Top Android E-Book Readers

Sure, you could just buy a Kindle, but one of the reasons you went with Android is so you could read all your books from all your stores. What should you download right now?

Frankfurt Book Fair 2014
A Kindle reading experience. Hannelore Foerster / Getty Images

Ok, you really do want the Kindle app first. That's probably where all your books are.

Amazon.com's Kindle reader is a huge hit. One of the things that make it so popular, aside from access to a huge library of Kindle books on Amazon.com, is that Amazon.com offers an app for just about any device you own, and it remembers where you left off from any Internet-connected device, so you can start reading on your iPod and finish on your Android. Now that isn't true of some sideloaded books, but it is true of your Amazon purchases.

The thing to keep in mind as you build an Amazon.com library is that Amazon's books are meant to stay in Kindle readers. It's a walled garden. They mainly use a proprietary format (azw or mobi) rather than the industry-standard ePub format used by all the other readers, and that locks you into staying with Amazon. You can convert non-protected book files, but it's an extra step. All of these other readers allow you greater freedom in moving your libraries around. 

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon offers a rental option called Kindle Unlimited that allows you to read from a large selection of the books available from Amazon (not all of them) for $9.99 per month. The deal also includes Audible narration for some books and a selection of e-magazines, and you can read through the Kindle app - no Kindle device required. If you find yourself buying more than one book or magazine per month, this option may be the most cost effective. You should also know that not all authors participate in Kindle Unlimited. Some see the service as less than beneficial for writers, as author John Scalzi explains. 

Books you download with Kindle Unlimited expire when you stop paying for the service.  More »

Google Play Books
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"Google Play Books" refers to both an app and a store. You buy books from the books section of Google Play (or any other ePub seller) and then read them on your Android phone or tablet or on Google Play's website. You can also upload ePub books you've purchased elsewhere. It makes for a great, centralized library space, and it transfers from device to device, so long as you can install the Google Play Books app. Google Play also allows you to rent select textbooks. 

You cannot install the Google Play app on Kindle Fire devices, so you will have to use an alternate reader, such as the Nook or Kobo app on Kindle Fires.  More »

The Nook Reader is Barns & Noble's baby, but it suffers an uncertain future as Barns & Noble shuts down portions of the store. The Nook reader is actually a pretty nice tablet, but it uses a modified version of Android that excludes you from Google Play. You're not locked into the Nook tablet to read Nook books. You can download the app and still access your library on Android devices (and even the Kindle Fire.) Nook books use the ePub standard, so they are compatible with most reading apps.  More »

Kobo Reader
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The Kobo reader was loosely affiliated with Borders, but fortunately not tightly enough to collapse when Borders did. Kobo was ultimately purchased by Rakuten. Kobo offers a separate bookstore and sells books and magazines in ePUB format. However, it's at a disadvantage to the other more popular stores when it comes to content. It's actually superior to both of them when it comes to importing content. You can get separately purchased DRM-free books onto the Kobo reader with a lot less fussing than you can on the Nook or Kindle app.   More »

Other Options

If you want to avoid Amazon, Nook, or Kindle, you can also use one of many paid and free alternative options, such as Moon Reader or Aldiko. Nearly all readers are compatible with the ePub standard, so you can read DRM-free books you have purchased from bookstores other than Kindle. You should also ask your local public library about their digital book selections. Many allow you to check out and read digital library books without having to visit the library in person. You may need to install a separate app, such as Overdrive, in order to take advantage of the service.

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