablet, the advertisements take up a lot of screen area. The application takes a while to load as well. It comes with all the other good features but you have to go for its paid cousin if you want to give the advertisements a miss. This is a GNU GPL release too and has the bookmarking feature as well as the night mode, but I would prefer the EbookDroid to this anyday.
Oodles Ebook Reader is still in beta, but offers oodles of new functionality to entice the average bespectacled android bookworm. For starters, it lists out all the fifty thousand books it offers in a handy little catalogue with books neatly put in various categories such as literature, fantasy, or women’s fiction. It asks you to login into facebook, but fortunately for non-users like me, it’s optional. It then proceeds to helpfully point out every menu and every quirk of the application in friendly handwritten comments on the screen. The verdict is in; this is a very cute application.
The book reading capability isn’t too bad either. It has the standard day-night display settings along with the background changing options that are now almost standard with all ebook readers. It also displays the table of contents just like every other ebook reader. It supports epub, rtf, fb2, mobi, and plain text file formats. What? No pdf format? I am disappointed. But it’s still in beta (as on March 19, 2013) and just as little boys grow up to be strong men, this app may become better with age too. The best feature has got to be the browse feature. You can browse more than 50,000 free e-books spanning 24 categories including fiction books, fantasy, fan fiction, romance, thrillers, short stories among other heads. It downloads from all the popular OPDS sites like feedbooks and smashwords and downloads stuff pretty quickly. What is more, it imports books from SDCard and even phones. Another handy feature that is not available in many other readers is the resize text feature. I like that about this application. All in all, a good job!
More apps to be reviewed:
Related Products and Links
You might want to check out these articles too:
Google Play Books
Mantano Reader Lite
Kindle for Android
Aldiko Book Reader
Android Chm EBook Reader
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