Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync

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:

Fabrik covers   Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync

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:

Fabrik 2   Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync

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:

Fabrik 7   Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync

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:

Fabrik 8   Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync

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:

Fabrik 9   Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync

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:

Fabrik 13   Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync

This screenshot also shows how easy it is to highlight text, copy it, and make annotations.

Settings

Given its powerful features, Fabrik has a surprisingly simple Settings screen:

Fabrik 4   Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync

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.

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14 Comments -

I want to try it.

I have all kinds of enbooks, most of the DRM-free, and the existing eReaders were so-so. I like the fact that it can sync accross different devices. In fact, this is something that I saw from Amazon and other DRM-based services where my wife is syncing between her tablets and cell for the different ebooks she buys. I was sondering how I could do this, and this program is the solution to my question. Great !!

Erez Zukerman

That’s nice to hear! Did it work as expected?

Doc

Looks nice, but I just bought Moon+ Reader Pro (half price during their anniversary sale). Excellent and opens more formats than epub and mobi (From the description: “Support txt, html, epub, pdf, mobi, umd, fb2, chm, cbr, cbz, rar, zip [and] OPDS.”) Which makes it a PDF and comic reader as well!

Erez Zukerman

Moon+ really is very good. It doesn’t have sync though, does it?

Howard B

It didn’t when I first downloaded the free version, but I don’t like syncing software anyway…I manually copy files to and from my device or SD card, so I control exactly what files are on the device and how much space is used. If I wanted to use iTunes (or something like it), I would use my iPod Touch (which I only use for one iOS-only game at the moment).

valery

It does – with Dropbox. You can download books from your Dropbox account as well as sync reading position.

Erez Zukerman

That’s really good to know, thank you!

Mac W

Isn’t Kindle use e-ink? I loaded my Nexus 7 full with books for this summer but it was useless when it comes to read it outdoors when it was sunny. As I understand it Kindle stay the same in sun

Erez Zukerman

Yes: When you use a physical Kindle device, it has an e-ink screen which you can easily read in direct sunlight. But that’s the hardware itself – I was asking about Kindle apps, which are pieces of software available for many devices (Android, iPhone, Windows and so on).

Darl S

+1 for Doc’s comment: MoonReader+ IMO has a superset of the functionality of Fabrik, can also operate via Dropbox and syncs pagination between my Android tablet and phone.
MoonReader’s toggle between Day and Night settings works fine for me to read on either device at any time….I’m not knocking Fabrik, but what does it do that other software – MR being a prime example – doesn’t?

Re Amazon and e-readers: once I purchase a book, I want it to be mine forever (not have my rights (digital or otherwise) “rescinded” should some political situation change…). I’d be highly unlikely to use a DRM’d service like Amazon, particularly when publishers like Baen and more recently, Tor, have reasonably priced, DRM-free ebooks for purchase. And yes – if ever I did purchase from Amazon or similar? Calibre to the rescue….

Erez Zukerman

Re MoonReader – I actually didn’t know it does sync. I knew it was great, but it evolved even more since I last looked at it. So, it looks like the differences may be only cosmetic.

As for DRM: Fully, fully agreed. It’s a real shame B&N doesn’t sell their ebooks outside the States (or at least, they’re not available for me). Tor does, though, and they really are awesome.

David Burns

I use Coor Reader on my Android tablet. I tried the rest & settled for the best.

Erez Zukerman

Thank you for sharing that recommendation, David!

David

This is the one I want to try once they are done developing it: http://PureMediaSoftware.com
It filters your books to your preference to hide stuff you find offensive. Pretty cool idea.