While there is certainly nothing new about books, dedicated eReaders are quite a recent innovation, with Amazon’s Kindle probably the most high-profile device available. Offering a high-tech way of reading along with storing thousands of publications, eReaders have become very popular since their introduction.
However, the criteria of what actually qualifies an eReader device have become blurred, with Amazon extending its Kindle range to include a tablet and many smartphone platforms supporting a variety of apps which perform similar functions. Here we take a look at the best that are available, looking at the best methods of carrying your bookshelf in your pocket.
Supporting one of the largest ranges of formats of any app on this list, Moon+ can read almost any file that isn’t DRM protected by one of the big book retailers.
While the app’s initial menu screens are a little functional and unattractive, the actual reading pages can be customised with a variety of themes that add an unexpected element of colour to proceedings. Gesture controls are supported and can be customised to perform an enormous array of tasks such as altering screen brightness, moving the page down and changing the size of the font. Moon+ will also notify you when you’ve been reading for some time, suggesting that you might want to rest your eyes for a while.
On the downside, the way in which books are formatted into a long block of text which has to be scrolled up and down is a little annoying and many will likely prefer to flick through pages in a similar way to other eReader apps. Also, the free version is marred by occasional adverts with a full, ad-free version costing £2.99. Available for Android.
Although Aldiko doesn’t support the same range of ebook formats that Moon+, it does have an excellent feature that sets it apart from many other eReaders – the app enables you to sync the page you were on across Android devices, meaning you can be half way through a book on your phone before switching to a tablet to carry on reading.
Outside of the Kindle, this feature is rare and, although Aldiko requires the downloading of a separate Aldiko Sync app and synchronisation with Dropbox to complete the task, it is still useful and impressive.
Aside from this, Aldiko presents an easy-on-the-eye interface which allows the user to flick through pages rather than scroll down a column of text. Brightness, contrast and colour can all be altered to suit and the app has several different options for navigating through a book. Available for Android.
3. Google Play Books
With an enormous library available and the convenience of using Google Play to download titles, Google Play Books has a big advantage over many other eReaders.
The app also offers is an interface that looks slightly different to others, veering away from the wood-effect, bookshelf background favoured by some apps and which can look a little tacky and cheap. Instead, what users get is a minimalist interface available in a variety of colour themes and several options such as the placement of bookmarks and positioning of text on the screen.
Google Play Books also offers is an excellent and unusual feature which allows users to read from scanned images of pages, as opposed to digital text. While this does little for recently-printed books, the unbalanced text and smudged ink that can be seen on older titles gives them a patina not found on any other app. Available for Android and iOS.
Stanza is a simple and straightforward eReader for iOS which supports a multitude of formats and presents a great reading interface rivalling the best available.
Books can be easily synced to the app via its desktop counterpart and fonts, text size and colour can all be altered. An unusual but interesting feature Stanza boasts is that a background image can be added behind the text, personalising the interface in a way which no other app we tested could match.
All-in-all we found Stanza to be a very easy to use, with the app itself doing nothing to get in the way of your reading experience. Available for iOS.
The daddy of the eReader world, the Kindle app offers a level of performance that no others can equal. With Amazon’s entire Kindle Store at your fingertips, the Kindle app offers an incredible range of titles and also allows users to subscribe to newspapers, magazines and periodicals, be they popular titles or obscure publications.
If you own a Kindle device, the app is a great accompaniment and syncs seamlessly with your account allowing you to carry on reading a book from the page you left off at on another device. If you don’t, the Kindle app still performs brilliantly, allowing you to store titles online for download when you need them and presenting a reading interface that is ergonomic and easy to navigate.
A particular feature worth mentioning is an extension for Google’s Chrome browser which allows you to clip webpages and send them to a Kindle device or app, enabling the storing of articles for later reading. The Kindle app is a well-designed platform and the backing it receives from Amazon in terms of development and support makes it second to none. Available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.