Android ePub reader with good styles support?
#1  MCBastos 05-07-2020, 04:19 PM
Let me begin by explaining what I'm looking for. What I want is an ebook reader that will respect publisher's choices regarding formatting, instead of overriding them with cutesy "styles" and readability-impairing "background textures." In particular, I'm talking about fonts.

I come from a publishing background, and in the industry we use different font types (serif against sans-serif, for instance) to carry meaning. If your main text is in serif, your image captions and footnotes will be sans-serif in order to make it clear that they are not part of the main flow. I might choose to format a quote in a monospaced font, if it's supposed to be (say) a computer output, a telegram, or something typewritten. All of that is lost if the reader overrides the font type with a one-size-fits-all thing. No, I don't expect the device to have the exact same fonts that would be available on a computer, but that's what fallback fonts are for -- I expect the reader to at least respect the main fallback font styles available in HTML/CSS, that is, "serif, sans-serif, monospace, cursive, fantasy" and offer a default value for each of them. OK, "fantasy" might even be left out of the list since it could be literally anything, so a generic fallback is not very helpful. And hopefully it would offer something a bit better than a Comic Sans-like font for "cursive", but that's not a dealbreaker.

Other less obvious HTML/CSS feature support would be nice too -- like good support for margins, text alignment and floating blocks. One ebook-only feature that I think is sorely missing would per-book image size zooming -- essentially the opposite of what older PC web browsers used to offer (they zoomed the text and left the images the same size; I would like to be able to zoom the images and leave the font size untouched).

A few years ago, I thought I had found an acceptable solution in Aldiko. I even bought the Pro version. Unfortunately, after they were acquired, Aldiko moved to a subscription-based model which didn't strike me as a good deal (since, well, support seems to have disappeared -- there's no longer even a website), so I stayed with the Aldiko Classic Pro I already have -- but it's no longer maintained, so it's not a long term solution, and there's no hope of its current annoyances (like the way it squanders storage) being ever fixed.

I looked at some of the better-rated apps mentioned on the sticky thread. Bookari (the new name of Mantano Reader) had to be dismissed out of hand: too expensive for a product with no demo version. Both Moon+ and Cool Reader looked very nice, but both have also overriden the font choices in my test book. Laputa (which I remember as being rather nice from last time I was shopping for a reader, but ended up losing to Aldiko) seems to have gone the way of the dodo.

So, I'm probably missing something. Either the correct way to set up the options in Moon+ or CoolReader, or another, less-famous product that would have the desired features.

I'm not restricting my choices to free products -- as I said, I did purchase the Pro version of Aldiko -- but I'm not willing to be ripped off either.

I do use Calibre, quite a lot in fact, but I quit syncing by USB because it took too long (I have a LOT of books). Instead, I have got into the habit of downloading the books from the Calibre webserver via wi-fi. So, the ability to connect to the Calibre webserver would be highly desirable.

#2  Pajamaman 05-07-2020, 04:22 PM

#3  MCBastos 05-07-2020, 05:14 PM
Thank you for your suggestion. However, I'm under the impression that KOreader is intended for e-ink based dedicated reader devices? I forgot to mention it before, but I actually read on my phone -- main reason being, it's always with me. I might attempt to install it anyway and see how it behaves in a phone...

Addendum: I installed Koreader from the F-Droid store. I found it a really interesting product, with -- seemingly -- the kind of approach I prefer: favor the publisher's choices first, but let the user override them if needed (which does happen -- I have seen some "professionally" published ebooks with really crappy formatting...), and, specifically, they seem to have been adding HTML5 support.

Unfortunately, the one feature I really wanted -- that is, respecting the publisher's serif/sans-serif choices -- appears to still be lacking. It does respect monospaced, which I guess is something.

Still, an impressive product, with a plethora of customization options.

#4  Proximanova 05-09-2020, 04:03 PM
Somewhat related, but I find that in Moon+, italics and bolded text will NOT display in their true forms, but rather pseudo-bold and pseudo-italic, even if all the font files are present on the device.

Suppose I have Adobe Caslon Regular, Bold, Italic and Bold Italic TTF files. All of them show up separately in the font picker, not as one single Adobe Caslon font. If I choose the Regular file in the font picker, I am never going to see the true italic and bold fonts, even though my device has them, but only the faux versions created by Moon+. This is especially infuriating for DOCXs, PDFs and TXTs, where I sometimes use Moon+ in order to experiment with fonts. But it seems there is no way to get true italics or bold, unless it is applied to the entire text, which is not what you want.

This is a shame, because no other app I know of has so many customisation features for the text, menus, status bars, gestures and suchlike.

#5  mirage 05-19-2020, 05:14 PM
It's pretty remarkable what kind of variation there is between reader apps and exactly how much attention they pay to CSS specifications. Moon+ Reader Pro seems to come closest. If you're not getting what you want, make sure to check Settings > Miscellaneous > Disable CSS styles. You can switch it on and off in general, plus there are settings for 8 specific CSS categories that can be toggled, too. There's a toggle for "Use embedded fonts in book" too, but as you all mention, it doesn't appear to be precisely followed.

Has anyone emailed the dev about this? He's pretty responsive. The reader has its shortcomings and bugs, but it's by far the best overall implementation I've seen with regard to overall support of the epub format. It's probably the only reader I've used that makes a serious attempt at being a comprehensive tool.

I use Lithium and ReadEra, too, though rarely for other than certain informational purposes. ReadEra ignores CSS altogether but has the best Contents screen. Lithium at least partly renders CSS and the pages tend to look good, but it lacks features and seems to only be an occasional project for the dev. I've installed probably 10 other readers, none of which were worth bothering with at all.

#6  Tortuosit 05-21-2020, 03:55 AM
In Librera Pro you can define precise fonts for regular, bold, italic, bolditalic... Also: has user defined css, but I have no clue about this. This is what is set there: "code,pre,pre>* {white-space: pre-line;}"

#7  mirage 05-22-2020, 01:07 AM
Quote Tortuosit
In Librera Pro you can define precise fonts for regular, bold, italic, bolditalic... Also: has user defined css, but I have no clue about this. This is what is set there: "code,pre,pre>* {white-space: pre-line;}"
I've noticed that. I'd think that you can add whatever other CSS you'd like there. Kind of a nice feature. It's sort of like WordPress that way.

Librera Pro and Cool Reader have a lot of nice features, but they're more awkward in their implementation for me than Moon+ Reader's are. YMMV, obviously.

#8  MCBastos 05-25-2020, 09:51 PM
I managed to obtain nicer font formatting in Moon+... by turning on the "preview with publisher's formatting" mode, which apparently gives up on trying to render the epub by itself and loads it in Chrome. It gives quite good font support, but at the cost of other issues (images somehow became too big to fit in the screen, and also overall performance of the reader became sluggish with controls becoming unresponsive).

I'll keep looking...

#9  MCBastos 05-25-2020, 09:58 PM
I checked out Librera (didn't know this one) and it appears to do the basics (serif, sans-serif and monospaced, plus bold and italic) competently, as long as you go into the reading settings and select only "document" for styles (that is, disabling "user-defined" styles). I'll have to check on other features, but this seems promising.

#10  mirage 05-25-2020, 11:15 PM
Prompted by this and some other things here, I've been experimenting with other Android readers on my phone. Though in the past, I didn't like some of the others, I'm finding that ones I'd dismissed before have their strengths. I just read most of a book on FB Reader after starting it on Moon+ Reader Pro. There are tradeoffs, but I found it to be appealing and usable. I wasn't wanting to return to the comfortable space of Moon+. The one thing that bothered me with FB was that you can only flip pages as a whole. You can't scroll them like you can with most readers. It's as awkward as the rest as far as organization and interface goes, but I liked the way it rendered and the options it gave me. Moon+'s search and open book implementations are vastly better for me, though.

Cool Reader has an ugly faux-wood background interface, but a nicely organized and detailed set of rendering features.

I never use the publisher's formatting mode of Moon+ because the compressed line spacing is uncomfortable for me. We all have our comfort zones and typography that appeals to our eyes and sense of readability.

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