Let’s face it: When it comes to eBooks, there is pretty much just one big name that matters. One ecosystem; one line of apps; one source of books; one maker of devices. I don’t even have to name it for you to know which corporate behemoth I’m referring to. If this makes you feel a little uneasy, I can certainly understand why (after all, I too think you should own the books you buy). And if you are one of the tiny, nonconformist minority still resisting assimilation into this oh-so-convenient eBook ecosystem, you may be interested in Fabrik. This beautiful Android app boasts a form of cloud sync, just like you-know-who. It supports .epub and .mobi books, offers multiple color themes and fonts, and can even help you hunt for book covers online. It’s not perfect, but it’s more than good enough, especially as a mobile companion for Calibre.
Book Overview and Cloud Sync
Launch Fabrik, and you’ll be greeted with the obligatory screen listing your books:
The app actually comes bundled with Alice in Wonderland and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; I’ve added the Dick Francis book myself. What was cool about it is that I didn’t have to do anything special to load the book into the app: I just dumped it in a Dropbox folder, after I granted Fabrik sync access:
This particular step, enabling online sync, was a bit more fiddly than it should’ve been. I had to retry granting Dropbox access three or four times, but eventually I got it to work. Once Fabrik latched onto my Dropbox, loading the book was trivial.
The Reading Experience: Themes and Fonts
Let me hazard a wild guess: You won’t spend the majority of your time marveling at the book selection screen. If you’ll use Fabrik to do any sort of reading at all, you will spend most of your time looking at words:
Scaled down, this looks fairly illegible. Actually, the typeface was a bit on the small side even on my phone’s 5″ 1080p screen. Still, it gives you a sense of the clean aesthetic and pleasant reading experience you get with Fabrik: No toolbars or anything much to get in your way. This is fairly similar to most Android eBook readers, such as Moon+. And just like Moon+, Fabrik lets you use your device’s volume buttons to flip pages. Of course, you can also just tap the left and right sides of the screen. Tap the middle portion of the screen, and the controls pop up:
You can increase and decrease the size of the text, switch between day and night mode, lock the orientation of the device, and switch on text-to-speech to have your device read the book aloud to you. That last feature was terrible on my Sony Xperia Z running PAC ROM. The phone just rattled off the text at an incredible pace and I completely lost track. There are no controls for the reading speed or voice, either.
Fabrik offers a rich selection of fonts:
Unfortunately, there is no way to preview what a font would look like. You can tap the font to apply it, but every font switch takes a very long time (over 10 seconds with this particular device and book). It seems that Fabrik repaginates the entire book, rather than simply apply the font to the current screen (something that ought to take a split-second).
After tweaking the theme, typeface, and font size, I ended up with this:
This screenshot also shows how easy it is to highlight text, copy it, and make annotations.
Given its powerful features, Fabrik has a surprisingly simple Settings screen:
All settings are clearly explained. You can decide whether or not you wish to use the volume keys for scrolling, hide your device’s status bar for a full-screen reading experience, control the speed of the page turn animation (or switch it off entirely), and more. A section of the Settings screen is dedicated to the Sync option: You can connect Fabrik to either Google Drive or Dropbox. Sync is not just for loading new book, but also for keeping the same position across devices. This is a key feature, since it makes it possible to start reading on a tablet (at home) and continue where you left off using a smartphone (when commuting).
Compelling, Rather Than Groundbreaking
Fabrik did not blow me away with explosive UI innovations — something I am grateful for. An eBook reader should be self-explanatory — it should give you the power you need, but without making things overly complicated or “powerful.” Fabrik offers a great deal of utility and polish, using an interface that felt familiar the first time I saw it.
Will you be giving it a spin? Are you using another eBook reader app? In fact, are you even troubled by Amazon’s utter domination of the eBook market, or do you feel that’s a good thing and we should all just use Kindle everywhere? Let me know in the comments.