Smartphones and tablets are versatile devices with countless purposes, and with the right app, a device with a decent screen size can easily serve as a great eBook reader. While there are many Android apps available for the purpose, Aldiko is by far the favorite of most (including us), and it even lets you sync your books as well as reading position across devices with Aldiko Sync. Though that doesn’t mean that there’s no room in the market for other alternatives – after all, reading is a personal experience and the more choices there are, the better. Readmill is one such option that – after gaining a significant amount of popularity on iOS – has recently made its way to Google’s smartphone and tablet platform. Optimized to work well on both phones and tablets, the app lets you easily import your eBooks into it and read them on the go. Also, it’s backed by a web service of its own that keeps all your books as well as your last reading position synced across all your devices with the app installed, and even on any device with a modern web browser via its website. In what follows, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at this app and all its features on Android.
Since Readmill is a web service that syncs across devices, you’ll need to sign up for it in order to use it. The sign up process is super-fast and easy, thanks to Facebook integration, but you may also use your email address for the purpose. Once signed in, you will land on the empty All Books view.
As you can see, the app offers you to import books from your device, or explore more ways to add them. While you won’t find any bookstore integration for purchasing books, Readmill does hook you up with a collection of free, public-domain books that you can browse and download from right within the app via Feedbooks. There are countless classics available there, and you just need to hit the ‘Add’ button next to a title to import it to your library and start reading it. Lastly, you can also add books by uploading them to the service’s website and syncing the Android app with it via the menu option (more on it below). If you have used the app on iOS and synced books with it, syncing will also bring them to your Android device.
If you have any DRM-free eBooks in ePub format on your device, tapping ‘Import books from device’ will automatically list them all up, allowing you to choose the ones to import by using the check boxes. Tap Import when ready, and they’ll all become available in the app.
Readmill has a beautifully minimal, full-screen reading interface, with great emphasis on font rendering, and no UI to get in your way. When you start reading a book, you can choose whether you want to read it in public (default) or private mode by hitting the button in the center. Readmill has a social side to it as well, and your public reading progress becomes visible to your followers on its network, so make sure to set the Private mode on when you start reading that copy of Fifty Shades of Gray you’ve been hiding.
Tapping anywhere while reading brings up the page number display and a seek bar at the bottom, as well as some handy controls on the top. There’s the back button on the left to go to the app’s main page while on the right, you’ll see buttons for Table of Contents, Display settings, Highlights (the feature doesn’t seem to be available yet) and Reading progress.
Display settings let you choose your screen’s brightness level, select from a choice of five font sizes, and toggle between day and night modes. The night mode can come really handy on AMOLED displays even in the daytime in order to save battery. Unfortunately, there are no options for choosing custom text and background colors, a different font, margin size, line spacing, or auto brightness. Also, there’s no option for turning the screen timeout on or off for the app while you’re reading.
The right-most button in the top bar is for letting you keep an eye on your reading progress. Though in my testing, it showed the ‘Time spent’ and ‘Time left’ entries empty, and I’m not sure if it was because of not having spent a lot of time reading that book in the app, or if the functionality is broken. Either way, tapping ‘Finish reading’ offers you to add a review of your own for the book, that your followers will be able to see when they check out the book. You can also recommend it to them by starring the book. Tap ‘Finish Reading’ again and it’ll be marked as finished, showing stats such as you your starting time, time spent on reading it (didn’t show up for me), and finishing time.
The books that you’ve finished reading show up in the Finished section on the app’s main screen. There’s also a Reading section that is supposed to show the books that you have started reading but haven’t finished yet, but it didn’t show up anything for me in my testing despite several attempts. Also, the app is supposed to show progress bars for books that you are reading based on how much you’ve read, and also change the color of their entries in the list, but that didn’t happen for me in my testing.
The menu on the app’s main screen lets you sync your books and reading progress with Readmill’s web service so that everything stays in sync across all your devices and on the web. Syncing books worked just fine, and all the books that I added to the app from my phone showed up on the service’s website pretty swiftly. You can also access the app’s settings from the menu, where you can view some basic info on your user profile, tap it to open your full profile in the browser, access the book import tool again, view support articles and the service’s blog, get in touch with the developers, learn more about the app and the service behind it, and sign out of your account.
Readmill is a very promising app and its web service and built-in cross-device syncing definitely makes it one of the top dogs in the genre. However, it isn’t without its shortcomings and bugs, some of which we have already discussed above. Another bug that I noticed was that when importing ebooks locally, the app force-closed after the import process was finished, though the books were all imported successfully. Also, a feature that I used to rely heavily in Aldiko seems to be missing – scrolling through book pages using the volume up and volume down keys. Still, it’s a new app on Android and we’re hoping that the developers will consider addressing these shortcomings in future updates.
The app works on both smartphones and tablets running any recent versions of Android from 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or later, and is available for free at Google Play Store.