I want to read public domain books on an Android smartphone
January 10, 2013 2:03 PM   Subscribe

I want to read public domain books (especially Shakespeare) on my Galaxy S3. But all of the apps I can find are giving me trouble. What's the best-designed and most convenient solution?

Reading eBooks on a smartphone is great, but recently I've been trying to read Shakespeare and it's been a problem. The Kindle app, which has a large selection of free Shakespeare plays, won't let me shrink the text enough to preserve line breaks, which makes reading frustrating. Most of the other systems I've tried (Nook, Kobo, Google Books) have the same problem, plus no free books.

Is there a way I can download free ebook versions of Shakespeare plays that are nicely formatted for smartphones? I'm also not averse to paying a few dollars, especially if I get access to a good gloss and footnotes, except that every free sample of Shakespeare (Pelican, Modern Library) I've tried to download doesn't include the actual text of the play, so I can't tell if they have the same problem. If any of the professionally-edited versions are good for smartphone reading, please tell me.

Finally, if you know of a particularly fantastic, beautifully-designed ebook program for Android, I would love to hear about it. I'm starting to envy iOS people.
posted by vogon_poet to Technology (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've used Aldiko for a couple of years, but recently I've switched to Moon Reader. Moon+ Reader has more "online stores" than Aldiko. (I just tried downloading the Project Gutenberg version of Romeo and Juliet with Moon+ Reader, and it looks very similar to a print version.)

If you want more control over what the text looks like you should consider downloading and converting the books with Calibre on a computer. Connect the phone with USB, and it should be detected automatically by Calibre.

From an aesthetic point of view Aldiko is prettier, but Moon+ Reader (I use the pro version) has more features.
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 2:18 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like fbreader for Android (which is infinitely customisable with font size and margins and all); I know others prefer Aldiko (which I think is also customisable). I'd try your free ebooks with fbreader (in landscape mode maybe). The bookseller apps are not a tenth as customisable and lead to misery if you're doing much more than reading text in paragraphs.
posted by jeather at 2:19 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sorry, no firsthand Android experience, but:

Doesn't Android have a Read Later app or Instapaper analog? Couldn't you just find a clean HTML version of Shakespeare (e.g.), hit "Read Later", and enjoy it on your phone afterwards...?
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:35 PM on January 10, 2013

Android does in fact have straight up Instapaper.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:42 PM on January 10, 2013

Like the Baron, I use Calibre and Moon+ Reader on my Nexus One. I didn't like Aldiko but do also use FBreader along with Moon+ so I can have two different books active at the same time (instead of having to navigate the "bookshelf" in my phone). Calibre makes it simple to use the epub format, which seems to work better than other formats. Project Gutenberg offers epub as a format for downloads.
posted by anadem at 7:32 PM on January 10, 2013

It turns out that Calibre is the best solution here, if you want control over exactly how things are formatted.
posted by vogon_poet at 10:56 AM on January 13, 2013

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