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)
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) 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.
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) 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.
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) 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 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.