Reading ebooks on Android used to be just OK. Now, it's awesome. While there are plenty of sweet apps for reading books on your phone or tablet, Play Books has vastly improved over the years to become our number one choice for it's cloud sync, excellent research tools and the ability to upload your own books.
Platform: Android/iOS/Web Price: Free Download Page
- Completely free for Android, iOS and the web.
- Supports phones and tablets.
- Sync bookmarks, notes and reading position across devices/platforms.
- Read books from Google's servers, or download for offline access.
- Customisable display options, including font size, brightness, line height, day/night/sepia mode.
- Large store with wide selection of books for purchase or rent.
- Upload your own ePUB/PDF books to personal library, sync across devices.
- Get definitions, Wikipedia articles and search results in-app.
- Text-to-speech on some books (per publisher approval)
- Bookmark pages, highlight text and add notes.
- Search within books for text.
Where It Excels
One of the primary disadvantages of our previous choice, Aldiko, is that it lacked cloud sync. Play Books allows you to close a book on your phone and open it up on your tablet where you left off. It also syncs your bookmarks, notes and annotations across devices. This gives it an edge over standalone readers like Aldiko and Moon+.
Play Books also distinguishes itself from other bookstore apps by allowing you to easily upload your own collection of books. While only ePUB and PDF formats are supported, it's pretty easy to convert the rare books you find that aren't in one of these two formats. Once a book is in your collection, you can download it to any of your devices and it will have all the same powers as other books in your library. You can even enable the ability to upload PDFs directly to Play Books from the web, email or other apps in the settings.
On top of all of this, Play Books has some of the best built-in research tools. Long-press an unknown word to highlight it and get a quick definition. You can also tap on the name of a location to pull up a card with information about that place and look that place up on Wikipedia or Google. You can even translate text into other languages or have the app read the book out loud to you (as long as the publisher has allowed this option).
Where It Falls Short
Google Play doesn't have a wide range of support for file formats out of the box. If it's not an ePub or PDF, you'll need to convert it. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to change formats, and you can even convert books purchased from other stores. Amazon also has an advantage if you prefer e-ink readers, in that you can sync books between your phone, tablet or ereader. Play Books more or less guarantees you'll always be reading on a bright, light-emitting screen.
The primary competition comes in the form of our previous pick Aldiko, as well as Moon+. Aldiko has some great features for organising and sorting your library. While you can search your collection in Play Books, Aldiko lets you tag certain books, or sort them into collections so you can group them together in a way that makes sense. Because what's the fun of having a large collection of books if you can't organise them on a fancy shelf?
Moon+ similarly has some nice customisation options, but where it really shines is in file format support. As stated earlier, you can convert books to different formats if you want to use Play Books, but if you'd rather not bother with conversion software, Moon+ supports ePUB, mobi, chm, cbr, cbz, umd, fb2, txt, html, rar, zip or OPDS.
And, of course, there are the other bookstores including Amazon Kindle and Kobo. In terms of reader features, Kindle stands out as one of the nicest and most feature-complete (though the Android version lacks many excellent features like X-Ray). Library selection varies between companies, and manually adding books is often a difficult if not impossible process.
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