Aldiko is a new e-book reader for Android. It is not the first reader for the Android, but it is the first one that has actually stayed on my G1. I asked the developer the origins of the name, and he indicated that it is derived loosely from the Swahili word for book andiko.
Aldiko comes with Sun Tzu’s Art of War and H. G. Well’s The Invisible Man pre-loaded. However, you can browse and load any of the books available on Feedbooks right from the application. The site contains thousands of public domain and creative commons works.
Just so you know where I am coming from, I have used a lot of tools for reading e-books going back to at least my Palm V (and maybe my PalmPilot Personal). On the Palm I used primarily iSilo and eReader (though I did use MobiPocket when it was the only option for DRM books). I have also played with Stanza a little bit on my wife’s iPod Touch. A few years back I received a Sony PRS-500 and recently upgraded to a PRS-700.
Since one of the key features is the ability to download books directly to the phone, let’s start with that. I started right off by downloading Content by Cory Doctorow, since that is what I am currently reading on my 700. It was very easy to find and download.
To download the book:
- Tap Download Books from the main screen.
- Tap Free Public Domain Books.
- Tap Authors.
- Tap first letter of Author’s name and scroll through list.
- Tap on Author.
- Scroll through Author’s titles.
- Tap the desired title.
The application displays a thumbnail of the cover, and you can scroll down to see a description:
- Tap Download.
Your phone begins to download the book in the background. Once the download is complete, you will get a notice, and it appears in your bookshelf.
If a listed title has already been downloaded, it appears highlighted in green. And at any point you can jump to the home page by bringing up the menu and tapping Home.
While reading your book, You can go to the next page by swiping left across the screen (like turning the page of a book) or taping on the right side of the screen. To go to the previous page you swipe right tap on the left side of the screen, You can control the brightness by swiping up and down the left edge of the screen. You can switch around these options in a number of ways to best suite you preference, but I think most will like the defaults. A small progress bar at the bottom of the screen display how far you are in the current chapter.
From the reading screen, you can open a menu with a number of options:
- Content displays the chapters defined in the book.
- Bookmarks allows you to define and use bookmarks in the book.
- Show Progress displays the section you are in, a thumbnail of the cover and a bar displaying the overall progress and the progress within the chapter.
- Day/Night toggles between a day time theme (Dark Brown text on Tan by defualt) and a Night them (White text on Black).
- Settings has a number of options I will detail below.
- More displays the options for Help (list of navigation keys), Home to return to the Home screen, and Share which opens an e-mail so you can recommend the book (and Aldiko) to a friend.
- Color Theme. You can set the Font Color, Background Color and Link Color for two themes; Day and Night.
- Font & Layout. You can choose the Font Family including Arial, Georgia (default), Courier, Times New Roman and Verdana. You can also choose the point size and weight (Light, Normal, Bold and Bolder). You can select the Line Spacing (1-3, defaults to double-spaced which I did not like) and the horizontal and vertical margin.
- Navigation. You can change the navigation keys, the page turn speed and choose whether to display the progress bar.
- Brightness. You can set the brightness, and choose the shortcut swipe to set brightness while reading.
I am really impressed by this release of the application. It was announced and released June 2nd and has the feel of a very mature application. They seem genuinely interested in hearing feedback from their customers. From the home screen menu you can select Share which dispalays the option to Tell us what you think. Choosing this option sends an e-mail to the company. I sent a message and received a response in less than 2 hours. At this point I have exchanged a number of e-mail messages with the lead developer.
I did have a few issues. I do not like full justification on such a small screen. Full justification is a formatting technique that creates smooth left and right margins. In printed material this can look nice, and sophisticated publishing tools use hyphenation and put micro spaces between letters to make it less noticeable. With the small real estate, and only the ability to add space within words you get this:
Notice the large space on the fourth line of the first paragraph and the claustrophobic spacing of the second line of the second paragraph.
The Feedbooks tie in is great. It provides access to a fabulous selection of public domain and creative commons works, but you have no access to newer copyrighted works. In addition, there is currently no way to import your own ePub files. This prevents you from adding other free works like the ones you can find at the Baen Free Library. In response to my question they did say they were working on adding that. To quote the developer:
We are taking some time to carefully think through the overall user experience to make sure the import process is as intuitive and painless as possible.
Kind of hard to argue with logic like that. And, frankly, using this application it becomes quickly apparent those are not just words. It is very well designed.