E-Book Reader Apps We Can't Put Down
While some people still buy dedicated e-reader devices, many readers have moved on to smartphones and tablets. Apple's Books (retooled as part of iOS 12) and Google Play Books already do a great job as stock apps, but specialist reading apps can add numerous extras, from highly configurable settings, support for odd formats, read-all-you-can subscriptions and more. Check out more than a dozen of our favorite alternative e-book reader apps, from convenient, all-in-one marketplace-reader combinations to feature-packed and highly customizable standalone readers, as well as subscription-based unlimited reading services. (Image Credit: Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock)
Kindle (Android, iOS: Free)
Amazon's Kindle app (Android, iOS) is a multi-platform e-book juggernaut, featuring marketplace, reader and library management features. More than a million titles are available in the Kindle store, from the latest bestsellers to free classics. A customizable display lets you set font size, brightness and other settings. Also, Kindle syncs your last page read, bookmarks, highlights and notes between devices and platforms. A new addition is a Kindle Unlimited program that gives Kindle users access to thousands of audiobooks and e-books for a monthly fee.
Serial Box (Android, iOS: Free)
Serial Box (Android, iOS) arrives on Android after being on the iPhone since 2017, and it brings a new approach to getting a good story. Instead of paying out for a complete audiobook, you can get shorter, episodic content in bite-sized chunks of novels that are perfect for your commute or breaktime. Serial Box offers a range of genres, from drama to fantasy and sci-fi, with the first episode free and subsequent episodes costing $1.99 — that includes both text and audio versions. You can get the full story at a discount via a season pass. With offerings such as “The Witch Who Came In From The Cold”, “Bookburners” and “Tremontaine” and a highly configurable reader and audiobook player mode, Serial Box is an interesting take on digital books.
Scribd (Android, iOS: $8.99/month)
While Amazon boasts of its Unlimited program, it wasn't first off the bat in providing an unlimited access program for books. Scribd (Android, iOS) offers an unlimited access program for ebooks, which was compared to a "Netflix for books." Scribd features a library of more than 500,000 books from 900-plus publishers across a variety of genres. The app features a customizable display as well as curated editorial collections, personalized recommendations based on your reading history and the ability to download books for offline reading.
Google Play Books (Android, iOS: Free)
Google Play Books (Android, iOS) is the search giant's own entry in the ebook reader app field. Of the two versions, the Android version is the stronger, with Google Play integration letting you easily shop for books (as opposed to going to the browser in iOS). Reading customization lets you tweak the typeface, font size, and line space, while night space keeps it easy for your eyes in the dark. Text highlighting, a built-in dictionary and map search give you lots of features to play with, and the obligatory syncing features saves your reading position across devices. In addition to reading your Google Play Books titles, you can also upload their own PDF and EPUB files if you want to import an existing collection.
Libby by Overdrive (Android, iOS: Free)
Why spend a ton of money on ebooks if your local library already has a digital media lending system? Libby (Android, iOS) is the latest incarnation of Overdrive's popular digital media management system, allowing users to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from participating libraries. Simply sign in with your library card and then you can browse your library's digital media collection, allowing you to search for titles, set holds, borrow ebooks and audiobooks with a tap, and return or extend a lend just as easily. You can preview books from the app, downloading borrowed titles or streaming them to your phone or tablet if you prefer to save space.
Bluefire Reader (Android, iOS: Free)
Bluefire Reader (Android, iOS) is a versatile e-book reader that handles EPUB and PDF files, with support for annotations and Adobe Content Server DRM. Bluefire has a clean, customizable viewer that allows you to set text size and margin widths, themes and a night mode, as well as a table of contents and bookmarks. Users can highlight, set annotations, search the text, look up definitions and share excerpts. The iOS version also includes reading location synchronization, allowing you to switch between devices without losing your reading location.
KyBook 2 (iOS: Free)
Kybook 2 is an all-in-one ebook reader that supports DRM-free formats like epub, RTF, DJVU, CBR and CBZ. Whether you're looking to read poetry or prose, comicbooks or RPG rules, Kybook's likely to do an OK job. You can configure the viewer's fonts (including supplying your own font files), themes, and other layout settings like margins and line spacing. Readers can upload files through iTunes, or access their ebooks in supported cloud services like iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Yandex Disk. There's even support for OPDS catalogs, allowing you to access tons of free and public domain content online.
Comixology (Android, iOS: Free)
ComiXology is one of the most popular digital comic platforms online, featuring content from major comics publishers such as Marvel, DC and Image, which readers can purchase and read from the ComiXology website. The company's mobile app (Android, iOS) also serves as an outstanding mobile comic reader, allowing users to download and read their ComiXology purchases. Of particular note is the Guided View mode, which is great for reading on a small screen, as well as a new Unlimited mode that works as a "read-all-you-can" subscription. On the downside, you can't import in an existing comics collection or make in-app purchases on iOS.
Chunky (iOS: Free)
On the other hand, if you already have a collection of DRM-free comics you may want to check out Chunky, a free and feature-packed comics option for the iPad. On the technical side, Chunky supports CBR, CBZ and PDF comics, as well as metadata tags from ComicRack and ComicBookLover. A smart upscaling mode renders even low-res files as crisply as possible, while multiple view modes let you read however you like. There's even an auto-contrast/tint fix to adjust for faded comic scans. The app can download comics from your cloud storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, straight into the app's self-organizing library. Plus, a parental lock allows you to flag and hide titles behind password protection. It's a fantastic free package whose only fault is a lack of iPhone support.
ComiCat (Android: $2.99)
For DRM-free comic reading on Android, check out, Comicat, a premium Android comic book reader that gives you a ton of features and customizability for less than the price of a single comic issue. The app auto-scans your mobile device (or selected library folders) for comics in supported formats (such as CBR, CBZ, and PDF). It then automatically sorts them into series in a nice bookshelf view which you can manually organize. Once you're in the reader view, the interface is unobtrusive, with long press or slide controls bringing out options and settings. The app supports cloud storage folders, password protection, manga-style right to left displays, image enhancement to correct contrast, brightness, and saturation among other tweaks.
Moon+ Reader (Android: Free)
Moon+ Reader is a nifty Android e-book reader app known for its highly customizable interface. While it may not come with a dedicated marketplace, Moon+'s UI makes it stand out from the pack. You can set font styles and sizes, backgrounds, spacing, paging modes, autoscroll, multiple view modes and more. The app is free, but a pro version is also available to remove ads and add PDF support, as well as other extra features. If you already have a sizable e-book collection and are just looking for an Android app to read with, then consider Moon+ for your e-book reading needs.
FB Reader (Android: Free)
FB Reader for Android devices supports EPUB, RTF, DOC, HTML, MOBI and other formats. While it doesn't feature an attached store like other apps, FB Reader makes up for it with its highly customizable nature. Users can tweak text fonts, size, hyphenation, text colors and backgrounds, margins, page animations and more. External dictionary support, a browser/downloader for finding books online, language localizations and plugin support for PDFs and library syncing round out an impressive free package.
Aldiko (Android: Free)
Aldiko is a neat Android e-book reader app that supports EPUB, PDF, and Adobe DRM encrypted e-books. A clean and customizable interface includes settings for text size, margins, page layouts, brightness, fonts, colors and more. A library management system allows you to easily sort your material by tags and collections. The core reader is free, but a Premium version includes the ability to add notes, highlights, notes and an ad-free experience.
Kobo (Android, iOS: Free)
While not as well known in the US, Kobo (Android, iOS) is especially popular in Canada and France. Featuring a library of more than 5 million ebooks and publications, Kobo lets you access content from its online store while also letting you import your own content. The app supports numerous formats, such as epub, PDF, CBZ and CBR. Obligatory view and text customizations let you get comfortable, and the app syncs across devices and platforms.
Marvin (iOS: $3.99)
Marvin is a feature-packed and extremely configurable iOS reader app for DRM-free EPUB files. As a reader, Marvin comes packed with great reading features, from a variety of fonts (including a specialty font for dyslexic readers), a night mode and customizable themes, highlighting, annotation and dictionary tools. You'll also find numerous format tweaks ranging from text justification, to paragraph indentation and spacing. Marvin comes with a solid set of organizing tools, allowing you to sort into collections, choose from list or cover views, collection sorting and more. Extremely configurable and feature-packed, Marvin's main downside is that it's zeroed-in on EPUB reading, and supports no other formats.