With Android-based tablets proliferating, and Android smartphones getting ever larger screens (Samsung Galaxy Note, I’m looking at you), reading books on your smartphone or tablet becomes a tempting option. We’ve covered eBook apps before, such as Moon+ Reader, but the free and interesting Wattpad takes things in a different direction: Crowdsourcing.
Wattpad (the website) is an online community of readers and writers. Writers publish their books on Wattpad just to be discovered and read, and offer them for free. Readers read, comment, and share the books.
Not every book is a masterpiece, but if you are looking for some light reading absolutely for free, Wattpad might just be the ticket. And if the name sounds familiar, maybe it’s because we’ve covered Wattpad a few years back.
Picking a Book To Read
The first part of the Wattpad experience is, of course, finding something good to read. Above you can see the main selection screen, split up into different categories. The list actually goes on and on, including very specific sub-genres such as Werewolf and Vampire. In fact, much of the content I’ve seen on Wattpad seemed aimed at younger readers and teens, but that doesn’t mean grown-ups won’t find good stuff to read. In fact, one of the categories is Non-Teen Fiction. Another important category is Watty Awards 2011, featuring the most loved stories by the community. The single category view looks like this:
Each piece has its own cover, title, author, and synopsis, as well as metadata showing how long and popular it is. Length varies wildly: The second piece above is just one page long, and the third is 235 pages long. You can also change how the list is sorted, to view titles by newness, all-time popularity, most commented, “undiscovered” pieces, and even the number of people who have completed reading a piece (a very valuable metric, in my opinion).
Once you find something that looks interesting, you just need to tap it to download it and start reading.
The Reading Experience
Above you can see Wattpad in night mode, with light text on a dark background. This is not the default mode, but you can easily switch it on. And here is the initial overlay explaining how scrolling works:
Unlike the Kindle application, Wattpad can be set to automatically scroll the text. This is a bit similar to the scrolling feature found on Moon+ Reader, but not as sophisticated: There is just one scrolling mode, where new text continuously appears at the bottom of the screen. You can slow down scrolling by tapping on the screen’s left side, or accelerate it by tapping its right side. When scrolling isn’t activated, tapping the sides of the screen turns pages. There aren’t any fancy page-turn animations – it is quite straightforward.
If you’re impressed with a piece and would like to know more about it or vote for it, you can tap the menu button and tap Explore to bring up the screen you see above. This is one of the few areas of Wattpad where banners make an appearance, but I feel this is a sensible area for them, and they really don’t detract from the overall reading experience. You can easily vote for the book here, as well as read what other users thought about the piece:
If you’re the type of person who enjoys only classical, well-known works of fiction, Wattpad may not be for you. But if you like stumbling upon surprising and inspired works by virtually unknown authors, and discovering them all without paying a dime, take Wattpad for a spin – undiscovered gems await you.