Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Tale of Three eBook Apps


When I got my first Android smartphone back in 2009 (the Motorola Droid, if you’re interested), one of the very first apps I downloaded was Aldiko Book Reader. It took almost two years before I actually used it, even though I downloaded several public domain classics using its built in store. Since then, I am now on my third Android based smartphone (again, if you give a shit, I recently upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy Note II) and have not only the aforementioned Aldiko app, but also the Nook and Kindle apps. I have also embraced ebooks as a format and also own a Nook Tablet.

Since going to the Galaxy Note II and its generously sized 5.5” screen I’ve practically abandoned using my Nook Tablet for reading these days. That being said, it is worth giving a brief overview of the three reader apps I now use to indulge my reading habit.

I suppose the first question to be answered is, “Why three readers? Why not just pick one and go with it?” That’s a fair question, for which there is a logical answer; I like having options. Having three reader apps installed on my Note allows me the option of acquiring ebooks from multiple sources instead of being locked into a single, proprietary source. As much as I enjoyed my Nook Tablet (at least as a reader, as a tablet it’s severely lacking) it limits me to Barnes & Noble’s store for the most part. While it’s true that I can (and have) sideload the occasional DRM free ebook (as long as it’s in the .epub format), there are still things that I want to read that are exclusive to Amazon and therefore require the Kindle software to open (which uses a file format called .mobi). I have also discovered a few independent authors, and continue to find others via Twitter, some of whom self-publish via Smashwords or occasionally offer their books for free as a limited time promotion via either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Then, of course, there is the occasional pricing difference between the two bookselling giants.

As far as the readers themselves are concerned, it is difficult to pick a favorite, although I have to admit, thus far I have only read one book using the Kindle app and right now it is my least favorite of the three. The Kindle app, unlike the other two, utilizes location numbers instead of page numbers, which is just confusing as hell. It also has a very limited interface in terms of displaying my library and customization of settings. Speaking of settings, I actually prefer the Nook app over the Nook device itself for this very reason; strange as it sounds, the Android app version of the Nook software renders the text better in my opinion, and I also like the animated page turns on the Nook app that look like a real page flip (why this animation is missing from the Nook device software is a mystery to me). For displaying of books in the library collection for the particular reader, I tend to prefer Aldiko because I can display them as a list or in “shelf view” as well as being able to sort by either author or title. I guess the only problem I have with Aldiko is that it is exclusive to the Android platform and since it’s a standalone reader there is no ability to sync between my phone and my laptop as I can with both the Nook and Kindle apps which also are available for Windows 8.

Neither the Kindle nor the Nook app will show my wishlists that I have stored on the Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites, which I find annoying as it forces me to shop from the site instead of from the app if I want to get something that I’ve previously saved for later. However, they both do a decent job of syncing items that I’ve already purchased, and I do like that the Nook software has an archive feature so that things I’ve already read need not be displayed in the list on the Android app, Windows 8 app or on the Nook device.

All three have options for margins, text size and whether or not to display the traditional black text on white background or white text on black background for low light/night time reading. There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut winner in this category, although the switch from day settings to night settings is a bit faster on the Aldiko app than the other two as it’s basically a single tap. Aldiko also has more fine tuned control over margins versus the three of four options of Kindle or Nook.

The bottom line is, all three serve their purpose - allowing me to read a good book on the go without having to carry around more than one device or an entire, heavy stack of dead trees. Having all three allows me the option of multiple sources for material as well. So, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll continue to have Aldiko Book Reader, Kindle for Android, and Nook for Android installed on any and all Android devices I own or ever will own for a very long time to come.

~ JC

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Play Store App Links:


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Other Blogs I’ve Written about ebooks and readers:

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