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Top e-reader apps for book lovers and smartphone readers

We look at e-book app alternatives to Amazon’s Kindle that help readers build organised yet aesthetic digital libraries - on their smartphones

January 14, 2023 12:02 pm | Updated January 25, 2023 10:06 am IST

The Hindu looks at  e-book app alternatives to Amazon’s Kindle that let users build organised yet aesthetic digital libraries on their smartphones.

The Hindu looks at  e-book app alternatives to Amazon’s Kindle that let users build organised yet aesthetic digital libraries on their smartphones. | Photo Credit: AP

When you start shopping around for e-books and e-readers, Amazon and its Kindle offerings are usually the first to be recommended. But does that make them the best?

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As an e-commerce giant, Amazon dominates the book industry and offers a plethora of reading options across laptops, tablets, e-readers, and even smartphones. However, its walled garden system means users might not be able to easily enjoy more niche works of literature from other marketplaces or free libraries.

Today, we look at several top performing e-book app alternatives that help readers build organised yet aesthetic digital libraries using nothing but their smartphones.

ReadEra

This free e-reader app that has been downloaded millions of times on the Google Play Store is perfect for readers who can’t wait to sink their teeth into their next novel. Requiring neither registration nor payment, the free version of ReadEra offers a standard set of typeface and page colour controls, while being largely free of ads. ReadEra handles a variety of formats, and we were pleased to see beautifully rendered images and convenient footnote settings on the EPUB texts we tested. There was also a children’s mode to keep very young users focused on their books and prevent them from exploring adults’ titles.

ReadEra offers a standard set of typeface and page colour controls, while being largely free of ads.

ReadEra offers a standard set of typeface and page colour controls, while being largely free of ads. | Photo Credit: Sahana Venugopal

ReadEra might not be the best fit for students or note-takers, as features such as multicoloured quotes come with the premium version of the app. We also wished there was a more engaging page-flip option instead of the ordinary swiping or sliding. However, time pressed readers who just want a fuss free e-reader app will be more than content with ReadEra.

Moon + Reader

If you consider yourself a customisation king or queen, Moon + Reader is likely the e-reader app for you. Not only does it offer a huge selection of customisation options, ranging from blue light filters to textured page backgrounds, but it also lets you customise those very customisation icons.

Moon + Reader will suit ardent note-takers, students, and those who consider beautiful typography and design controls a must in their apps. The access to net libraries such as Project Gutenberg was appreciated, as we could quickly download and open new EPUB texts that are in the public domain.

Moon + Reader will suit ardent note-takers, students, and those who consider beautiful typography and design controls a must in their apps.

Moon + Reader will suit ardent note-takers, students, and those who consider beautiful typography and design controls a must in their apps. | Photo Credit: Sahana Venugopal

However, Moon + Reader’s overall app interface could use some work as it isn’t the most intuitive to use. The shelf did not update itself with new files in spite of scanning the device for potential reads. One may have to individually upload their books and documents.

All said and done, the absolute control over the aesthetics of your reading experience will draw dedicated book lovers to the Moon + Reader app.

Adobe Acrobat

Reading a PDF document on your smartphone once meant pinch-zooming every page or scrolling from left to right to read each line of a badly sized document. However, the enhanced PDF reader by Adobe made waves recently, thanks to the addition of its new Liquid Mode feature powered by AI.

Liquid Mode converts PDF texts into a smartphone-friendly format. In other words, Adobe will transform the entire document for your ease, to ensure a seamless reading experience on a tiny screen.

Here’s how it looks before and after the mode is activated.

Liquid Mode converts PDF texts into a smartphone-friendly format.

Liquid Mode converts PDF texts into a smartphone-friendly format. | Photo Credit: Sahana Venugopal

Aside from this handy conversion feature, however, Adobe Acrobat is aimed at a small segment of readers who mostly work with the PDF format. Its interface is basic, and it lets you adjust the line and letter spacing.

Google Play Books

Google Play Books should be at the top of your list if you want a well-stocked marketplace app along with a mainstream e-reading experience. Its options are basic but include an organic page flipping feature, a night light, and wonderfully rendered images. Users have to upload their texts to the platform, which can take some time. Still, this will ensure their files are safely and securely backed up.

Google Play Books is basic but includes an organic page flipping feature, a night light, and wonderfully rendered images.

Google Play Books is basic but includes an organic page flipping feature, a night light, and wonderfully rendered images. | Photo Credit: Sahana Venugopal

However, Indian users should note that the prices of e-books via the Google Play Books marketplace are much higher than on Amazon. The e-reader will work best for those who want to store and read their texts in a protected ecosystem that is easy to sync across devices. The marketplace isn’t ideal, but will do in a pinch.

Apple Books

iPhone and Macbook users have a readymade option at their fingertips, as Apple Books provides both a marketplace and a seamless reading experience across devices within its ecosystem. Apple Books also lets you open and read EPUB texts from other sources.

However, we found that the concept was better than the execution. Though it now offers a selection of e-books read out by AI-based narrators, the Apple Books marketplace does not list many common novels or bestsellers. Even many of their available books usually come with generic covers that make them hard to identify in your library. Apple Books also does not automatically update books that come from outside its marketplace.

Apple Books provides both a marketplace and a seamless reading experience across devices within its ecosystem.

Apple Books provides both a marketplace and a seamless reading experience across devices within its ecosystem. | Photo Credit: Sahana Venugopal

The e-reader experience was accessible if very basic, with few to no frills. Users can adjust the page colour and typeface settings. Images are well-presented, even on a device as small as the iPhone SE. The overall experience is clean and minimalistic, and users who switch between Apple devices will enjoy not losing their place.

EReader Prestigio

For bookworms who want a sensory reading experience that truly comes close to the feel of a physical book, eReader Prestigio answers with a beautifully organic page flipping feature, extensive background and typeface customisation, and a reasonably good text-to-speech setting. It also accepts the most common and even several uncommon e-book formats.

These perks, along with an easy to access Google Translate feature and attractive note-taking options, will be a godsend for users learning new languages or readers who need a more audio-based experience. While the narrators’ voices are far from human or natural when using Google’s free speech services, they will do the trick for reviewing academic texts. There are other paid options which use AI-based narrators.

 EReader Prestigio comes with an easy to access Google Translate feature and attractive note-taking options.

 EReader Prestigio comes with an easy to access Google Translate feature and attractive note-taking options. | Photo Credit: Sahana Venugopal

EReader Prestigio comes with a lovely, customisable bookshelf that makes scanning your e-library a delight for the eyes. However, the app’s downside is that images are not very well presented. The app’s marketplace for books is also a disappointment that has almost no popular content whatsoever.

Still, for those who want a free e-reader app that punches several classes above its weight and offers text-to-speech features, EReader Prestigio fits the bill.

In essence

While an e-reader can help you store and organise your collection of e-books on your phone, there are several safety tips to keep in mind.

First and foremost, if you are not using a trusted marketplace such as Amazon or Google Play to download new books, ensure that your downloads are safe, legal, and virus-free.

When installing an e-reader app on your device that requests permission or forces you to let it scan your device, ensure that your documents with personal information or financial details are encrypted or kept in a safe folder.

Finally, while devices such as Amazon’s Kindle use e-ink technology to prevent eye strain, this is not the case with smartphones. Opt for a reading app that has a blue light filter, or make sure to use a trusted blue light filter app to preserve your eyesight.

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