Oyster on Android: How does it fare?
June 18, 2014 | 10:25 am
By Juli Monroe
Pretty well, actually.
As you may remember, I selected Scribd over Oyster in large part because Scribd had an Android version from day one. (Scribd being almost a dollar a month less may also have had something to do with it.) Now that Oyster has released an Android app, I paid my $9.95 to resubscribe and try it out. I’ve read most of a book in the Oyster app, enough to have some opinions.
Oyster said they didn’t just port the iOS app to Android, and I believe them. The app looks good and performs smoothly. They say they’ve designed it to be seamless on all device sizes, and I can’t test that (only having one Android device), but I don’t doubt it. Feel free to comment if you’ve tested it on multiple Android devices. I’ve run into a few glitches with keeping my place in a book. It’s inexplicably backed up an entire chapter once and a page or two another time. Every ebook app I’ve used has done this before, so it’s not a big deal.
The top margin could be lowered a bit. As you can see, the tops of letters are sometimes cut off. It’s slightly distracting, but you get used to it.
They continue to use the Themes from the iOS app, which are pre-defined color and font combinations. I prefer being able to make my own selections, but the Crosby theme uses a serif font I like and a sepia background, so it works well enough for me.
They have a new theme, Wythe, which is supposed to be better for reading in direct sunlight. I took my Nook outside this morning, and it wasn’t bad. Still, it’s not going to replace eInk as the best way to read outside.
Here’s an oddity I noticed when I switched themes. While Wythe has an off-white background, when you turn pages, the screen flashes to sepia. I checked, and all the themes do that, which is one of the reasons I stuck with Crosby. Since it already has a sepia background, you don’t notice page turns as much. I suspect that’s a bug that will get sorted out in the next version. It doesn’t happen in iOS.
The above screen shot demonstrates one of my biggest gripes with the app. If they built it from scratch in Android, why didn’t they code it to use immersive mode on KitKat? I’m so used to full-screen reading that I find the top and bottom bands annoying and distracting. However, if your device uses Jelly Bean or earlier, you won’t notice.
The other big gripe is font size adjustment. The screen shot above shows the fourth largest font size. (I can’t even begin to read the three smaller ones.) Size four is manageable, but my aging eyes would prefer the letters just a touch larger. However, this is ridiculous.
A bit more fine tuning would be nice.
For those of you who are sticklers for justification, Oyster uses ragged right. I prefer Scribd’s full justification, and I think it would be nice if both apps allowed readers to choose. I think ragged right just looks weird, especially when you blow the font up to the largest size. Others think full looks weird, so it’s personal preference.
Nate at Digital Reader pointed out a difference between the iOS and Android app I had noted but not really paid attention to. The iOS version has the ability to highlight and take notes. The Android version does not. I rarely use that feature, however some of you rely on it, so be warned.
Another minor, but interesting difference. The iOS version gives you pages left in the chapter and estimated time left to finish the chapter. The Android version gives you percentage of the book finished and number of pages left in the chapter. I personally find the Android information more useful.
Minor (and even major) gripes aside, the Android version of Oyster is perfectly readable, and I expect it to improve with each successive version. Which leads to the obvious question. Scribd or Oyster?
Honestly, I think it comes down to personal preference. Do you like the look of Oyster or Scribd better? Oyster is a prettier app. Scribd is more utilitarian in appearance and has options I prefer. Both services have similar catalogs, so that won’t be an issue for most readers. I find both services have decent discovery options and more books I’d like to read than I have time to read. Scribd is slightly less expensive, but I can’t say that automatically makes them the better choice. If you’re trying to decide, use your free 30 day trial and read at least two books in each before deciding which you prefer.
I’m sticking with Scribd because of immersive mode and the fact that the service is currently free for me because of being a Smashwords author. It makes no sense for me to continue paying $9.95 a month for something I’m getting for free right now. In eleven months, when my free subscription ends? I’ll make that decision then.