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Sponsored App Review: FBReader

September 16, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

FBReader is an eBook reader platform that might be best known for the fbreader.org website, a website that readers can use to sync their own catalog of eBooks across every platform and every device, itself based on Google Drive tech. In short, users can access other catalogs, including the ability to purchase new books, as well as sync a catalog of their own between all of their devices and platforms. Now, as an eBook Reader app for Android – which is what we’re looking at here – the app supports the usual formats such as: ePub (including main features of ePub3), PDF, Kindle azw3 (mobipocket), fb2(.zip) as well as comic book formats and the usual PDF and plain text formats. Enough of that, let’s take a closer look at the app itself, shall we?

Now, there are two versions of FBReader, a free and a premium version of the app. The free version is ad-free, but the premium version supports built-in translation using either Google Translate or Yandex services. The free version is available here and the premium version here. Once you’ve installed either of your versions, you’ll be greeted with a look at the instructions and an introduction into the app.

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This introduction is well worth reading, and has a nice rundown of what users of FBReader can expect.

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Of course, heading into the menu, things quickly become self-explanatory. Catalogs are where FBReader makes its mark, and you’ll never be bored when looking for something to read.

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There’s a little something for everyone here, including some of the best literature that’s in the Public Domain.

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When viewing a book to download, you get a good look at the cover and a synopsis, which is to be expected.

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Here’s a quick look at the reading view of Hamlet, by Shakespeare:

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As you can see, there’s a simple progress bar at the bottom which is neat, yet undistracting, but to change the overall settings as I have, can be a real chore.

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You have to head into the main settings menu and then adjust things in a simple settings menu. There’s no live changing as with the Kindle app or anything like that, and font changes don’t even display the actual font you’ll end up with. Having said that, users can import their own fonts as well, which is a nice touch.

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There’s also no fancy animation when reading a book like there is in the majority of other eBook Readers out there:

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Of course, what FBReader is all about is not the absolute best reading experience in the world, but rather the ability to synchronise your reading across platforms and devices.

FBReader sync

This is an incredibly powerful feature, and those interested can read more on the FBReader website here. This makes FBReader something for those that want to tightly control their digital library, as they would do an old bookshelf at home. Users can change their settings and how their devices work with the FBReader Network easily, too:

FBReader settings

Overall, I had a mixed experience with FBReader, and this is perhaps because I am a Kindle user. The display on the LG G4 I’m using has a dense, gorgeous display to read on, and yet FBReader was unable to harness it and make the most of it. The reading part of this equation is a weak one, changing fonts and styles is not only limited, but it’s a chore to go through the menus to change them. In the Kindle app and many other eBook Readers available for Android you can change things on the fly whenever you want. Of course, I have to remember that FBReader is a free and Open Source platform, and when I take that into account, things become more impressive. The real star of the show here however, is the FBReader network. and exactly what people will be using it for. Those looking to tightly control their library will be able to do just that and there’s no shortage of help online to help people create their own perfect, digital bookshelf.

Ratings

  • Speed (4/5) – Everything in FBReader, including downloads, ran nice and speedy without issue.
  • Theme (3.5/5) – Not only does the FBReader app feel a little basic, but the reading experience just isn’t here compared to other apps already available in the Play Store.
  • Features (4/5) – When you add in the sync option, FBReader will out itself as a very clear option for a lot of keen readers that want to control their own library.
  • Overall (4/5) – Despite a fairly uninspiring reading experience, FBReader’s backend and network is a great way of staying in control of the books you own, and it’s one of the most flexible readers available thanks to so many different platforms being supported.

Pros

  • Has a number of different catalogs already setup for people to look through.
  • Free synchronisation is a great feature for readers looking to keep things together.
  • One of the best multi-platform readers, period.
  • Great for comic book readers as well as traditional text.

Cons

  • Reading experience is not the best, needs more fonts and a simpler settings menu.
  • Needing to download and install other apps is a break in the experience.

FBReader won’t be for everyone out there, and that’s a good thing when it comes to books. After all, literature is all things to all people, and FBReader is multi-lingual and multi-platform, making it flexible already. Then when you add in the free sync service, and things get even better and get better quite quickly. Sadly, the reading experience is not the best, but for ease of use keeping your books synced, this can’t be beaten.

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