From Kindle to Kobo, e-readers are becoming more and more popular. But as with most gadgets, these purpose-built devices can set you back more than a fistful of coins, and if you already have an Android phone or tablet, you might prefer to just read on that, and put the cash you save towards… well, more books.
Now, although there are many e-reading apps on the Android Market, few can compete with an actual e-reader. I have found the cream of the crop and will review each one in an effort to find the ultimate Android e-reader.
Although this is not necessarily marketed as an e-reading app – as the name suggests, ezPDF Reader is a PDF reader – it’s a capable candidate, since a lot of digital books are downloadable in PDF format. Sadly if your e-book collection is not in PDF format then this app will not be of any use to you, so you may want to skip on to the other apps where a vast variety of formats are supported.
The e-book selection screen and the book view.
ezPDF’s user interface is clean and simple. It contains no bells or whistles and all of the main navigation is via the four tabs on the top of your screen: My docs, Recent, All PDF and Web Docs. The purpose of each tab is obvious – apart from Web Docs; this is a feature that’s perfect for cloud veterans. Once you save your PDF e-book to Google Docs, it becomes available to download on your device via this menu. Sadly, it is only compatible with Google Docs at the current time of writing, but who knows, maybe in the future we might see other major file storage systems added such as Dropbox and Box.net.
The next important part of the app is the reading experience. From the reading screen (shown in the screenshot above, with the document that comes included with the app), you can see that on the top of our screen there is a variety of functions that allow us to edit our document on the fly. These functions include drawing basic shapes, attaching a note and drawing using a pencil. Granted, this shows ezPDF’s true intended purpose, but could still prove handy to those who read school e-books on their mobile device and want to highlight important parts for their course.
The performance while reading the book is fairly standard; the pages render well and are presented cleanly. Sadly, the page-turning animation creates a considerable amount of lag, but this is only minor and nothing that would turn anyone off the app.
Overall this app is a great contender if your e-book collection is in PDF format and you don’t mind the occasional bit of lag whilst reading your books.
This app’s name will ring a bell with anybody who has ever visited Amazon. Amazon has littered ads for their very own iteration of the e-reader everywhere on their site, and for good reason. The official Kindle devices are regarded as some of the best e-readers on the market, but how does the app compare to the high standard of Amazon’s official device?
Kindle's splash screen and page view.
If you are fortunate enough to own a Kindle this app will most definitely appeal to you, as with WhisperSync technology all of your notes, bookmarks, and highlighted words are synced across all of your Kindle devices.
Sadly, if you do not own a Kindle this app may not have much to offer you as the app only supports books bought through Amazon’s own service. This means that if you get your books from other online retailers they would remain incompatible with this app. This is an obvious deal-breaker for anybody who doesn’t use Amazon’s online service to buy their e-books but for those who do the sync features and almost instantaneous downloading of books make the app a very good contender for Amazon customers.
The app’s UI is very nice indeed and relies on a slick black-and-white gradient to display your books. The UI of the app is certainly very attractive, and when paired with Amazon’s high quality e-book covers it makes browsing your book collection a breeze!
Kindle’s app comes in at the always favourable price of free, but unless you use an Amazon Kindle device you might find the other apps in this list suit you better.
This app is hailed as the greatest e-book by mobile reading enthusiasts and the title is well deserved. This app stood out as my all-round favorite.
Aldiko's neatly organised bookshelf and page view.
Almost every aspect of your e-books is customisable; you can change the font, change where the margins exist, and even enable “night mode” which makes the screen easier on the eyes (perfect for some bedtime reading).
The user interface of the app is beautiful. It emulates a classic wooden bookshelf, neatly showing your books’ covers. From there, loading a book is as simple as tapping on a cover and reading. Opening a book is very speedy, and the aforementioned reading customisation features work a treat, allowing you to adjust your book’s font to suit your preference.
Aldiko also contains two features which have become essential in all e-reading apps: bookmarks, and a whole-book search. I found the bookmarks to be especially handy for educational books where you may wish to reference one section later on, and the full text search comes in very handy for the odd occasion where you may forget to bookmark a page! Another great feature of Aldiko’s is the in-app e-book shopping experience. It has a vast library, containing a lot of classic books that come in at the excellent price of free. The app is free, but ad-supported; the pro version does away with ads.
Overall, Aldiko is my favourite contender in this roundup; its vast feature set and great UI make for a very pleasant e-reading experience.
Google Books is drastically underrated. Although it does not contain the extra features of some of the above apps, it still manages to do its job well.
The default library view and the original pages of Pride and Prejudice.
The app comes pre-installed on most Android devices, so if you do want to give it a test you probably already have it. The app’s user interface is basic and clean: your books’ covers are shown very clearly on a white background with the name of the book and the author underneath the title.
Sadly this app is similar to the Kindle app in that none of your third-party e-books will work; all of the e-books have to be purchased through Google’s own Book Market. The selection offered in the Market differs from country to country, and currently I only have access to classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice.
Reading in the app is pleasant, with the basic UI carrying over to here. One thing that people with an interest in history may appreciate is how you can view the original pages of the manuscripts, from before they were converted into digital format. I thought this was a really nice touch on behalf of Google that allows you to take a glimpse at pages which until now were not seen by many people!
The feature set during reading is minuscule when compared to the likes of Aldiko, but anybody who just wants to read - and doesn’t mind recreating their library from scratch via Google’s market – will find this app gets the job done.
Moon+ Reader shares the popularity crown with Aldiko. It contains a feature set that puts Google Books to shame, my favorite being the ability to set the page to turn on the press of a hard button rather than a swipe or tap.
The stock UI of Moon (which isn't exactly pretty) and it's page view.
It also contains a feature that allows you to tilt your phone to scroll through text. Some might argue that having text continually running through your screen is distracting (and I agree, in general), but for reading short passages of text it is very handy to not have to worry about flicking the page!
The user interface of the app is rather basic at first glance, but the customisation features make it a lot easier on the eyes: you can change the background of your book shelf to a custom image and edit the size of the covers of your books, for example. And, like Aldiko, Moon+ Reader gives you the ability to download books from inside the app. It’s great to be able to access Project Gutenburg’s library and get some great classics for free.
Overall Moon+ Reader is an excellent app that can be made to look perfect – if you have the patience to edit the UI – with a great selection of free e-books for you to enjoy.