Google IO 2016 Coverage

Best Android apps for reading books and syncing between devices [November 2013]


These days everything is being packed into one device that can conquer any task. You can watch movies, listen to music, socialize with friends and family, and play games with your smartphone or tablet. You can also indulge in your favorite book and be swept away by words that capture you for hours. And with the Play Store, it can be daunting to find the right app for what you need. Luckily, we’re here to help. We’ve listed the best apps in the Play Store for reading books and syncing between devices. Hit the break to get started.

If you prefer to keep things in-house, look no further than Google Play Books. With more than 4 million books (and growing) to choose from, Play Books is Google’s way to supply books directly through their Play Store. You can purchase books from the same place you grab apps, games, magazines, and music rather than having to weasel around another interface. Having multiple devices is no problem since both your smartphone and tablet have access to Play Books, allowing you to hop between devices due to its background syncing.

You’ll be welcomed by recent and recommended books upon opening Play Books. If you’d like to see more of what you have in your library, just tap See All and a library will appear. Don’t have any books just yet? No problem. At the top left, there’s a book icon with three lines to the left. Tap on that and select Shop. Then the Play Store will be opened and an abundance of books will be made available to you. As almost every book app does, free samples can be downloaded. Once you’ve been hooked, just buy the full version and it is yours for good. The Play Store can narrow down selections by category, sales rank, new arrivals, and top freebies.

Once you’ve got that book downloaded, you’re ready to read! Google did a fantastic job making sure the experience is as simple as possible. Pressing the middle of the screen brings up your options. At the bottom, the table of contents awaits and you can sail ahead quickly through pages. And of course the top right is the menu button. This is where the brunt of the features are such as settings, toggling the “read aloud” option, and display options. For the display, you can adjust the theme, typeface, text alignment, font size, and brightness.

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Play Store Download Link

There should be no argument that Amazon is responsible for so many companies wanting in on the e-book craze. Since they started selling the Kindle e-reader in 2007, consumers have looked to them as the go-to for e-books. And rightfully so because they are excellent at what they do. The Kindle brand has grown tremendously since its inception and now extends across multiple platforms, allowing you to take your books from a Kindle e-reader to an Android phone or to an iPad.

Assuming you already have an Amazon account, just sign in and Amazon will automatically sync books directly to your smartphone or tablet. Similarly to Play Books, it has the slide out menu which will present you with a slew of options. And yes, that is a documents section listed. Rather than having to use the seemingly rough stock document viewer, the Kindle app packs a document viewer. But, back to books. Heading over to the Kindle Store will let you select from millions of books. Our only gripe with the Kindle app is the presentation. The Kindle Store has an extremely outdated look, and a facelift should definitely be on their agenda. Amazon has done it with their website and tablets, meaning it’s time to give the app a makeover as well.

Books will appear right in the library after being purchased. Tapping on the screen while reading brings up your options. Rather than hiding visual options within another button, the Kindle app has its own dedicated button. This is a clear advantage over Play Books because no one wants to go through extra taps just to make a change to font size or screen brightness.

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Play Store Download Link

Who doesn’t love something that’s free? How about more than 20 million free e-books and stories? That’s exactly what is being offered by Wattpad. This app is really about the readers. While there are free classics from famed authors, readers can generate content for consumption by others. This idea promotes creativity among readers and Wattpad allows them to comment and interact with one another. Of course, your favorite genres are covered including anime, something that many other services tend to overlook.

The interface of Wattpad also highlights the importance of the reader. Prior to downloading a particular book, the amount of reads, votes, and comments are displayed; therefore, prospective readers know whether or not a book is worth there time. To go along with its social aspect, Wattpad has a news feed so readers know what their friends are interested in and remain in the loop.

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Play Store Download Link

To stay relevant in the digital world, Barnes & Noble have their NOOK brand. Just like Amazon, it includes a variety of e-readers and tablets. NOOK is also available as a standalone app that can be synced between devices. The company touts that users have access to more than 3 million books, magazines, newspapers, comics and more. While that isn’t on par with Amazon’s Kindle Store or Google Play Books, it is certainly nothing to laugh at.

To try and stand out from others, Barnes & Noble has themes with custom backgrounds and text colors. Also, there is an in-app dictionary so bookworms can quickly add to their vocabulary without having to use another app. Barnes & Noble offers magazine subscriptions for more than 1,000 publications and some have a two week trial attached. Incentives are always key in gaining users and Barnes and Noble knows which to offer. Books for children are pushed to the forefront as well, something that you won’t find in other apps. Perhaps that is why there are custom themes.

Just like the aforementioned apps, the NOOK app syncs between all of your devices. What you’re getting from this app is the Barnes & Noble name. People who enjoy going to the physical store typically enjoy what the NOOK brand has to offer. If you’re looking for a fresher interface compared to that of the Kindle app, then the NOOK app is worthy of your attention.

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Play Store Download Link

Audible offers you a very unique choice. As the name suggests, it’s all about sound. The reading is done for the user. All they have to do is listen. A major plus about Audible is the fact that you can multitask with your phone while using the app. Listen to books being read to you while you text friends, browse the web, and post on social networks. You’re not bound to one screen. While Audible has only 150,000+ books as of now, they are adding more at a rapid pace. Oh right, Audible is owned by Amazon. So it’s safe to assume that Amazon is working hard to convert a good portion of their library to Audible as well. Audible is currently a juggernaut in their field with no competition coming close to what they’ve got.

The app has a very fun interface for people interested in a new approach. It is designed just like a music streaming app. There’s buttons for pause, bookmark, and rewind. If the book has chapters, the audio is divided into them so users are not scouring for an hour to find what chapter and where in there they left off. For people that are busy and don’t have time to sit down and read, Audible is great to listen to. Just keep in mind that Audible has a $14.95 price tag per book per month (or $22.95 for two books at once). If you’d like to have a ton of books at once, Audible offers annual plans. If you’re still on the fence, Audible offers you your first listen for free.

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Play Store Download Link

Do you have a favorite book reader app that I missed? Let me know in the comments.

About the Author: Justin Herrick

Born and raised in New Jersey, Justin is a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University where he studying marketing with a focus on digital marketing. He's very talkative and enjoys discussing anything from technology and sports to video games and television. As for Justin's current device rotation, he carries around the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Nexus 9. In the rare case that his phone or tablet is not in his hand, he is either flicking through cards on his Moto 360 (2015) or typing away on the Microsoft Surface Book. Justin is patiently waiting for the day that Google replicates the Galaxy Nexus with modern day specifications.

  • mark haemig

    I use Aldiko with Dropbox for my ebooks that i have downloaded.

    • Suzi Matola

      I thought of drop box or Asus cloud but the storage would be mass I think. Thank you, Suzi

  • Caseyjp11

    No mention of Moon Reader+ or…CALIBRE? meh.

    • Ryan F

      Calibre doesn’t have a native Android app. But yes Moon+ Reader is nice.

      However, most other apps can’t compete with the ones mentioned above.

      • Caseyjp11

        “Calibre companion”. Gotta’ love hurried posting. Calibre doesn’t NEED a native app as it’s designed to sit in the back room and be all database-y. The companion app connects and syncs wonderfully.

        • Suzi Matola

          Maybe that might work better..I will let u know. Thank you, Suzi

      • Danie van der Merwe

        True but Calibre does sync to mobile devices including Android, Kobo, Kindle, etc. I do think Moon Reader+ could have got a mention though as it supports ePub 3 format and supposedly syncs reading progress via a DropBox account. That said, it is not as clean as the dedicated closed market Kindle and Kobo readers on Android (which only do it of course for their own books and not 3rd party books you import to read).

        • Suzi Matola

          I will try Calibre Thank you, Suzi

      • Suzi Matola

        Thank you, Suzi

    • Suzi Matola

      Okay I will get that too and see which one will work best. Thank you, Suzi

    • Suzi Matola

      I thought of Moon Reader..I will check out Calibre. Thank you, Suzi

  • Aegeuss

    How about Cool Reader guys? The best reader in the market for years.

    • Suzi Matola

      I will try that. Thank you, Suzi

  • Suzi Matola

    I have a friend who is giving me over 600 books.All I have to do is hook up my Nexus 7 32 GB tablet up to her computer. I have Kindle & Google Books but I don’t think I can put them there. Any suggestions where I can put all those books?

    • Justin_Herrick

      Do you know what kind of file the books are?

      • Suzi Matola

        No, I had it before when I had a Kindle Fire..Kindle had tons of bookshelves they fit on.All I remember is that each one is a complete book.I will try and find out:)

  • Suzi Matola

    Thank you all. I will check out the ones each of you mention. I just want to make sure they will hold all 600 books:) Thank you all. I think I am getting them this Saturday 11/23… I will let you know. Thanks everyone. Suzi

  • Gahe

    This app sounds great, maybe I will learn more and if it can really bring the utility as well as the assurance of the use.

  • Laugh

    Surely Moon Reader Pro deserves a mention, as does Aldiko. These are both feature rich readers and free in Play Store.

  • Rob

    Don’t forget Kobo. Their software is available on all kinds of platforms, imports all kinds of ebook formats and syncs your library across all your devices. I really like it.

  • Suzi Matola

    Just thought I,d let you know I,m going to use the Moon Reader Pro:) I am unable to use Calibre because they require a Flash Player and Nexus does not allow those. I also got Cool Reader just in case. Aldiko had a story about it failing when it could not handle that large amount.I haven,t checked Kobo yet…. Thank you all, Suzi

  • captain

    Failure to include Moon Reader+ Pro tells me this reviewer did not bother to do his research. Shame. Moon Reader+ may just be the best damn app ever written.

    • shivam tiwari

      True… M wid captain..

    • mikey24

      Really? I downloaded this program and I’ve yet to figure out how to access uploaded ebooks on it? It’s not a simple drag and drop like it is with music files. It looks like you have to upload the ebooks to your SD card.. how? Can anyone help someone not so tech savy?

  • Suzi Matola

    Suzi again…..New update: Someone showed me a new app called SMART READER.You can download as many as 9,000 books!! Cool So I definitely will use that:)

  • Abraham Cuéllar

    Google Play is OK, but I prefer my eBooks on Aldiko or Moon Reader+. Wouldn’t change them.

  • skaizun

    Relishing the irony in an article about e-readers
    that begins with a photo of real books! :)