Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

Summary: There are now several options for reading ebooks on Android devices, including Kobo, Aldiko, FBReader, iReader, and Laputa. Do you like any of these and if not, what do you recommend?

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Jason Perlow posted his iPad eReader apps showdown this past weekend and as a follow-up for readers here I wanted to present a showdown of the available ebook applications for the Google Android smartphone platform. I am a huge Android fan and ebook reader and wanted to take a look at what we have available for the Android platform. I recently wrote a review of the Kobo application for Android and have been using it quite a bit. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find another ebook application available on Android that I plan to use for reading some other content on the go. Check out my image gallery of application screenshots and thoughts on each application below.


Image Gallery: There are several ebook reader options for Android devices. Image Gallery: Best eReader apps Image Gallery: Night reading mode

I conducted a search of the Android Market for the highest rated and most popular ebook applications and discovered five applications that looked worthy of further testing. Two applications ended up standing out from the crowd and will remain on my Sprint HTC EVO 4G while the others will be removed for now. I tested Aldiko, FBReader, iReader, Kobo, and Laputa on my device. Check out my thoughts and conclusion below, along with the screenshots in my image gallery to see if you agree with my take on these applications. Also, please let me know if you found another good application or have another recommendation for me and the readers.

Aldiko

Aldiko is a free application with a priced version available for $2.99 if you find you enjoy using the application and want to support the developer. When you launch the application you will find tips appear as pop-ups on the display and you can easily choose to hide these tips in the future. You will then see your recently read books on the top shelf, access to your downloaded books on the second shelf, and a button to download books from online catalogs on the bottom shelf. Pressing the menu button gives you buttons for search, import, tips, share, and about. The import books option is especially interesting to me since it is listed as an experimental function that lets you import ebooks in EPUB format (non-DRM) that you place on your microSD card. Unfortunately, you cannot use Adobe Digital Editions and have public library or already purchased titles imported into the application.

If you tap to download books you will find that Aldiko includes online catalogs for Feedbooks, O'Reilly books, romance books, and Smashwords with the option for you to add your own catalog by entering the title, URL and description. There are thousands of free ebooks available at Feedbooks and you can purchase titles through the O'Reilly and Smashwords catalogs. I would love to see even more catalog support in the future, but this does give you some great resources out of the box.

Within an ebook you will find you can rotate your device to read in portrait or landscape orientation. Menu buttons include table of contents, bookmarks, settings, get books, day/night toggle and more (search, dictionary, Go To, show progress, help, and share). Inside settings you will find you can customize font color, background color, link color, and search highlight colors choosing from several very usable colors. You can also choose from nine font types, font sizes ranging from 10 to 30, and four font weights. Layout settings, navigation controls (including flings and volume keys), navigation settings, display settings (brightness and awake), and display orientation (in case you do not want it to rotate). Tapping on Dictionary lets you search the dictionary, Google, Wikipedia, or the book you are reading for the term. Go To presents you with a slider bar to quickly navigate through the ebook.

FBReader

FBReader is designed to let you read ebooks in orb, EPUB, and fb2 formats. You need to manually load books on your microSD card, click ebook hyperlinks in the Android browser to download to your device, or use the included network library access. The menu button gives you quick access to the library, network library, table of contents, bookmarks, day/night toggle, and more. More includes search, settings, book info, rotate screen, zoom in and out, and navigate. Inside the network library you will find catalogs for Feedbooks, ManyBooks.net, Smashwords, and a couple of foreign ebook catalogs.

The settings include options for toggling automatic rotation, status bar, and scrollbar placement as well as managing how scrolling works in the reader. Other settings include margin control, line spacing, margins, font types and sizes, and font and background colors. There are several options, but many are pretty technical and not easily understood by your basic Android owner. Ebook content appears in full screen and this is a good ebook reading client.

iReader

When you launch iReader you are taken to a file explorer page and pressing the menu button opens up a menu with six colorful icons for sort, filter, library, SD card, settings, and close. I could not find a single book loaded on my EVO 4G that iReader was able to open (including all of the non-DRM titles used with the other readers) so I could not test out the ebook reading experience. Settings included those for the theme, backup and restore, and cache settings. There was no help file or tutorial to assist the reader in figuring out how to use the application and I quickly removed it from my device.

Kobo

I covered Kobo well in my review so I won't go into detail again. There is no landscape support in Kobo and you are limited to ebooks that you buy through Kobo. The application store experience is good and the selection is great, but there is no functionality to read public domain books or other titles you add manually.

Laputa

Laputa has a nice user interface, similar to that found in Aldiko, with fewer online catalogs available. When you launch Laputa you will see your virtual bookshelf with wood paneling wallpaper. The books appear on the shelf with front covers and tapping the upper right icon lets you sort the books to your liking. Tapping the arrow in the bottom left brings up options for viewing your library or online ebook catalogs. You can swipe left to right to view your library and swipe right to left to view the online catalogs. Your library can be viewed by all, author, latest read, or your favorites. There are two online catalogs provided in Laputa; Blazer and Feedbooks. After looking through the Blazer directory, I think there may be illegal content in there and am not sure the application is on the up and up.

When you press the menu button while reading an ebook you will find buttons for add bookmarks, font size, day/night toggle, auto page, flip effects, and rotate screen. Fonts range from too small to read to extremely large and you simply tap the small or big A to decrease or increase font size. Unfortunately, there is no way to customize the color or font type in Laputa. There is also no search capability available. The auto page lets you set a time interval to turn pages automatically if you desire. The flip effect is a toggle so you can animate page turns as you turn the page.

Which is my favorite and why?

Kobo is my favorite for a paid ebook store application with Aldiko being my favorite "open" ebook reader. I like the customization options in Aldiko and while FBReader has many of these as well they are not as user friendly as they are in Aldiko. I would not even load iReader on your device if I were you. Laputa is decent, but may be providing access to illegal ebook content so you might as well use Aldiko or FBReader to access Feedbooks online. Aldiko also is the only application I found that lets you load ebooks (in EPUB format) via a manual microSD card transfer and I wish they would add support for Adobe Digital Editions so I could check out public library books.

Do you have a favorite ebook reader for Google Android?

Topics: Hardware, Android, Google, Mobility

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25 comments
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  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    Thank you! This straight-up evaluation was just the information I was looking for!
    KayriLynn
    • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

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  • One app you may have missed...

    Books WordPlayer.

    I matched it up against Aldiko and picked it based on its integration with Calibre (wireless transfer from your computer). I don't remember if you can turn off screen rotation in Aldiko, but I find that's a must for me for late night reading without getting a krick in my neck, and it's nice having the option. Otherwise, WordPlayer seems relatively comparable to Aldiko, if not quite as pretty.

    Thanks for finding a couple more for me to look at. At this point in my smartphone/device travels (PPC6900, Palm 650, BB 8300, HTC Touch, Touch Diamond, iPod Touch, Hero, and now EVO) I look forward to the "which apps should I load" posts.

    AppBrain link: http://www.appbrain.com/app/v00032.com.wordplayer
    katscoyote
  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    There is another reader app on ereader.com...called eReader. It is not available on the market for some reason. You can download it here:

    http://mobile.ereader.com/mobile/softwarewizard/wizard_dl_android.htm

    I used it because I had a .pdb ebook I had bought from booksonboard when I was reading on my iPod Touch with Stanza. eReader was the only reading app for the Android I could find that would open it.

    I'm anxious to get a reading app that I can read contemporary books. Didn't like Kobo much...think I'll wait for the Kindle or Nook app, or see what Google comes out with when they open up Google Editions.
    psprague@...
  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    I like wordplayer, it's very customisable, allows you to download from the web, import from SD card or wirelessly from Calibre (shame I can't get that bit to work).
    My main gripe on all ereader software is lack of support for the great many types of ebook and especially adobe digital editions and other DRM'd ebooks.
    hester_paul@...
  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    Isn't all the talk about this format and that format a moot point? Download Stanza for free and export all your books as whatever you want. Is it a no-brainer or am I missing something?

    On my Android powered 'APad' (7inch chinese tablet), I have iReader, and it works beautifully with many options. Just plonk the text converted file onto your SDCard... and that's it. Many many options here. Swipe top or bottom or sides for screen brightness, page flipping, animation, bookmarks... you name it, it's there.

    Quick, easy and free...
    grillomalta@...
    • Stanza - only for Mac

      grillomalta - Stanza only runs on Mac. That kind of information would also be helpful to give in your reply to this kind of article...
      quikeagle2
  • iReader

    not sure what you did wrong, but that app can pick up and read almost any type of ebook going from txt through to drm epub and mobi (paid version only). It doesn't have a store option, you have to manually open each book using the open option in the menu setting. It also has virtually every feature you could ever wish for a reader.

    I am not the developer and have no connection with him - must say that I didn't think it needed a help section as it is so obvious to use, but if you go on the about us option there is their website which includes detailed instructions on the basic use of this reader.

    I have used all of the ebook readers you have mentioned, the others the commenters have mentioned and a couple of others not mentioned here, and this is definitely the main one I always keep coming back to due to its versatility (paid version - free version is a bit limited with book types).

    Please reconsider this feature, as I think you have made a series mistake with your iReader comments.
    jaamgans
  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    The Ireader is Great I was able to transfer all my palm Treo 680 pdb ebooks to my new HTC Desire and read them immediately. The free Ireader seems very comprehensive in features. I tried Aldiko but I find the Ireader far better.
    Mike in Cheltenham, UK
    MikeHUK
  • ereader app that can annotate or highlight..

    I don't have an android yet but I've been thinking of getting one. The ereader option has been the telling point for me. I need an ereader that can highlight & annotate. From your review, it seems that none of the leading apps can do that. Is there anyone working on one right now?
    doceve
  • How do they work on Android Pads?

    The Kindle eReader app only has 5 font sizes. For someone with low vision the largest font is not even close to being visible.
    What happens with 7" or 10" Android pads? Do the apps stretch, do they have more options, does anyone have a screenshot?
    If the font size isn't any better then I'll have to settle for a Kindle instead of an Android...
    dkermott@...
    • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

      @dkermott@... You may also want to try Socio eReader: http://ereader.soc.io/. Its a free eReader app specifically designed for Android tablets (2.x and 3.x versions)
      dimo_snaga
  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    I've yet to find a SINGLE reader that I really like, but that being said I do have to take exception with your review of iReader. It has a lot of faults - most significantly it's imperfect support of eReader format it promises in the paid version.

    That being said, I found loading books to be very intuitive - simply navigate to where the books live on your phone/SD card via the built in navigator, select the book you want to read, and enjoy. The "home page" even shows you recent books that you've read and lists them in the order last accessed so that you can find more recent reads first.

    eReader.com's software, which on every other platform I've ever used had always been my solution of choice for ebooks; however, the Android version I find very difficult to use, if for no other reason then the scroll bar is located in such a place that it is difficult on my device to read a book without accidently clicking on the scroll bar and jumping to a different part of the book with no easy way to return to your previous page. I complained to eReader about the issue asking for a way to turn off the scroll bar - I am content to navigate via botton and menu dialogue boxes - but have been told... REPEATEDLY... that they do not support the disabling of the native scroll bar that they built in.

    eReader - offer an option to disable the scroll bar so I am no longer accidently changing pages/chapters/sections of the book and I will return a happy customer content to remain you for years to come. Fail to do so, and a customer of close to 10 years is looking for a new software solution that doesn't include you...
    ktwitten
  • Kobo CAN import existing books...

    I've yet to commit to a paid books format (ie Kindle, Kobo, Google ebooks, Nook, etc) because I hate the idea of being locked into one format or the other. Having said that, one of the things that Kobo touted when it first came out was the ability to import your existing drm free books. I found no instructions to do this so I contacted the company and found that it IS possible to do so!

    Here are the instructions as sent to me from Kobo:

    Thank you for your recent inquiry. We hope this helps.

    When you clicked on the Download Now button and chose Save, you downloaded a file called ?urllink.acsm.? This is the license allowing you to open the eBook in ADE. In order to open your book, you must find the file on your computer, then follow these instructions to open the file:

    Right-click on the urllink.acsm file.
    Select Open With, and choose ?Adobe Digital Editions?.
    Click OK. ADE will open and download the eBook.

    sincerely The Kobo Team


    Hopefully some others will find this info helpful. Still haven't settled on a reader but at least you can read your existing books in Kobo. I have to say I was incredibly disappointed and shocked that Google ebooks (which I've waited for all year since it was supposed to be so "open") wouldn't allow me to import ANY of my existing books, even drm free epub! This is shocking and I don't see a lot of people adopting the reader if it means that they lose all their existing books. End of rant. :)

    I just want an ebook reader that will open both epub and pdf. Yes, I know there are pdf readers available on Android market and I do have them on my phone...but I want ALL my books available to browse and read in one place...I don't want to have to switch back and forth between an ebook reader and pdf reader. Please, support this some ebook developer!!!
    varaonaid
  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    I tried Aldiko but I hated that it wouldn't remember what book I had open and I had to continually reopen the book I was reading. I started using FBReader and fell in love with it. It is easier to open books from my SD card without using the library and it allows you to change the line spacing which I wasn't able to do with Aldiko. Regarding reading books in a particular format, I just converted all of my books to epub and I don't have a problem.
    efeigenbaum@...
    • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

      @efeigenbaum@...

      That being said, I found loading books to be very intuitive - simply navigate to where the books live on your phone/SD card via the built in navigator, select the book you want to read, and enjoy. The "home page" even shows you recent books that you've read and lists them in the order last accessed so that you can find more recent reads first. [url=http://www.theseattleplumbers.com]plumber seattle[/url]

      eReader.com's software, which on every other platform I've ever used had always been my solution of choice for ebooks; however, the Android version I find very difficult to use, if for no other reason then the scroll bar is located in such a place that it is difficult on my device to read a book without accidently clicking on the scroll bar and jumping to a different part of the book with no easy way to return to your previous page. I complained to eReader about the issue asking for a way to turn off the scroll bar - I am content to navigate via botton and menu dialogue boxes - but have been told... REPEATEDLY... that they do not support the disabling of the native scroll bar that they built in. [url=http://www.huntingtonbeachdentistdds.com]dentist huntington beach[/url]
      baconman84
  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    Djenne is the best eBook reader out there. It's only available on Android unfortunately.
    pbutton
  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    Interesting article. In the end it all comes down to two things really-- does the reader open the books thrown at it, and is the reading experience enjoyable? I've tried about 7 or 8 e-readers on my Samsung Galaxy phone, and the two I've stuck with are Aldiko and CoolReader. Between them, they open almost anything and both make reading fun and easy even on a cellphone.
    swazifiction
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  • RE: Google Android showdown: Battle of the eReader Apps

    Not a lot of mention of one of the features I find to be most important: support for a broad range of formats and imports. It's a pain to have to convert files all the time, and the only way around it with most readers is to pay the high ebook prices of the big ebookstores.

    I have an ebook subscription (see: http://myfreeipaddownloads.com/2011/android-ebooks-unlimited-ebooks-subscription/ ) to avoid paying those prices, but there's no way I'm going to deal with converting ~15 or more ebooks a month. I'm sure a lot of other people are in the same boat.

    Also, no mention of the "big 3" ereader apps (Kindle, Nook, Google)?
    TheGiantWhatsit