I have been intrigued with e-books ever since I had my first PDA, the Palm V. Unfortunately I seem to be in the minority. We have the technology to carry around our entire music collection in our pocket but there hasn’t been much interest in carrying around all of our reading material. Sure, there is the newly released Kindle 2 but I find it too bulky and who wants to carry around yet another device. For me, to be able to read a book on my G1 would be ideal. It’s always with me, it fits in the palm of my hand and it has a nice clear screen. Thankfully, we have FBReaderJ.
Developed by: Academy of Modern Software Engineering
File size: 536k
FBReaderJ is a port of FBReader partially done as a student project at the russian Academy of Modern Software Engineering. It is not as robust as FBReader but within it’s simplicity lies it’s elegance.
After installing, the program reads .oeb, .epub and .fb2 files from within sdcard/Books. The .epub format seems to be the more popular for english text and the closest to a “standard”. I was able to find a wide variety of books for free legally including Cory Doctorow’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” and just about any classic literature I could think of. There are also several online stores where one can purchase .epub files (although many of these sites don’t seem to understand the concept and offer a discount of only a few dollars when compared to a paperback). Both Google, Sony and Project Gutenberg have been moving towards the .epub format. A good resource I found is ePub Books. The drawback is that it seems that most people are moving towards using .pdf for online publishing and, alas, Android has yet to see a fully functioning and reliable .pdf reader.
I did find FBReaderJ easy to use. You can sort your collection by Author or by Tag (which is the genre), though I found it odd that you can not sort by Title. The text is sharp and crisp and the program offers a plethora of options so you can tweak the settings to find one you like. This includes type styles, size, line spacing, alignment, etc. One option that should be commended is the choice to use the volume control on the side of the G1 to turn the pages. The position of the switch is perfect whether the device is in your left or right hand and is quicker and more reliable than a finger swipe across the screen. FBReaderJ does support linked footnotes but not images in .epub files.
FBReaderJ is not available on the Market at this time. The only way to get it is to download the Android Package from the website or from freshmeat.net. After transferring it to your device through the USB cable you can then install it using a file management program (I used Astro available free from the Market). Make sure you allow non-Market applications to be installed by checking Settings -» Applications -» Unknown Sources.
Many of FBReaderJ’s problems are not it’s fault. The e-book is still in flux. There doesn’t seem to be a fixed standard and I can understand the difficulty in keeping up with it all and the work that goes into adding new compatibility to software.
I don’t think any e-book reader is ready to replace a good paperback any time soon, but I’m definitely going to keep FBReaderJ and a couple e-books loaded on my G1.
Eric Weiss is a graphic artist, Red Sox fan, and Android devotee in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter: txhoudini