Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reader Apps: Aldiko, Nook Reader and Kindle Reader Apps

It's been a while since I've talked about tablets and ereaders. Last year I dived in with a Nook Tablet, and in December last year I snagged a Nexus 7 for myself and my wife. My wife has been addicted to the multitudinous menagerie of freemium apps on the Android Marketplace ever since, while I mostly download an occasional cool non-freemium game, lots of reader apps and the Pulse news app (a fine substitute for the morning paper). So far I've probably spent about $100 on Nook apps (not counting ebook purchases) while my wife has spent....well....I try not to think about it. Anyway!

Android apps in the Google Play store include both a Nook app and a Kindle app. The Nook app easily linked to my Barnes & Noble account, giving me access to my full library of titles through the Nook book store. Kindle was a new experience for me, as I had not previously owned a Kindle and had no apps through Amazon's e-store. I downloaded it, found a few freebies, and mused at how their app wasn't nearly as functional as their actual online store was at suggesting alarmingly accurate recommendations for my buying habits. In fact it doesn't offer any suggestions at all. Oversight? Limitation of the app architecture/programming? Patent issue? I have no idea. It's linked to my main account, so that's not excuse.

Aside from these two official apps I downloaded something called Aldiko. The version I have is free, which means an occasional ad pops up (I hardly ever see them, and never when reading a book). The premium version is $2.99 and I may cave and buy it soon. It supposedly includes some extra functionality, including highlight options, note taking a "home widget feature."

Aldiko easily found and imported my Baen Book collection, as well as my Paizo Pathfinder Tales collection. After some experimentation I determined it could import any and all books though the Nook app which were not locked by password DRM (presumably by the publisher), and it was pleasantly surprising to me to see that quite a few of my Nook store purchases were not DRM-locked. Less surprising was how many "big name" titles were.

The Nook reader app, as well as the Nook Tablet software have some decent customization options, but the Aldiko reader app offered a few perks the others didn't. It's not quite as good at reading some epub file formats as the Nook and Kindle apps are, interestingly....but the ability to do a real day/night feature was a plus (Kindle can do this too....Nook's is more like a day/gray feature). For those of you unfamiliar with this, the idea of a day/night feature is whether you are reading black on white or white on black. Nook does an unpleasant "white on gray," while everyone else does the more eye-friendly and possibly power-saving white on black (is it power saving? No idea).

Beyond that Aldiko works well for reading epubs. It even imported some unusual items like my Resident Evil Art Book that I got with RE 6, although it is an inferior experience to using the Adobe Reader app. And by inferior I mean "horrible." None of these ereaders are good at handling PDF files.

Aldiko cannot see any of the Kindle books I have purchased (I've been picking up Tim Curran's amazing novels...always been a fan ever since The Hive), so they won't import. I am not sure but I think Amazon DRM locks all the content it sells, unlike the Nook, which will make exceptions on publisher request.

The Nexus 7 can drain battery life quickly with some games and apps, but so far all three reader apps are modest in power use and you can read on the Nexus 7 for almost (but not quite) as long as on the Nexus Tablet (which gets me around 11 hours on average).

Aldiko does not have an app on the Nexus Tablet, so I couldn't tell you if it can tie accounts between devices to share your library. Nook Reader app does this, of course, so if I start a book on the Nexus 7 and later resume reading it on the Nook Tablet, it will know where I left off on both devices (provided I've got wifi connectivity during this period). I suspect the Kindle App does the same, for those with actual Kindles.

Although I like Kindle's ease of use, I am surprised at its limited functionality for shopping, being used to Amazon's great site online. The Nook Reader app functions almost, but not quite like the Nook Tablet. It's missing a couple conveniences (it doesn't scan for all epub files and group them together like it does on the Nook Tablet, for example) but the store search functionality is identical to and sometimes slightly more efficient than the same feature on their proprietary device. Aldiko, meanwhile, offers a storefront which lets you search several independent online sellers: Smashwords, Feedbooks, O'Reilly and Romance Books. Not the greatest selection....but better than nothing. Still, given it will take pretty much any epub book and make it available, no matter where that book came from (so long as its DRM free), that means you can shop at Baen Books, Crossroad Press, Paizo or wherever you like and just import it manually.

As a gamer, a parent, an avid reader these apps are all immensely useful. Given that they are all free (or have free versions) there's no harm in having access to all three. Aldiko has proven very handy for managing third party purchases and epub titles that are not DRM locked, and I definitely recommend it.

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