Aldiko isn't associated with a particular store, but under the Download Books section users can browse and acquire eBooks from online catalogs. The app comes with catalogs for Feedbooks, O'Reilly eBooks, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords already installed. Users can also add other stores with free or paid titles under the Custom Catalogs option.
We added ManyBooks.net using the home page as the catalog URL, and the app launched the site in our phone's default browser. Aldiko was also able to read and access the direct catalog links provided by sites like WebScriptions.net for the iPhone (via Stanza). With this link we browsed and downloaded from the Baen Free Library right in the app.
Unlike Stanza, Aldiko can't handle books protected by DRM. Though there are several sources for DRM-free eBooks, including Webscriptions and publisher Pan Macmillan, most new or bestselling titles can't be read in this app.
Other than books acquired through bookstores within the app, users can add existing DRM-free EPUB books to their library. Unlike Stanza, we didn't need to install a desktop client to transfer our books. We simply connected the phone to our computer, dragged the files to the appropriate folder on our SD Card, and ran the Import function. Though the app warns that importing is currently experimental, Aldiko recognized and added our copy of Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl without a problem.
Navigating the Library
The Home and Library screens have a familiar wooden bookshelf theme that looks good but doesn't utilize space very well. Recent reads line the top of the home screen, and users have to scroll horizontally to see them all. On the Bookshelf screen, each title gets its own shelf, and the cover thumbnails are large enough to recognize when quickly scrolling through. From the Bookshelf users can sort by title, author, download date, last read, and rating, as well as browse by author, tag, collection, or search.
The first time users open a book using Aldiko, a welcome screen explains how to navigate, adjust brightness, and utilize other functions, which we appreciated. There are multiple ways to turn pages: swipes or "flings" in all four directions, or tapping the corresponding edges. We just wish that the animation changed depending on how we swiped.
For some reason, Aldiko loads each eBook chapter separately, so each time we came to the end of one the screen would go blank until the next chapter loaded. This was particularly jarring in books with short chapters or when scrolling through the opening pages.
Despite those small drawbacks, the reading experience was as immersive as it gets on a small screen. The theme and brightness options help mitigate eye strain, and we were able to adjust the font to provide a good number of lines without making the text unreadably small.
Aldiko offers a wide range of customization options such as typeface, colors/themes, and layout and navigation. Users can pick from 9 fonts and 20 text sizes ranging from 10 to 30 points. Line spacing, margins, and text alignment (left, right, and justify) are also subject to user control. There are only two themes--Day and Night--but users can choose from dozens of colors and shades across the spectrum for background, text, highlights, and link color.
Aldiko excels where it matters most, offering a great reading experience. We just wish that it read formats beyond EPUB.