There are a remarkable number of decent DRM-free ebook-reading apps for Android. We just mentioned a few in a recent post, in fact. Some of them have been around for quite a while, and they all have slightly different features and capabilities.
I haven’t been doing a lot of e-reading lately, but when I have, my needs are generally pretty simple: I just want something to show me the book in a decent font with reasonable formatting, and stay out of my way when I want to get down to reading. One of my favorite apps in that regard is Google Play Books. It’s fairly bare-bones, but its clean reading interface and the way it makes accessing books from its own cloud storage simple make it one of my favorites for quick reading.
But for in-depth reading, another app has made its way onto all of my Android devices, displacing old favorites like FBReader or Moon+. This is “eReader Prestigio: Book Reader,” which I mentioned briefly last year in a discussion of the $50 Amazon Fire tablet. The Prestigio Reader seems at first glance an unlikely candidate, a free-adware app from a phone and tablet manufacturer (who we mentioned briefly back in 2010), but it actually has some remarkably good features.
For one thing, like the Kindle’s special offers, the ads only show up on the book list screen—not while you’re actually reading something. And they only cost 99 cents to remove altogether. That’s a pretty good bargain—you can try the reader out to see if you like it, then either use it without ever bothering to get rid of the ads or pay less than a buck to do so.
Another nice feature is the extensive set of style and formatting options. There’s a basic formatting menu which allows you to choose among several fonts—serif, sans serif, and monospace courier—as well as adjust text size, margins, and theme. The “Advanced Settings” menu offers a variety of customization options for page, font, colors, navigation bar, and text styles. I don’t know if there are quite as many formatting options as Marvin for iOS or Freda for Windows 10 offer, but it’s certainly in the same neighborhood.
Speaking of style and formatting, Prestigio is also one of those apps that is able to render non-breaking space paragraph section separators properly—another useful feature for me when it comes to reading older ebooks, or ones I generate myself from Scrivener.
Another feature Prestigio shares with Marvin and Freda is the ability to load ebooks from cloud accounts, including Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive. While it doesn’t scan the entire account and list all the files it finds, like Marvin does, it does allow you to navigate easily through the directories, and if you keep your Calibre folder there, it’s already handily sorted by author’s name.
Prestigio can also scan your device for any ebooks or other compatible files you’ve downloaded already. It can read or play a number of file types, including mp3, HTML, DOC, and so on, though if you’re just interested in ebooks you might want to limit its choices to EPUB and MOBI. The app can be set to use any folder as its library folder, including folders on the SD card, and it will read MOBI and EPUB with equal faculty.
Prestigio also includes a text-to-speech function for reading ebooks aloud. It’s fairly clear and as easy to understand as any text-to-speech system I’ve ever used, though I don’t think I would use it regularly.
There is a “My Prestigio” online account that you can sign up for, which provides access to Prestigio’s online ebook store and cloud, but the app is still quite useful even if you don’t choose to sign up. The app also allows you to log into your Adobe account, for access to ebooks encoded with Adobe DRM.
Prestigio isn’t quite perfect. There are some amusing typos in the menus, as when you’re given the option of applying EPUB “slyle” settings, or enabling “hypernation.” And for whatever reason, the ability to adjust first-line paragraph indentation only works when reading MOBI books, not EPUB. But on the whole, Prestigio offers an inexpensive, easy-to-use reading experience for DRM-free EPUB and Mobi, or books encumbered with Adobe DRM. So this is one app I’m going to be keeping on all my devices.
It’s only too bad that so many commercial ebooks are sold with DRM included, and most of those would be incompatible with Prestigio as long as that original DRM remained intact. But anyone who’s bought a lot of DRM-free titles from vendors such as Baen or Smashwords will find Prestigio highly useful.