Google Android currently leads the entire mobile and tablet space and basically goes head to head against Apple for market share. Seven inch tablets and their larger variants often make the very best e-readers due to their ability to display a solid amount of text on each page and they offer enough room to read properly in portrait mode. There has been a large number of new ebook reading apps released over the course of the last year, so which ones are the best? Our Top 5 list encompasses not only the mainstream apps, but also the best ones for you to load in your own ebooks that you have purchased from other stores or downloaded from the internet.
Aldiko continues to lead the current generation of Android Reading Apps for tablets and does not disappoint on many levels. It reads fewer ebook types than rival applications, but does its job effectively with EPUB and PDF books. You can even import books you have purchased from other stores, which is very solid.
When you load Aldiko up you are greeted by a library view that gives you a very iBooks-like book shelf where all of the books are stored. You can import books via an SD Card or browse your device’s memory. Since I have a Honeycomb tablet without the SD Card, it was very easy to select books and begin reading right away or import them into my Aldiko Library Book Shelf.
When you are reading an ebook, you have a few options right off the bat to customize your experience. You can switch to day or night mode, which puts white text on a black screen or the main settings button. You can adjust options, such as locking your orientation, setting up your brightness, or adjusting your font/margins. I liked that you can configure basic features on the main menu without having to dive into countless sub-menus. Most e-reading applications have extensive settings menus, but Aldiko nails it perfectly by having a more minimal interface for doing advanced options.
Aldiko has its own store portal, which is a gateway to find out the latest New York Times Bestsellers and many other open source books. The company also has links to other bookstores, such as Smashwords, Books on Board, and O’Reilly eBooks. There is quite a bit of selection here and it’s refreshing to have an app give you many different alternatives, rather than just its official partner.
I found the entire Aldiko experience for tablets to be spot on. There is no annoying stuttering when you flip pages on ebooks. Whether you are reading in landscape or portrait mode, it is quite excellent. Aldiko continues to be updated and this is the app to beat for Android Tablets.
Moon+ Reader for Android is another application with a lush book shelf interface that greets you when you load up the application. There is also a handy automatic drive scanning utility that will look at your SD card and main memory and import books into the shelf. I liked the fact it scanned both and imported everything without any prompts, complete with cover art.
This handy ebook reading program reads a wide array of book types, such as txt, html, epub, umd, fb2, chm, zip, and OPDS.
When you are reading a book, you are prompted to choose from 11 pre-installed themes that adjust the background, font, and various brightness features depending on your environment. It has the generic day and night theme, but also different points of the day and even outdoors themes. It would have been better to use the ambient light sensors in tablets to automatically select the best theme for your environment.
By default, when you turn pages, there is an annoying page turn animation that emulates turning a page in a real book. This is much akin to the Apple iBooks or the Google Books function that lets you drag and peek by swiping the screen. This would not be so bad if it was quick, but even on my T-Mobile G-Slate (which is a top of the line tablet) it lagged. Luckily, there was a way to shut it off under one of the more extensive options.
Speaking of options, this program is brimming with them! It seriously allows you to tailor your experience with TONS of settings and configurations. Your settings are bunched into a few main menus such as Visual Options, Control Options, Misc, Themes, and More Operations. Under these various menus, it gives you more flexibility and control over your ebook experience. You can adjust font size, and choose between over 50 preloaded fonts. There are countless more, but this program is the most advanced we have reviewed in terms of pure variety of options.
In the end I really liked this program and it seems many other people do, too. You can think of it as a more advanced version of Aldiko, minus the store interface.
Kobo has the largest ebook ecosystem in the world with over 3.7 million books in its vast library. Unlike the competition, the entire selection of books can be purchased anywhere the world. Amazon and Barnes and Noble limits customer purchases if they live in countries not officially supported. Speaking of support, Kobo is in more international markets than any other company in the world. It makes traveling and buying content anywhere fairly easy.
The main Kobo reading application allows you to do the same things as most other mainstream apps. You can adjust the fonts, font sizes, and even hit the publisher’s defaults if you made adjustments not up to par. The app will also automatically switch the orientation from landscape and portrait mode. Obviously, comics and graphic novels look WAY better in portrait mode, but landscape is solid for most other things.
One of the main things that makes Kobo stand out from anyone else on the market is Pulse. If you buy a book from Kobo, a little radar icon appears on the bottom of the book. If you click on it, you can visit a dedicated screen that shows you how many people have read it, are in the process of reading, and what they thought. People can also leave comments and questions. In the past, Kobo has orchestrated authors answering fans’ questions on Pulse. You can think of it as a virtual book club where people can talk about the book, life, universe, and everything.
Kobo Reading Life is something that really stands out from the competition. You can earn X-Box style awards and achievements for reading books. There are around 50 different ones currently in the system with new ones added all the time. You can share your awards with your friends and it adds a new dimension to the traditional reading experience. It might not be for everyone, but is just another facet that makes the company stand out in a cluttered market.
Finally, Kobo recently updated their apps to support EPUB3 and complex Asian characters. This allows graphic novels and ebooks in Chinese and Japanese languages look amazing. You can load in your books into the Kobo library via SD card.
Kindle for Android
Amazon is thought to control over 65% of the global ebook market and offers many incentives to buy into its ecosystem. The company currently has around 1.3 million best sellers and self-published books.
The Amazon App for Android offers one of the best reading experiences for tablets out there. One of the best features is highlighting and working with notes. To highlight or to make a note, press and hold on a text area, and select an action from the sub-menu that will pop up. If you choose “Add Note,” the Android keyboard will appear, allowing you to enter your note. To highlight, select “Highlight” from the sub-menu and use your finger to highlight the text area you wish. These edits are saved and synced to your Kindle device.
Whispersync is also a fairly solid option that will allow you to pick up where you left off on another Kindle Reading app, such as the new Windows 8 app, or the Kindle e-Reader. It is fairly easy to stop reading on a certain page on your tablet and then pick it up where you left off on your smartphone.
Of course, you can change the font size, linespacing, margins, font type, and even the background color. In most cases, reading on an Android tablet can get tedious on your eyes during long reading sessions. You can simply make the background black and text white, or change it to a number of softer colors.
One of the big advantages Amazon offers is the Prime membership program. If you subscribe for $79 a year, not only do you get free shipping on anything you order, but you can borrow one free ebook a month from the Kindle Lending library. You can read tons of bestsellers, like the Hunger Games, and not even have to buy the book. This is useful if you want to save money. If you want to save even more money, you can borrow ebooks from your local library using the Overdrive system. This is the only company that does business with Amazon and allows libraries to send Kindle Books directly to your tablet.
This application does not read many formats at all, mainly PDF and EPUB. Good thing most books on the internet are in these two formats, since you have to convert books manually if they aren’t in those two formats.
This program does have an interesting interface that gives you the ability to choose between your library, lexicon, and Notes. The Notes option was cool because you could either write notes with the Android keyboard or write them via the touchscreen. You can easily save them and reference them on a later date. Lexicon was mainly just a dictionary function that you can look up words via various Google based online dictionaries.
The main function of this program is to read books. The note taking feature is handy, but the rest is a big waste of time. Turning pages is fast and effective, there is no stuttering like what we found in some of the other programs we reviewed. The screen switches from landscape to portrait mode with no load time.
There are many options and settings when you are reading a book and it was almost overwhelming. First of all you can do highlights, take notes, and make bookmarks on any page of the book you are reading. Highlighting was cool because it was all color schemed with tons of choices available, which would be good for students or people who make lots of notes and highlights.
One of the coolest aspects about this device was that it does text to speech! If you highlight words it will read the text back to you or just read the whole book to you. It actually reads the book in a clean and robust fashion. As the text is read back, the book pages will automatically turn, following the text. This is the most unique part of this application.
There are little to no options to change your fonts or anything like that, but you can change font size and lock the orientation.
This program is very simple in terms of not being able to change line spacing, margins, fonts, and many other common options. This may be a deal breaker for some people. I found the ability to do highlights, notes, and use a built in dictionary to be excellent. Most of the functions in this app do not enamor me, but the read aloud function really made me love this program.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.