RobotoSoft: Programs for reading books, part one

Choose a reading program for Android – a smartphone. The material will consist of several parts. In the first part, we will look at three different programs and also talk about the pros and cons of screen reading.



About reading on smartphones

As I've said more than once, I'm not a very big screen reader fan. Especially from a small smartphone screen, and even while shaking in public transport. It is much better to use a special reader with an e-ink screen. Better yet, read paper books. On the other hand, it is inconvenient to carry a reader with an e-ink screen with you everywhere, and breaking it is as easy as shelling pears. But the smartphone is always at hand.

Besides, every year reading from smartphones becomes more and more comfortable. First of all, I must say thanks to the diagonal and the quality of the screens of modern phones. Forgive me those who like to read from 'dialers' with java support, but having to break your eyes, peering at a tiny screen with poorly adjusted brightness, is a sheer punishment that will discourage anyone from reading. And many old smartphones with a grainy Amoled screen, acid colors and an overestimated minimum brightness were also not suitable for comfortable reading.

Secondly, reading programs played a role, which allow you to choose a background and text font that is pleasing to the eye, support different book formats and help you easily navigate even the largest electronic library. In addition, thanks to them, e-books have become similar to their printed counterparts. They now have a 'paper' texture, familiar covers and a way of paging with a 'swipe' familiar from childhood.

Thirdly, an accessible mobile Internet, with which you can download a book to your device anytime and anywhere. If there is an unplanned pause, then nothing will prevent you from spending your free time reading, even if you did not take care of downloading the desired book to your smartphone in advance.

OPDS catalogs

Everyone has their own method of finding books. Someone prefers bookstores, someone reads reviews on book forums, and someone trusts only the advice of friends. And everyone downloads books to the device in their own way. Some people prefer official e-book stores, others use free ('pirated') e-libraries, and still others go to their favorite torrent tracker or Google the title of the book.

In my opinion, the most convenient way to search, buy or download books for free are OPDS catalogs.

According to Wikipedia, OPDS (Open Publication Distribution System) is an electronic syndication format catalog based on Atom and HTTP. OPDS catalogs allow you to read, sort and distribute electronic publications. OPDS catalogs use existing or emerging open standards and conventions to facilitate interoperability.

For you and me, this means that the reader will receive from the server not just an HTML page with a list of books, but a special directory in which it will be easy to view books according to the specified criteria.

The quality OPDS catalog is a real virtual library with an intelligent and unobtrusive librarian. Each book can be removed from the shelf, examined its cover, read the annotation. If you are interested in the author, then literally in one click you can go to the virtual shelf, where all his books are collected, and at the same time get acquainted with his biography. If the book you have chosen is part of a series, then you will immediately be shown all other related works. And all this – from the screen of an ordinary smartphone, quickly, simply and conveniently, without wasting traffic and time.


A bookshelf is a must-have for almost any modern reading room. It may be amusing for e-book readers, but for many people there is a huge difference between a book and a text file. And they are not ready to exchange a bookcase with their favorite books for a faceless list of file names. For many people, the very opportunity to look around their home library, smile at the memories associated with this or that book, take it off the shelf and read a couple of paragraphs is important. Or even just admire the beautiful book covers, many of which have been familiar since childhood.

The developers of readers understand this very well. And every year virtual bookshelves are becoming more and more like real ones, and books are taking on a familiar look. In my opinion, this is absolutely correct. Reading is not just a process of obtaining information. It is also a special mood and emotions. Which are made up of such simple things.

'Fine' tuning

Not so long ago, it never occurred to anyone to think about the type of font, the whiteness of the page and the width of the margins in the book. I didn't have to choose anyway – the book is what it is. In the best case scenario, one could choose between a cheap paperback edition or a full-size version, with slightly better paper quality and larger font sizes.

Since e-books became fashionable, a lot of aesthetes have appeared among readers who refuse to read text written in not the most successful, in their opinion, font, or books with an unusual shade of 'paper' background. Give them their favorite color and favorite size – otherwise they will not “break their eyes” over this opus. Fortunately, the appearance of the book now depends not only and not so much on the text file itself, but on its interpretation by the reader program. Which is exactly what formats the text of the book in the way you want.

On the other side of the scale are less demanding readers who just want to open a book and start reading, rather than delving into the settings of fonts, color schemes and backgrounds. But at the same time, they also expect to see something more or less like a book page, and not a file open in Word.

Each reader has its own way of displaying books 'out of the box' and allows you to manually adjust formatting parameters in different ways. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' approach, everyone is free to choose the option that suits him the most.

Work with text

Another advantage of e-books is convenient work with text. Of course, in a paper book, you could leave a bookmark on the desired page or write a note in the margins. But in electronic literature, working with text has moved to a different level.

Those who read literature in a foreign language will appreciate the ability to translate an incomprehensible word in one click or find its definition in a dictionary. People who mainly read educational, not fiction, will probably like the opportunity to highlight the text with a marker, add their comments to a complex paragraph, or correct a typo found in the text. Almost every book lover will appreciate the ability to quickly bookmark or mark a quote you like.


One of the most famous e-readers on both computers and smartphones, tablets and even special e-books. Using book terms, it can be called an ageless classic of the genre that will remain relevant for a long time.

Its creators clearly have their own vision of the ideal reading program, and that is what they bring to life. Sometimes it seems to me that from time to time the developers announce a brainstorming session, during which everyone proposes one or another idea. And then all the collected ideas are divided into two categories, 'necessary for reading' and 'all the rest'. The first ones are invented in detail and eventually added to the program, but the second ones are noted without looking.

In a sense, this is the most balanced reader. On the one hand, it has a lot of different settings and useful functions. On the other hand, all of them are not striking, and the beginner, with all the desire, does not threaten to get confused in its capabilities. Moreover, the application interface is extremely simple. The developers seem to emphasize that the main thing in the reader is the ability to read books, but it itself should not distract from reading, calluses the eyes with unnecessary buttons, sliders and other interface elements.

The reader is constantly evolving, and although several really useful functions have appeared in it in recent years, not all of the changes have pleased me.

All the main points will be explained at the first start of the program, during a short 'tutorial'. How to turn pages and turn off full screen mode, how to set up sync with the cloud, where you can find new books and what formats FBReader allows you to read in general. Then you can go straight to reading, and most users will not even have a thought about getting into the tinctures and urgently 'tweak' something. But as soon as the reader needs something else, additional features of the application will be at his service, and all the necessary functions are always at arm's length.

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I like this approach in many ways. Each of us has our own ideas about beauty, our own tastes and our needs. But not everyone can describe in detail all these tastes and preferences right away. And when the application from the very first minutes forces you to manually set a bunch of different parameters and asks a dozen questions, most people simply do not know what to choose and what to answer. And here you can take your time to think about what else is missing in life, and slowly customize the appearance of books for yourself.

Home screen, bookshelf

There is no separate main screen in the program. In fact, it is the screen with the currently open book. In its upper part there are buttons for offline and online libraries, which replace the bookshelf familiar to other readers. However, recently the bookshelf has appeared as a separate plug-in (plug-in), which we will talk about a little later. The screens of the libraries are not connected with each other in any way, they do not even have a separate item to go to the current book, only the 'Back' button.

The offline library screen is a list of sections. From here, you can navigate to your favorites and most recently opened books, view a list of genres, authors, book series or titles, and use search or the built-in file manager.

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In my opinion, the file manager in the reader is a relic of the past, from which there is little use. Once upon a time, inevitably, it was necessary to manually scatter books into folders and subfolders in order to put at least some order in a large library. But now any high-quality e-book initially contains all the necessary information for automatic sorting: title, author, series, genre, and so on. And any reader will sort your library of books for you.

On the other hand, it's a matter of taste. Moreover, many, in addition to fiction, also read textbooks, scientific and technical literature, store various documentation on their smartphones, and so on. And this is where the file manager really comes in handy, because it will be much easier to find a text file with it than to remember the name of the author of the textbook.

FBReader recently has a new bookshelf that can be downloaded as a separate module. True, whether it is worth doing is a separate question. It actually does not add any new functions, its only purpose is to present your library in the form familiar to other readers. Previously, developers avoided such 'niceties' like fire, believing that all these bells and whistles have nothing to do with reading. And at the moment it is very noticeable that they have little experience in such matters.

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The main disadvantage of the new bookshelf is that it is simply not very beautiful and does not at all match the style with the interface of the program itself. That is, in fact, the module does not fulfill its only function, lowering the level of convenience, but giving nothing in return. The second unpleasant moment – in the module, unlike the reader itself, there is an advertisement, which also does not add points to it. And the cost of turning it off noticeably bites and amounts to 150 rubles. It's worth paying for this only if you want to support the developers – this plugin itself is clearly not worth this amount.

In general, the idea is good, but the implementation is still lame. If a beautiful bookshelf is really important, it's best to look towards other programs. And if you do not see much sense in it, then be content with the standard offline library screen.

Network library is a list of OPDS directories. It initially contains both paid and free book catalogs, in addition, the catalog you need can always be added manually. There is also a search in all available catalogs, which is very convenient.

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For my taste, the images of the books in the general list are a little too small, it is difficult to see the picture on the cover. Obviously, this was done to save space, because the caption to the image usually takes no more than one line. But I would still prefer some kind of compromise solution, because in this form there is practically no sense from the covers.

On the other hand, nothing prevents you from clicking on the book you are interested in to see the picture in more detail, and at the same time read the annotation, check the file format and find out if there are other books in the same series.

In general, support for OPDS catalogs is very good; it is easy and convenient to use the network library.

Reading of books

The display mode has changed slightly in recent years. Previously, the toolbar at the top of the screen was displayed all the time, now in full screen mode, only the text of the book and a barely noticeable reading progress indicator are displayed. You can call the toolbar with a tap in the center of the screen, but along with it, a voluminous 'slider' of the progress indicator will appear at the bottom of the page. And if in portrait mode it is not scary, then in landscape mode it becomes simply impossible to read.

The default background is a sepia texture, which resembles a darkened book page in color. You can turn the page using a horizontal swipe, tap on the edge of the screen or using the volume buttons. Initially, a simple animation of the 'shift' type is set for turning pages. Subjectively, with the speed of animation, the developers overdid it a little, constant flickering over time irritates and tires the eyes. However, I prefer to use a swipe, and in this case, the page flips with the speed of a finger.

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The brightness is adjusted using a vertical swipe along the left edge of the screen. This is much more convenient than calling the status bar shutter and, moreover, going into the smartphone settings section.

A long tap on the text turns on the selection mode. Interestingly, the selection is not reset even if you flip the pages back and forth several times.

The selected text can be copied to the clipboard, shared using one of the third-party programs, found in the dictionary (the reader will ask you to install ColorDict) or highlight the selected text with color. Three different styles can be used for selection. You can change the name and color of styles at any time.

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As for the dictionary, it is very convenient when working with foreign literature. And it is able not only to show the translation of a word from several well-known dictionaries at once, but also to play an audio recording of its correct pronunciation. But as a Russian explanatory dictionary, it leaves much to be desired. However, in this capacity it is unlikely that anyone will need it.

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The menu icon at the top of the screen provides access to the standard functions of the reader: table of contents, bookmark manager, text search, night mode, screen orientation and font sizes, and more. Everything is done simply, understandably and conveniently.


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We explain to the program where to look for book files and fonts, as well as where to save automatically downloaded books.

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An extremely interesting opportunity, which, if memory serves, appeared about a year ago. When synchronization is enabled, all books are uploaded to Google Drive and appear on the personal page of the FBReader book network. At the same time, the place where you finished reading is remembered. Now you can easily start reading a book on your smartphone and then continue on your computer or tablet.

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Reading settings

In this section, you can return the menu bar that disappeared from full-screen mode, configure the display of the smartphone status bar, enable text display in two columns, and more.

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Text settings. The type and properties of the font, its size and style, spacing, alignment and more. Here you can enable or disable hyphenation mode. Particularly fastidious readers can separately set the CSS -style of each element of the book: title, chapter title, epigraph, annotation, footnotes and more. True, you have to work hard – there are many options available.

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Colors and wallpaper

Customize the colors of all elements, from hyperlinks to search results.

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Adjusts the offsets from the edges of the screen and the choice of the distance between the columns.

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Scroll bar

The location and type of the scroll bar, its height, color, display of labels by chapter and battery charge.

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Flipping pages

Page turning settings. The most interesting thing here is the ability to install three-dimensional animation. It looks very nice and I like it much more than the standard 'shift'. Other settings include the choice of animation speed and page turning with the volume buttons.

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Choice of an explanatory dictionary and a dictionary-translator. Setting the text selection mode.

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Customizing the display of covers and illustrations

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Exit menu

Customize the menu that appears when you press the telephone 'Back' button. Of the useful points, it is worth noting the ability to return to the last book and links to the last opened pages.

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FBReader has been and remains one of the most popular reading programs. And she is clearly not going to give up her positions. So, over the past year, it has acquired a separate bookshelf and cloud support, which many readers are very happy about. True, there is a feeling that the developers themselves do not yet quite understand in which direction to further develop their project.



The eternal rival of FBReader. The debate about which program is better is eternal, but the fans of both readers are not going to give up.

FBReader diligently hides its face, putting the book itself at the forefront. CoolReader does not hesitate to showcase its own style. And this does not interfere with the enjoyment of reading – rather, on the contrary. True (fans will forgive me), outwardly the reader is made simple. But such deliberate simplicity also has its own charm.

Home screen, bookshelf

The main screen of the program is stylized as a bookcase. The first shelf contains the book you are currently reading. To the right is the menu icon.

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The second shelf contains the last open books. A long tap on any book allows you to edit its title, author's name or series, add an assessment to it, and also mark it as 'Reading', 'Read' or 'For Reading'.

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Below are the shortcuts for the file system partitions, their exact number depends on the smartphone model. Tap on any shortcut launches a simple file manager, with which you can find books downloaded using some other program and not automatically included in the library.

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The next shelf is occupied by library labels: 'Search', 'Authors', 'Titles', 'Series', 'By Rating', 'To Read', 'Reading', 'Read'. In some categories, such as Authors, books are organized into folders. Others are represented by a single list. The left side contains information about the book (author, title, file type and size), the right side contains the cover image.

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The lowest shelf is reserved for digital libraries – that is, all the same OPDS catalogs. They are less convenient to use than in FBReader. It would seem that there should not be a significant difference, because no matter what program you open the directory, the information in it will not change. In practice, there is a difference, and significant. Maybe in order to just download a particular book, it doesn't matter, but just to 'wander' around the library and look for interesting books, CoolReader is not suitable. And he is not too eager to load book covers, and he does not always show detailed information about the book. What is the reason is a mystery to me.

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You can probably find fault with the appearance of an open book too. But for some reason I don't want to at all. And it seems that there is nothing special here either, the developers just did that they put a simple texture as the background. That's just the feeling of an open book because of this is completely different. And soon it begins to seem that you are holding a paper book, and not just a smartphone with an open text file. Even the rather voluminous toolbar located at the top of the screen does not interfere. Another would be the rustle of the turning pages – and the effect would be complete.

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Separately, it is worth noting how the footnotes are organized. Whereas in most programs a footnote is just a hyperlink to the last page of a book, in CoolReader they are displayed at the bottom of the page, like in a real book. That, on the one hand, is beautiful, but on the other hand, it is also convenient.

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In landscape mode, CoolReader also looks quite decent. The toolbar with menu icons is shifted to the left edge of the screen.

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You can flip through the pages either with a swipe or by clicking on the edges of the screen or using the volume buttons. As in FBReader, a rather simple animation is set for swiping. But it looks, in my personal opinion, more interesting – here the whole book 'leaves' sideways, while in the last reading room one sheet ran over another.

Moreover, there are as many as nine 'tap-zones', to which you can assign both swiping and other actions. And in addition to the standard tapa, a long one can also be used. So you can use all the main functions of the reader simply with the help of taps, which is extremely convenient. For example, to switch to night mode, you do not need to go into the menu at all – you just need to perform a long way along the top of the screen.

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The number of read and remaining pages is displayed in the upper right corner, near the toolbar. Slightly higher are the buttons for return, table of contents, search, settings and bookmark manager.

The search is implemented in the same way as in 'Notepad' Windows – by default, the reader searches for the entered word further down the text, and to find it in the part of the book already read, you need to put a special checkmark.

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A complete list of functions can be displayed using the menu icon. First of all, I will note the possibility of auto-scrolling, in which pages are refreshed in a 'wave'. In my opinion, this is much more convenient than the standard scrolling in such cases. And the eyes are less tired, and the scrolling is easier to keep up with.

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Another useful icon is 'Previous Book'. Those who read educational literature sometimes have to switch between two reference books, which can be done almost instantly using this icon.

There is also a reading aloud mode, but who will use it is a mystery to me. Better then download the audiobook.

And, of course, there is also a text selection mode. Moreover, it is implemented just fine. Those who often highlight text on a smartphone screen know very well that it is rarely possible to accurately hit the right place on the screen with a marker on the first try. Unless, of course, you use a stylus. The CoolReader developers took this into account and placed special sliders for the left and right markers at the bottom of the screen, with which you can adjust their position without long poking your finger at the screen.

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The selected text can be copied to the clipboard, translated using a dictionary (the reader will ask you to install Fora Dictionary), found on other pages of the book, added to favorites and sent by mail.

In the bookmark manager, you can either add a new bookmark or view existing ones. In addition, it also displays all selected text fragments and corrections made by the reader. It is worth noting that all this information is displayed separately for each book. There is no single menu of bookmarks, which is not very convenient when working with different literature.

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If in FBReader the settings are made in the form of a standard system menu, then in CoolReader this section looks a little more interesting. How interesting a long list of functions can be, of course.

The settings menu is divided into tabs, and the list itself is made in the same corporate style 'a la bookshelf'. Each item has a title that explains the picture and current meaning.


This tab is used to configure the type of text. Type, size, weight and anti-aliasing of the font, line spacing, curling, space and other subtleties. Of the interesting points, it is worth noting the dictionary of spaces, which exists separately for each language.

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Advanced formatting options for anything and everything. As in FBReader, you can set a bunch of different parameters for each text element. Another question, is there any point in doing all this?

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Reading mode

Here you can turn on full-screen mode, set the text highlighting colors, select a background texture, set up paging animation (though there are only two options), set the indentation value, and more.

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In this tab, you can customize the control of the reader in detail both with the help of gestures and with the help of telephone buttons. The possibilities are surprisingly many. Moreover, for each 'tap-zone' or button, you can assign two actions at once – for a long and single press.

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Application interface

General program settings. Choosing a theme and system language, setting the highlighting, choosing the size of the covers and the dictionary used, and more.

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A very curious reader. Someone will only shrug their shoulders at the sight of her, while someone else will never want to use anything else. To be honest, it seems very strange to me that she is constantly being compared to FBReader. Indeed, in fact, they are completely different. FBReader is a professional butler in a tailcoat, he will do his job accurately and quickly, without bothering him with his presence and rarely catching his eye. But CoolReader is a kind of 'your guy' who will gladly help you anywhere and in anything. While working, he will tell a couple of jokes, immediately switch to 'you' and accidentally knock over a couple of chairs – but is it worth it to be angry with him if the result is worth it? In the end, having a beautiful tailcoat is not the main thing.



The guys from PocketBook know how to make good e-books. And also – how to make not very good cheap tablets. Recently, they have also taken up reading programs, and here the result turned out to be quite interesting, although not entirely unambiguous.

While most of the existing readers are trying to balance between beauty and functionality, they decided in PocketBook that only one thing really matters – readability. You can make any sacrifices for it, because if the user is really comfortable reading in such a program, then he will not think about any additional 'gadgets'.

Main screen

The main screen of the program (aka bookshelf) is divided into three tabs: 'All books', 'Recently read' and 'Favorites'. Switching between them is done using a horizontal swipe.

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At the bottom of the screen there is an icon for switching modes (thumbnails and a list) and sorting books (title, author, adding time). It turned out simple, but at the same time convenient.

A horizontal swipe from the left edge of the screen brings up a side menu. With its help, you can open the built-in file manager, go to the PocketBook store page, open the page with a list of OPDS catalogs and configure Adobe DRM.

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Support for OPDS catalogs is implemented on a C grade with a plus – from time to time formatting starts to 'jump', and the size of the covers is not always well chosen. But in general, it is tolerable – you can use it.

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Reading of books

Here the reader leaves behind a double impression. On the one hand, it contains a lot of interesting and unusual finds. On the other hand, the developers who ate the dog on books with screens based on electronic ink clearly did not take into account the peculiarities of reading on smartphones.

First of all, it is worth noting the option of displaying the book, which is offered to us 'out of the box'. White background and black letters are perhaps the worst option for a bright smartphone display. It is convenient to read on E-ink screens in this mode – the white color there is not quite white, and the black is not so black at all. And there is no forced illumination. The situation is different on smartphone readers, and most people prefer to use a less contrasting scheme.

The second point is the font size, which is quite large by default. Of course, the size of screens grows more and more every year, but they are still far from the size of six-inch readers. As a result, on HTC One (M8), with this size of text, I have about three sentences. It feels like I’m reading a book with a magnifying glass.

But the developers did not skimp on animation – by default they use 3D animation of page turning, in which the page can be pulled in an arbitrary direction by the corner. It is beautiful, but how much is it necessary? These effects are used to give an e-book a 'papery' look. And in this case, it is better to start with a normal color scheme and the optimal size of letters, and not with special effects.

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On the contrary, everything is excellent with the management. The screen is divided into four asymmetric tap zones, one of which is reserved for gestures. The central zone is assigned to call the settings wheel, the remaining two are to turn pages.

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Gesture support is an interesting, although not necessary for everyone. It works as follows. First you need to touch the 'tap-zone' in the lower left corner of the screen. And then draw a sign on the screen to which you can assign some action.
There are quite a lot of options, finding something useful is not difficult. As a result, with a competent selection of gestures, even on the largest smartphone, the reader can be easily operated with one hand.

The second interesting point is the 'control wheel', on which the icons of all other functions are located. And which, again, can be easily used, even holding the smartphone with one hand.

The first icon on the right side of the wheel allows you to adjust the font type and size. Conveniently, the size changes are visible on the screen immediately, there is no need to switch between the settings size and the text of the book.

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PocketBook-24 RobotoSoft: Programs for reading books, part onePocketBook-23

The next icon is a color scheme selection. Four options are available: black on light beige, white on black, black on gray, and black on white. Sparsely, but better than nothing.

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PocketBook-20 RobotoSoft: Programs for reading books, part onePocketBook-19

The bottom icon is responsible for working with text. After clicking on it, an additional toolbar appears above the text of the book. There are three types of text selection: highlighter, comment, and screenshot.

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The top icon on the left side of the wheel is responsible for adjusting the screen brightness. You can trust auto-correction, or you can set it manually.

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Slightly below is the icon for switching reading modes: standard mode with page turning, vertical scrolling mode and two-page mode for landscape orientation. Alas, the smartphone screen is clearly too small for this mode. Although this is a matter of taste – for some, the tiny screens of the old 'dialers' were enough.

The last icon on the 'control wheel' hides the screen orientation setting, font type setting (serif and non-serif), as well as night and full screen icons.

PocketBook-16 RobotoSoft: Programs for reading books, part onePocketBook-15

A read indicator is displayed under the 'control wheel'. By tapping on it, you can 'rewind' the text of the book to the desired page. To go back, just click on the 'back' arrow in the left corner of the screen.

You can highlight a word in the text with a long tap. Using the menu that appears, you can mark it with a marker, find it in the dictionary or Google.

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PocketBook-30 RobotoSoft: Programs for reading books, part onePocketBook-29

The icon in the form of three lines at the top of the screen is the table of contents icon. Its appearance is shown in the screenshot below. From the table of contents, you can go to the book information screen or to the notes. Pay attention to how the comments written to the text are displayed. They may not be real marginal notes, but they are implemented well. And the screenshot function is also useful – you can save a diagram or an image in your notes in one click.

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PocketBook-11 RobotoSoft: Programs for reading books, part onePocketBook-10

There is a search icon in the upper right corner of the screen. Searching the text takes literally a second, after which the total number of matches is displayed. When searching, an additional panel appears on the screen with the buttons 'Back' and 'Forward'. It can be freely moved around the screen, and it does not interfere with viewing search results.


All settings of the reader are divided into three sections.

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In this section, you can select the colors of the custom color scheme, adjust the indents, line spacing, and some other parameters.


Here you can set the backlight settings, select the size of icons, animation of page turning, change the order of icons in the context menu and specify the mode of operation of the volume buttons.


Select the language and edit the metadata of the current book.


A very curious, but at the same time, controversial reader. On the one hand, there is a convenient control system and a pretty good bookshelf. On the other hand, there are strange settings out of the box and the minimum number of settings. She has good prospects, but at the present time she is not suitable for everyone.

To be continued…


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