The best Android ebook app for you mostly depends on where you want to buy your ebooks. Each ebook app works for a specific type of ebooks, so you need to match up the type of ebooks you own to the type of app you need. The apps below are the most popular for Android users and cover most main ebook sources that people use today.
The Aldiko Android App is the best alternative to apps from big ebook sources (like Kindle or Nook) because it allows you to read PDF and ePub ebooks from independent ebook sources. It supports Adobe DRM and non-DRM ebooks, so you can read ebooks that you purchased at places like ebookmall.com, ebooks.com, or diesel-ebooks.com. You can also import your own content and create your own ebook catalogs.
Download: You can get a direct download from Aldiko.com or find Aldiko in the Google Play Market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.1 or higher
eBooks Supported: The Aldiko Book Reader supports Adobe-DRMed ePub and PDF as well as non-encrypted ePub and PDF formats. Get eBooks anywhere ePub and PDF eBooks are sold or available for free. You can also get ebooks from your public library (where supported).
Amazon Kindle Android App
The Kindle App for Android lets you read all of your Kindle ebooks on an Android device, even if you don’t own a Kindle eBook Reader. If you do have a Kindle, you can read your ebooks on both the Kindle and Android device. Your reading progress will be synced between the devices with Amazon’s “Whispersinc”. You can use the Kindle Android app to borrow ebooks and view free samples.
Download: Go to the Kindle for Android page on Amazon. Or, while on your phone you can search for “Kindle” in the Google Play market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.2 or higher
eBooks Supported: Amazon Kindle ebooks in the AZW format that are only sold at Amazon.com/Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nook Android App
The Android Nook App from Barnes & Noble lets you read all of the Nook ebooks on your Android device without having to own a Nook eBook Reader. Nook for Android gives you access to over 2 million books, magazines, and newspapers. You can try newspapers and magazines for free for 14 days and sample lots of Nook ebooks for free. You can also start reading an ebook on one device and continue at the same place on another device.
Download: Get the Android app at B&N’s Nook for Android page by scanning the barcode shown with your phone. Or search for “NOOK” in the Google Play market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.1 or higher
eBooks Supported: If you want to read ebooks using the Nook App, then you should get ebooks from Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.
Kobo Android App
With the Kobo Android app, you can buy ebooks from inside the app and download them directly to your phone. Take your entire library with you on the go. You can find all of your favorite titles and authors in Kobo’s large ebook selection of over 2.5 million books. You can also get personalized recommendations.
Download: Go to the Kobo Android App webpage to scan the QR code. Or search Google Play for Kobo.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 1.6 or higher
eBooks Supported: If you want to use the Kobo Android app, you should download eBooks from the Kobo eReader store.
The Sony Reader Android app comes pre-loaded with three classic titles and three excerpts from bestselling ebooks. You can sync your reading position, bookmarks, and highlights to Reader Daily Edition (PRS-950SC with firmware 2.0). Like the other apps, you can also read Sony Reader ebooks even if you don’t have a Sony Reader.
Download: Go to the Sony Reader for Android webpage and scan the QR code. Or, search for the app in the Google Play market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.2 or higher
eBooks Supported: If you want to read Sony Reader ebooks on your Android device, get them from Sony’s Reader Store.
The best ebook reading app for your iPad or iPhone depends mostly on where you get your ebooks. Each of these apps have basically the same features, so the main issue to consider is the type of ebooks that they support. All of the major ebook sellers have their own ebook app that works only for their ebooks. You can put lots of different ebook apps on your device, though, so that’s not really a problem — it just means that you probably won’t be able to stick to one single app unless you commit to only buying ebooks from one source. If you have a favorite ebook app for iOS, mention it in the comments along with info about what types of ebooks it can use.
iBooks is Apple’s native ebook app for iOS. The only thing that’s really important to know about this app is that it is mainly meant to be used with ebooks that you get from Apple’s iBookstore, and won’t work with ebooks that you purchased elsewhere, unless they don’t have DRM.
Use This For: eBooks you purchase in Apple’s iBookstore. Your own PDF, ePubs, or books you created in iBooks Author (only non-DRM). iBooks textbooks are only available for iPad.
iTunes Download: Download iBooks
The Kindle app lets you read all of your Kindle ebooks on your iPhone or iPad — no Kindle eReader required. This app will only work with Kindle ebooks that you buy at Amazon.com. (It will also read .mobi files, but only those that do not have DRM, and you won’t find many of those ebooks anymore since Mobipocket is out of operation.)
Use This For: Kindle ebooks that you buy at Amazon.com.
iTunes Download: Download Kindle App
This is the app from Barnes & Noble that you can use to read your Nook ebooks on your iPad or iPhone. It is only made to read Nook ebooks that you get from Barnes & Noble. That includes all of the magazines that they sell as well.
Use This For: Nook eBooks from Barnes & Noble.
iTunes Download: Download Nook App
This is the app from the ebook company Kobo. You can use it to read ebooks that you buy from Kobo, as well as your non-DRM PDFs and ePubs. Kobo is also putting a lot of focus on “social reading” so this app has more of that than apps from other companies.
Use This For: Kobo eBooks from Kobo.com and non-DRM PDFs and ePubs
iTunes Download: Download Kobo App
Bluefire Reader is a great app because it fulfills a need that all the other apps do not: it supports Adobe DRM, so you can read your DRM-protected PDFs and ePubs. If you like to shop at independent ebook stores, this is the ebook app for you. It also reads standard non-DRM PDFs and ePubs. See my Bluefire Reader page for instructions on how this works.
Use This For: DRM and non-DRM PDF and ePub ebooks.
iTunes Download: Download Bluefire Reader
Overdrive Media Console is the app to use for your ebooks and audiobooks that you get from the library. Check with your local library to see if they have ebooks and to get help or technical support.
Use This For: Library ebooks and audiobooks.
iTunes Download: Download Overdrive App
If you’d like to use Aldiko on your Kindle Fire, you can install it via the Fire’s browser. Here’s how:
Before you can install an app that’s not available in the Kindle App Store, you have to change one setting in the Kindle Fire.
- In the top Kindle Fire menu, select the Gear (settings) icon.
- On the next screen, tap the More Icon.
- On the next screen, tap Device. Then choose ON for “Allow Installation of Applications”.
Now you’re ready to download and install Aldiko on your Kindle Fire.
- Open the Kindle Fire’s browser and point it to the latest installation package download of Aldiko at https://aldiko.zendesk.com/entries/402881-download-the-latest-version-of-the-aldiko-book-reader-application#overview
- Download that file to your Kindle Fire.
When that file is finished downloading, a notifications button will appear in the top menu. Tap on that then select the downloaded Aldiko package.
- On the next screen, tap the Install button.
- You should now have Aldiko installed on your Kindle Fire and it should behave like it does on any Android device.
If you’ve tried this, I’d be interested to hear how it went!
Today the folks at Bluefire posted a nice set of instructions for installing Bluefire Reader on your Kindle Fire. The instructions go like this:
The instructions below guide you through the steps for installing Bluefire Reader for Android on your Kindle Fire. Note that you should open this page in the browser on your Kindle Fire before you begin.
- Tap “Settings” on your Kindle Fire (it’s the icon that looks like a gear)
- Tap “More”
- Scroll down until you see “Device”
- In the Device tab, set “Allow installation of Applications” to ON, and tap OK when you see the Warning prompt
- Tap here to download the Bluefire Reader APK (the Android app)
- Once the app has finished downloading, tap the Menu icon at the bottom of the screen and tap Downloads
- Tap on the file named “BluefireReader.apk”
- The Fire will ask if you are sure you want to install the app…
- Tap “Yes”
- The installation process will start…
- After the installation is complete, look for Bluefire Reader in your Apps collection
2) The latest version of Bluefire Reader (Version 1.2.3) will be installed on your Kindle Fire. However, the app is not automatically updated. You will need to check back here from time to time to see if there’s an updated version of Bluefire Reader for Android available.
3) This shortcut is offered as is–without any warranties or support.
This is fantastic for users because it means you can read your Adobe DRM ebooks (PDF and ePub) on your Kindle Fire tablet. But while this is an excellent set of instructions for side-loading Bluefire Reader onto your Kindle Fire, I wonder if it’s too complicated for the average user. They even include a note saying that they’re not going to offer support for this. If you have tried this, what did you think of it? Was it easy or difficult for you to do?
It’s really unfortunate that Amazon (and Barnes & Noble as well) aren’t allowing all apps from the Android Market to be installed on their tablets the normal way. In wanting to force people to use their own apps they’re just crippling their own devices.
I read about this at The eBook Reader today: Barnes & Noble has closed the “loophole” that allowed users to sideload apps onto it with their newest software update for the Tablet. Now you can only use B&N-approved apps. They are locking everyone in to their own App Store so that you have to buy your apps from them, and you can’t get any competing ebook software. That’s only understandable if you’re into forcing people to buy only your products. This move just seems like a punishment to their own users.
This really paints B&N in a negative light for me. I probably will avoid ever purchasing anything from them again.
Today I was doing some research on ebook apps and wanted to look something up on the Lexcycle website. It’s down. I don’t know if it’s just temporarily down or if it’s gone for good. However, signs point to Stanza going away for good.
A while back I heard some reports from Stanza users saying that Lexcycle had stopped responding to all support questions about the app. Since I couldn’t get to Lexcycle’s website today I Googled “stanza” and found the iTunes Stanza page. Interestingly, they point to getsatisfaction.com/stanza for support, which is a community forum that doesn’t seem to be affiliated with Lexcycle.
And then I remembered that last month I’d read something about how people got all excited about a new Stanza update, followed by a disappointing announcement that Stanza would no longer be getting any updates at all. A blogger reported on that here. Amazon bought Lexcycle in 2009, so apparently, like they did with Mobipocket, they are slurping up ebook apps and spitting them out into the Kindle.
Now, personally, I am not bothered by Stanza going away. I never liked it that much. But it does make me wonder how many small companies Amazon is going to kill in the name of the Kindle. They have so much of the market share already that they really don’t need to snuff everyone else out. I don’t like that kind of Wal-Mart style business operation.
The big ebook companies have now released tablet versions of their eReaders. Amazon has the Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble has the Nook Tablet, and Kobo has the Kobo Vox. They are all Android tablets and come with a lot of apps pre-installed. However, unlike normal Android tablets, they don’t have full access to the Android Market. Instead it seems that each company has come up with their own smaller app market, where you can choose from a specific selection of apps.
This is significant because it means that if you bought eBooks from other ebook stores that use Adobes DRM, you wouldn’t be able to open them in the correct app on your tablet (which is usually Aldiko). Aldiko and other ebook apps are, not surprisingly, left out of the pre-approved list of apps. However, it seems that people are already finding easy ways around this.
For one thing, I noticed that on the Aldiko website they will now email you a link to download their app if you sign up. You can see that at http://aldiko.com/download.html. I don’t know for sure, but I think you could use your tablet’s browser to go to the link they send you and download it directly to the tablet. If anyone has tried this, I’d be interested if you could leave a comment and let me know how this worked.
I also saw on the blog Good Reader that they posted a way to get Aldiko on your Kobo Vox. Check that post out at How To Copy eBooks With DRM To The Kobo Vox. Their method involves downloading the app from a link that they have on their website where they host the file. I’m not sure if this is condoned by Aldiko, but they probably don’t care.
On Google+ I found a post from Aldiko saying that you could download the app and sideload it onto your Kindle Fire. There is also this post from a user who says he did it successfully and it was easy.
And to round it out, The Digital Reader has a post saying that the Nook Tablet can run Aldiko in much the same way: by installing it through the browser.
The nice thing about this is that it doesn’t require anything like hacking, and should be easy enough to do even for someone who isn’t a big techno geek. If you are reading this and have installed Aldiko on any of these three devices, please leave a comment with your experience. I think that would be a great help to others who are interested in doing this.
The ePub ebook format is so important because of its reflowable nature. “Reflowable” means that the text will rearrange itself to fit your screen size. If you increase or decrease the font size, the text also rearranges itself. This is hugely different from standard page displays like those in PDF files. On those files, if you wish to increase the text size, all you can really do is zoom in on the page. eReaders try to let you increase the font size but it always affects the page size as well, cutting off the edges of the pages. If you zoom too far in, you have to scroll sideways back and forth in order to read the a whole line of text. This is the main reason why I think ePub is the best ebook format, and I hope it stays around for a long time.
And because of that, I wanted to compile a list of the best current ePub reading programs that you can use on your computer. Most eReaders can display ePubs, and you can use them on your Android or iOS device (with programs like Aldiko and Bluefire Reader, for example), but not everyone knows which program to use to open them on your computer.
If you’re going to buy an ePub file that is protected by Adobe’s DRM, you’ll have to use Adobe Digital Editions. Likewise, if you buy an ePub ebook at any specific website that has their own DRM, you’ll probably have to use the software that they recommend, but that depends on the website so I can’t tell you what you need.
For regular ePub files, you have some choices:
Adobe Digital Editions – You can still use Adobe Digital Editions for non-DRM ePubs. I do because I already have it installed on my computer.
calibre – This is a program that lets you create, organize, and read your ebooks.
EPUBReader – A Firefox addon that allows you to read ePubs directly in Firefox.
FBReader – Works on Linux/Unix and Windows.
Mobipocket Reader – Bought by Amazon a while ago, and seems to be slowly shutting down. Still good for now.
There are others available that you can dig up, but these listed above are the ones that I feel are best. Stanza, for example, can read many ebook formats but ignores a lot of formatting so you end up missing out on the intended design of the book. Because of that I suspect that other readers might do the same thing.
I think that we’ll probably see more programs released as more and more people use the ePub ebook format. Even now I am seeing that ePub and PDF are the most popular (Kindle notwithstanding) and since ePub works best on the widest range of devices, it is the clear winner as far as I am concerned.
Just a quick post today to show you something I came across. This article claims that some hacking can be done to the Nook Touch to allow it to use the Kindle app.
This would be useful for those who want to buy the new Nook Touch but also have some Kindle books. Amazon is very restrictive about where their Kindle ebooks can be used. If you buy a Kindle ebook from Amazon.com you can only read it on your Kindle or in the Kindle app, which is not made for e-readers other than the Kindle. But with this hack you can apparently use the Kindle app on your Nook.
Personally, if I owned a Nook I wouldn’t want to mess with it this much, but that’s just me. I know there are a lot of people who love this kind of thing.
Google launched their ebook service a while ago, and I’ve been planning on writing a post about it but I hadn’t had a chance to thoroughly check it out until today. I wanted to find out which ebook formats the ebooks are offered in, which types of devices they can be used on, and what is involved in the downloading process.
When you first get to the ebooks section of Google Books, they show you a selection of three free ebooks that are already in your account. I chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to use for my testing. The first thing I did was click on the cover image shown, and that brought me to the online reading option, where you can read the ebook in your browser.
This is a screen capture showing where the default three free ebooks are shown on your initial visit to the “Google eBookstore” storefront:
The images at the top change every time I go there, so you probably won’t see a screen that looks exactly like this.
I clicked the image for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and was taken to the online version of the ebook, which looked like this:
That’s nice, but not exactly what I was after. I clicked the “< Back” link at the top of the page, and was taken to the main overview page for the ebook that has reviews and other information. That looks like this:
Clicking the big blue “Read Now” button on that page took me back to the online reading option. I figured it would, but I just wanted to test it out.
Next I clicked the “Read on your device” link to see what that would get me. It took me to:
It lists “Smartphones and Tablets” with Android and iOS as the options. Then “Laptop and computers” which just takes you back to the online reading option. Last is “eReaders and other devices” with EPUB and PDF options. These can be read on devices like the Sony Reader, Nook, BeBook, etc. Google doesn’t mention it on this particular page, but they can also be read on Android or iOS with the appropriate ebook apps.
I decided to download the EPUB version:
It chose Adobe Digital Editions as the default program to open the file. That might not happen on your computer. I have Adobe Digital Editions set to be the default program for EPUB and PDF files because, as you probably know, part of my work involves that program. This is what it looked like when the ebook opened in ADE:
For some reason the cover image is way too large. The text of the ebook was normal, though.
Next I decided to get the iPhone app.
Clicking the “Download app” button is supposed to launch iTunes. This started about a half hour’s worth of work with iTunes, which is one of the reasons why I stopped using my iPhone about a year ago. Anything I have to do in iTunes is very slow and tedious. It took about five minutes before it even launched, and after that it wanted me to download an update to iTunes. After that it wanted to sync and backup the iPhone, and after that it wanted me to restart the computer, at which point I had to save all of the screenshots that I’d been gathering for this post, bookmark the Google books iPhone app page, and restart.
Once I returned from the restart, I had to go back to Google Books and start the app download again. This time I was able to download the app, and then send it to the iPhone. This is what you get in iTunes:
You start the download by clicking the “Free App” button.
What I really wondered at this point was whether I’d be able to download ebooks directly from within the app, or if I’d have to download them to my computer and then use iTunes’ file transferring ability to send them to the iPhone.
Upon opening the Google Books app for the first time, it asked me to sign in with my Google account.
After signing in, I was shown the same three free ebooks.
I chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and got a normal-sized cover screen, and then the rest of the book, which all worked fine.
Now I wanted to find out how buying an ebook would work. Tapping the “Get eBooks” button takes you to the Google Books website. I decided to download a sample ebook, and I was instructed me to sign in again. After that I got a screen saying that the sample was now in my library, with a “Read Now” button.
I tapped the “Read Now” button, which took me back to the Google Books app, and the sample began to download.
This particular sample that I got was basically just a table of contents. That might have been disappointing for someone who actually wanted to evaluate the ebook. But that wasn’t the point in this case — it answered my question regarding whether I would be able to download ebooks directly into the iPhone. Between a combination of the iPhone’s browser and the Google Books app, that was successful.
The process for the iPad will be pretty much the exact same thing. I don’t have an Android device so I can’t provide any kind of walkthrough on that, but I’m sure it’s very similar to any other Android app.
Google eBooks Summary
All in all, Google Books seems to be a competent ebook delivery system. I like the fact that it is not tied to or dependent on one particular device. Everything I did went smoothly except for the use of iTunes, but that is not the fault of Google. You won’t have to deal with that on an Android device or a dedicated ebook reader.
I don’t know how Google is handling technical support issues. Google doesn’t strike me as the type of company that has a great customer support system, mostly because they are such a large entity and most of their services don’t require direct communication with their users.
Since I only downloaded a free ebook and a sample, I didn’t run across DRM. I do know that Google allows publishers to determine whether DRM will be on their ebooks, and Google supports Adobe Content Server 4 for those publishers. That means that what I’ve covered in the past for Adobe Digital Editions will apply to those downloads.
I’d recommend Google Books for reading ebooks on any of the devices that they support. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it above other ebook systems, but it’s certainly worth giving a try.