by Brad Nelson 3/16/14
Unlike the iPad, the Android tablets (I run ICS 4.0.3) do not come with a good built-in book reader. I’ve been using Cool Reader, which was the best add-on reader I could find at the time when I bought the tablet a couple years ago. It is very customizable (a must for me in terms of the typography) and fairly easy to use.
But lately the Cool Reader app has begun to crash frequently. And quite spontaneously it now has trouble reading many of my books correctly as well. Instead of bolding the text, for instance, you would see the html mark-up language.
These tablets are constantly automatically sucking down app updates in the background and I suspect that the several updates I’ve seen for this reader over the past several months have introduced some problems, turning an “upgrade” into a de facto downgrade. This problem is not unknown amongst software of any kind and one of my favorite apps (a file browser for Android) I had to discard recently because of the various “upgrades” that turned it into a steaming hunk of junk.
Cool Reader is a free reader, but even so, these problems were adding up. So I shook off my tech inertia the other day and went looking for a new eBook reader for my Android. (I’ve got an Acer a500.) I Googled some “best of” web postings on the subject and found an eReader mentioned called “Moon+ Reader.”
The feature list looked good so I downloaded the free version and gave it a go. I could immediately tell that this had the fit and finish of a much more elegant product than Cool Reader. And it was reading the books just fine that Cool Reader was having trouble with. And, so far, it hasn’t crashed either.
The typographical features are wonderful and easier to set. Cool Reader has a rather arcane set of dialogue boxes. It’s all there — it’s feature-rich — but the features have the look and feel of a gigantic junk drawer. Moon+ Reader Pro (I have since purchased the Pro version for five dollars) takes you quickly to the most-used features which are well-organized and presented.
The default typeface on this is rather nice. The Pro version comes with a larger selection of backgrounds and some other perks as well (including even more fonts). I never read eBooks in just black-on-white. I always set the background to some light parchment-like texture (with the text, of course, set at solid black). It’s easier on the eyes. Cool Reader has this ability and Moon+ Reader Pro has even more colors and textures to choose from. And the layout of the on-screen menu items is much more elegant than Cool Reader.
But looks aren’t everything. What really sold this product for me was its vastly better ability at marking text. You have the option to do a color highlight, an underline, strike-through, and some other methods as well. And the selecting of the text (which was always a pain with Cool Reader) works well. Plus, you can “long-click” on any word and a menu comes up that gives you quick access to a built-in dictionary (although you do have download the dictionary separately, but within the app). It couldn’t get any easier.
I’ve yet to run into any downsides, although I’ve spent only a few hours using it. There may be (and probably are) many features in Cool Reader that I’ve never used simply because I didn’t know about them or because they are buried in its rather junk-drawer environment. I love the “Chapter” button, for instance, on the main menu (which resides on the bottom of the screen) of the Moon+ Reader which shows all the chapters of a book at a glance and lets you jump right to them.
Besides doing bookmarks and the highlighting of text (text which can also easily be copied to the clipboard as well), you can attach your own “Notes” to highlighted blocks of text…it’s sort of like writing in the margins of the page. And all this is easy to do. And it’s easy to send these blocks of text to yourself (for posting in an internet post, for example). I’m still not sure how you do this, if it can be done at all, in Cool Reader. I imagine it can, but the junk-drawer organization of this reader tends to make me shy away from delving deeper into it. In fact, with Moon+ Reader Pro, I can email someone (provided it is not copy protected) the entire book I’m reading.
This is an extremely well-conceived product. Android is not Apple, and I give Apple full credit for making (and facililtating via their guidelines and example apps) elegant and easy-to-use products. Moon+ (why the “+”?) Reader Pro is one of the few Android apps with this kind of spit and polish. Ninety percent of the features you are likely to use are right at your fingertips. You can dig deeper in the preferences for more obscure settings if you want as well.
And one thing Moon+ Reader (and other Android book readers) excel at is the ability to set the type to the size you want. It’s nut-driving to see these dedicated readers (such as Nook and Kindle) limited to four or five type sizes and that’s it. With Moon+ Reader Pro you can set the type to whatever size you want in one-point increments. And unlike my Kindle, justified type looks great.
Some of the features I haven’t delved into yet. But it does, as first glance, seem to be a pretty good pdf reader as well (one of the features you get with the Pro version). It can handle txt, html, epub, mobi, chm, and many other formats. The web page for the reader says that it can even read DRM-protected books provided that you use the Calibre software (available for Mac and PC) to remove the protection.
The free version is well worth a look, and then you can go from there. Considering how much time I spend reading, $5.00 for a good reader is a bargain.
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