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Top Ebook Readers for Android Tablets

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I used to read a lot of paper books. Now I get annoyed when publishers insist on sendng me paper versions of their books. Ebooks are simply more convenient, easier to use, and easier to carry. There is a problem with battery life, but I've yet to be stuck without a charger for long enough to make it an issue.

It's worth noting that most of these eReaders also allow you to read magazines and newspapers from the same app. You can subscribe to your publication of choice and have new issues pushed out to your device. All but one offer a separate e-Ink reader, and all of them allow you to sync with multiple devices and pick up on the page where you left off. (This only applies to books you purchased from that particluar eReader's book store.)

Here's how I ranked the major readers. I'm not looking at readers that aren't tied to a large online bookstore at this time. If you've already started a digital library, you'll probably one to stick with the app you started using, although it's possible to transfer books into another reader (except for Google Books.)

1. Kobo

Kobo Reader
Screen capture

Kobo is tied to the Kobo online bookstore. They were orignally tied pretty heavily to Borders, but they've tried to make it clear that they're not going down with that sinking ship.  Their portable eReader may not have had the most stellar reviews, but the Android app is actually pretty nice.

Kobo Reader Advantages:

The Kobo app has the easiest method for importing ePUB content you've purchased elsewhere:

  1. Start at the library view and tap the Menu button on the bottom of the screen.
  2. Tap Import Content
  3. Tap Start.
  4. Kobo will search your memory card for ePUB books.
  5. You’ll see a list of all new books that were found.  Use the checkbox next to each book in the list to include or exclude the books from import.
  6. Tap Import Selected.

The Kobo app also has Reading Life, which shows you statistics on the books you're reading, like how much progress you've made and how long you've been reading. You can also unlock badges for reading, but I suppose that's only an advantage if you like that sort of thing.

Kobo Disadvantages:

If you had to take bets on which major eBook seller was going to fail next, Kobo would make the list. However, since the books are in ePUB format, you're not taking a risk on purchasing books you can't read with a different reader. 

Kobo doesn't offer a two-page layout when you tilt the screen horizontally. This makes it a bit harder to scan the page.

2. Kindle

Kindle Reader

The Kindle is the best selling eReader, and the Kindle app for Android tablets wll let you read all your Kindle books. The app itself has a few things it could improve for usability, such as adding a two-page layout when you turn your tablet horizontally, but it's still a stable and very usable app. 

Advantages:

Kindle is tied to your Amazon account, which makes it super easy to complete bookstore purchases.  You can also buy books while browsing the Amazon website and have them pushed to your device. There are entire fan sites set up for browsing and finding discount and cheap Kindle eBooks, so you're better able to get bargain content.

Strong rumor has it that Amazon is desiging their own Android tablet, so you can expect solid Android support and updates.

Disadvantages:

At this point, Kindle doesn't support the industry standard ePUB format. You can use apps like Calibre to convert your content and sync with your device, but you really shouldn't have to. Although Kindle advertises a lending feature, this feature is rarely available if at all.

3. Nook

Nook Reader on an Android Tablet

The Barnes & Noble Nook uses Android, and their Android app provides a pretty solid experience. The Nook does show a two-page layout when you turn the screen sideways, and it allows you to sideload ePUB books you check out from your public library or buy from other vendors. It's slightly more difficult, because you have to copy the files to your My Documents folder yourself, but it's still fairly painless.

Advantages:

Two-page layout is a huge plus. You can also turn page-flipping animations off if they slow down your tablet. The Nook allows you to use a lending feature called LendMe to send a book to another user for two weeks. It's much more widely available on Nook than it is for Kindle.

Disadvantages:

The LendMe feature is only available once per book. Items you've sideloaded aren't visible in the default view.

4. Google Books

Google Books library

Google Books was built into Android tablets, and it's clearly meant to be the Android answer to iBooks. You can purchase books through your Google Checkout account, and you can download purchased books for offline reading. There's even a handy widget you can use to flip through the books in your library. Ratings in Google Books are tied to Goodreads.

Advantages:

Purchases are quick and easy, and there's no extra account required, since you have to have a Google Account in order to use your Android tablet. Google Books has a two-page layout when you hold your table horizontally, and in the case of books that were scanned in from print libraries, you can view the original book pages. Books use standard ePUB and Adobe PDF formats.

Disadvantages:

The main disadvantage is that you can't upload your own content to the reader. That means you can't check out library books or sideload that document you purchased directly from the vendor. This is a highly requested feature, so hopefully they'll eventually roll it out.

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