5 E-Reading Apps for Android Devices

5 E-Reading Apps for Android Devices

Around here we tend to publish a lot of book reviews, which means we’re doing a lot of reading, which means we need good e-reading tools. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t afraid to crack open real books, in fact we prefer it, but sometimes it’s just quicker and much more cost effective for a publisher to provide us with a digital galley as opposed to a physical one. We both used to do the bulk of our e-reading on nook glowlight devices, but they’re horrible at handling PDFs so recently I made the switch to a Nexus 9 tablet. It’s been hard finding the right app with which to read so I thought I’d share my take on the pros and cons of each option I’ve investigated over the past few weeks.

Let’s jump right in and look at the 5 E-Reading Apps for Andriod Devices that I tested.

1.  Google Play Books

Google_Play_BooksGoogle Play Books comes pre-installed on stock android devices so that’s a plus. For the most part it will get the job done, but there are some areas in which it feels seriously lacking.

For my ePub test I read Shadow Ritual. The ability to instantly look up SS military ranks and other historical tidbits while reading with the single touch of a finger was outstanding. The ability to highlight passages using multiple colors was also nice. There were six fonts to choose from and multiple text size adjustments to play with, but I just stuck with the defaults.

For my PDF test I read The Art of Flight. This is where things really fell apart for the app. You can’t use the dictionary at all and you can’t highlight passages either. This was devastating for me while reading because Pitol’s book contains so many great sentences that my only option was to bookmark multiple pages and hope that I’d remember what it was that I loved by going back later and skimming each entire page. Also, there’s so many historical references to look up that I had to keep switching between this app and the browser to do additional research which really detracted from the overall reading experience.

-Comes pre-installed or can be downloaded for free
-Works with unprotected ePub and PDF files
-Will read ePub files to you (if you’re into that sort of thing)
-Allows highlighting of text in several different colors in ePub files
-Allows bookmarking in both ePub and PDF files
-One touch dictionary support to look-up words in ePub files
-Works across multiple devices and will update to your last page read page on each

-No side loading of books, you MUST upload them to Google servers
-No support for DRM protected files from Adobe Editions (at least that I could find)
-Protected books must be de-DRM’ed before uploading. Too much trouble.
-PDF support is severely lacking (no using the dictionary or highlighting text allowed)
-Seems to ignore some ePub formatting when rendering books. Not fully compliant?
-Randomly spins and causes full tablet reboot while reading PDFs (happened twice)
-Odd reading recommendations. I was told I would enjoy a comic and a cook book!


2. Aldiko Book Reader Premium

AldikoAldiko has a free version you can install, but it’s pretty limited when it comes to using most of the added bells and whistles unless you upgrade to premium. At $3.79 it won’t break the bank, but in the end, is it really worth it? Here’s what I discovered:

For my ePub test I read Nagasaki. The page turning animations aren’t that great. I never thought I’d notice such things, but after using Google Play Books the lack of animation when navigating pages is pretty obvious. Changing fonts is hidden and requires an additional download, though you can easily adjust the text size up and down and make the margins larger or smaller. There is a dictionary, but every time you want to look up a word it has to switch over to the browser to display the definition. You can share passages on social media and/or copy them to the clipboard with a single touch which is pretty slick.

For my PDF test I read Addendum to a Photo Album. Unlike Google Play Books you CAN highlight text and look up definitions from a PDF. Thank goodness, because Addendum was a tricky read. In fact, with the exception of adjusting the text size, everything you can do with an ePub file seems to be doable with a PDF as well in this application which makes for a rather seamless experience regardless of what source file type you’re reading from.

-Treats ePub and PDF files as (mostly) equals when it comes to reading and features
-Offers a nice bookshelf style interface for browsing your digital collection
-Allows for side loading books directly to the device instead of uploading to the cloud
-Allows you group together similar books in custom created catalogs for easy access
-Social sharing and one touch copying of passages makes it easy to quote from a book
-You can create custom tags to group books together by type, genre, rating, etc.
-Plays nice with library books and Abobe DRM technology.

-Costs to upgrade to the more useful premium edition (not expensive, but not $0)
-Free version comes with horribly distracting ad placements
-Font faces cannot be changed when reading PDFs
-Page turn animations feel unnatural
-Only supports reading ePub and PDF (MOBI would be a nice addition)
-It will not read to you (if you’re into that sort of thing)
-The dictionary leaves the book and opens a browser window to find definitions


3. Cool Reader

Cool_ReaderSometimes you get what you pay for. In the case of Cool Reader you pay nothing, but it also feels like you pretty much get nothing in return when compared to how other e-reading apps operate and perform.

For my ePub test I read Signs Preceding the End of the World. I couldn’t figure out how to actually get the book imported to my library, so I had to keep searching for it on the tablet each time I wanted to continue reading it. Also, the background color while reading was a puke-brown. There’s got to be a way to change that, but I couldn’t find it. Overall, not a very impressive reading experience.

For my PDF test I read, well, nothing. It seems this app can’t be bothered to support PDFs. That’s a major disappointment considering how many I come across in any given year.

-Reads ePub, FB2, RTF, TXT, HTML and MOBI files
-Will read books to you (if you’re into that sort of thing)
-Allows for copying of text to clipboard for sharing
-Costs nothing, free to install
-Allows you to add an online catalog of books to your library
-Comes pre-installed with 11 fonts to choose from
-Highly customizable CSS scripting to format and display books to your liking

-Rather confusing screen the first time you start up
-No support for PDF files or Adobe DRM
-Horrible brownish background color when reading
-Clipart-ish icon bar for navigating between options
-Doesn’t explain how to install dictionary, just says it’s not downloaded
-Can find books loaded to the device, can’t figure out how to add them to the library
-Rendering of text is piss poor in places, like the Table of Contents


4. Universal Book Reader Premium

Universal_Book_ReaderThere’s a free version with annoying pop-over ads, and then there’s a Premium version for $4.99 which removes them. In addition spending your hard earned cash will also add support for text-to-speech, allow you to create shortcuts to books from your home screen, and enable password locking for any books you’d like to protect from prying eyes.

For my ePub test I read Women of Karantina. While the reading experience was pretty great, there’s a noticeable lack of features. For example, no dictionary is installed, and when you tap “Yes” to download one? Well it brings you to a page where you can pay $19.99 or more to add one to the app. Yikes. There is a search Google or Wikipedia option you can use instead for free, but those will leave the book to open a browser window. You can highlight text and add notes, share it socially or copy it to the clipboard.

For my PDF test i read Guys Like Me. PDF support is pretty bare. It won’t read them to you, it won’t allow you to look up words (assuming you paid for a dictionary) and there’s no social sharing or copying of text. Just about the only thing you CAN do is bookmark pages, which is fine I guess, but if that’s all your getting you might as well stick with the free, ad-free Google Play Books app.

-Nice, clean, and intuitive book shelf interface
-Offers to scan your device and import books on first launch
-Will rescan for new books automatically on a daily basis
-Supports ePub, PDF, and Adobe DRM
-Social sharing of text and copying to the clipboard allowed (ePub only)
-Built-in searching of Wikipedia (though it opens a new window) (ePub only)
-Will read to you (if you’re willing to pay for it) (ePub only)

-Costs $4.99 to upgrade to the premium version
-PDF support is severely limited
-Many crucial features only work with ePub files
-Only supports reading ePub and PDF (MOBI would be a nice addition)
-Dictionary add-ins are ridiculously expensive
-Books open slowly/clunky and page turns can be annoying
-Page turning seems to slow down the further you get into a book


5. Moon+ Reader Pro

Moon_ReaderFor the low cost of $4.99 Moon+ Reader Pro is easily one of the most beautiful e-reading apps you’re sure to experience, but looks aren’t everything. How does it handle reading ePub and PDF files? What options does it offer? Will the dialog message boxes be in English? (Spoiler!) I dove in and took a deeper look. Here’s what I discovered.

For my ePub test I read Crime Novel. There isn’t a dictionary installed by default, but after a quick and free download word definitions work nicely and pop up without leaving the app. There’s tons of text highlighting options including the ability to underline and strike through words. You can copy text to the clipboard and share it socially as well.

For my PDF test I read The Queen’s Caprice. Wow. This app pretty much has it all when it comes to supporting PDFs including highlighting text AND text-to-speech reading. You can even annotate the files by typing notes right on a page, circling words, and adding arrows pointing to sections of text. Pretty impressive when compared to the options the other apps provided.

-Fully supports PDF files (highlighting text, annotations, etc)
-Beautiful interface
-Built in statistics will tell you how long you’ve spend reading and how many pages
-Enhanced highlighting allows for underlining and strikethrough of text
-Supports personal online ebook catalogs
-Will read ePub, MOBI, CBR, PDF files and more
-Packed with dozens of fonts and multiple page flip animations to choose from

-$4.99 price tag for pro / NO PDF file support at all in the free version
-Free version contains annoying pop-over ads
-Dialog message boxes and error messages are barely in English
-No support for Adobe DRM
-Cannot create custom shelves for cataloging/sorting
-Browsing/Importing books to the library can be a confusing process
-Can tag and categorize books, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to group them


My overall conclusion? Moon+ Reader Pro seems to be the best of the paid options, but if you’re looking for simple, easy, and free reading, Google Play Books will get the job done quite nicely (absent PDF text highlighting/note taking).

What’s your favorite e-reading app and why? Let us know!

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.