At least those are the ones I tried. Other Android e-readers, both paid and free, as well as most non-reader apps, should probably work, too.
No, no, you needn’t rely on the Amazon Appstore, which goes out of its way to prevent you from running certain first-rate ePub apps on your Fire. The workaround is to bring over the stellar ePub-capable apps from your tablet or phone, then use a Dropbox-related app to transfer them to your new toy. Similar tricks might work on the eight- and ten-inch Fires—I haven’t tested them. But there’s no black magic here. I’m just using a variant of earlier workarounds discovered by others.
The results for the four e-reading apps mentioned above are astoundingly pleasing. For example:
—Via Moon+ and some other programs. I enjoy a much wider selection of fonts than I would with the limited choices that the Fire’s native e-reading app makes available. I can even commit sacrilege and use Amazon’s own Bookerly-Bold—in other words, benefit from all-text bold. See the partial screenshot, the first one.
Given that the Bookerly-Bold font is there and no big deal for Moon+ to use, I’m all the more annoyed at Amazon for not allowing the same choice in all its e-reading devices, including those on the E Ink side.
Hey, Jeff. Maybe we wouldn’t feel so compelled to install alternative e-reading apps if your own were all-bold- and ePub-capable and otherwise more respectful of customer needs. Like more than a few others, I myself read better with more perceived contrast between text and background. And yet Amazon goes out of its way to prevent my Fire from running first-rate programs that help. The list to the right, a screenshot from my desktop, shows how Amazon officially distributes FBReader for obscure clones I’ve owned over the years—but not for the $50 Fire, even though it easily could.
—Yes, Amazon’s text to speech works in Mantanto, Moon+ and FBReader. With Mantano, at least, I can even hear one of my favorite Fire voices, the British-accented Amy. Please note that Amy may require a special download within the Fire’s settings. (Last I knew, Aldiko did not offer text to speech on any device.)
—I can conveniently download a wide range of public domain and commercial books through the Open Publication Distribution System in nonAmazon readers.
—The subversive e-reading programs seem to function normally with the new Fire OS 5 (and the current path and permissions arrangements), with a few exceptions. So far, I can’t get Amy working within Moon+, for example. Also, dictionary-related functions have rough spots. But by going to the Amazon store, I was able to get Fora Dictionary going for various e-book apps while using Web-based lookups, and I probably can do better.
—Very possibly one or more of the nonAmazon e-book readers will recognize books in the Amazon memory card slot. See TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows’s $50-Fire review gets Slashdotted: Revealed that Fire library ignores e-books on SDXC cards. I have not had time yet to explore this with the imported apps and hope that others will, in which case I’ll update this post. Go to our comments section for this post and share with me the details, especially the reader app used.
Of course, there are different ways of obtaining the same results. You could, for example, go to the FBReader site directly and download this file through your Fire’s Silk browser, and then you could go on to pick up a compatible text-to-speech plug-in. I’m just reassuring you that, yes, for now anyway, you can read ePub books in style on the Fire, at least if you have a setup similar to mine.
I won’t guarantee this will work for everyone, but here’s what I did:
1. Installed the Dropbox-related app on the Fire—the one from the Fire app store, although presumably I could have downloaded it directly from Dropbox.com. The icon on the app from the store was similar to one on the .com site. The app developer was listed, however, not as Dropbox, Inc., but as World Toy. A licensing arrangement? Or are there actually corporate connections between the two companies?
2. Opened ES File Explorer on my Samsung Tab S.
3. Hit the hamburger-style icon in the upper left of File Explorer.
4. Then tapped the APP option, the one with the Android robot image.
5. Gently rested my finger on the icon for [pick name of application—Mantano or whatever] so that a blue checkmark appeared.
6. Tapped the More icon at the bottom right.
7. Chose Share Via.
8. Selected Add to Dropbox (already installed on the Tab S). The name will appear within Dropbox as something like base.apk—not the actual name of the app.
9. Didn’t mess with creating a separate directory but simply worked within the main Dropbox directory.
10. Made certain that the $50 Fire could run programs from outside the Amazon store. Just swipe the screen down from the top. Then choose Settings> Security > Apps from Unknown Sources.
11. Opened up Dropbox at the Fire end, tapped base.apk and went through the normal .apk installation procedure. Once you’ve finished the entire installation, by the way, you should tell Dropbox to delete this .apk file. Otherwise you may confuse Dropbox when you’re installing other apps that it assigns base.ap to.
12. Returned to Settings and, to reduce security risks, turned off Apps from Unknown Sources.
In case you’re curious, the $50 is no iPad Air 2 in resolution for e-booking, but, especially with bold in use, the 171 PPI / 1024 by 600 works fine for me. While at the Best Buy in Falls Church, Virginia, to pick up the cheapie seven-inch Fire, I also tried the eight-incher, which was still better for reading at 189 PPI. Conversely just as certain reviewers have warned, the ten incher was too fuzzy for me at 149 PPI. If e-book and other text-related apps are your main show, avoid this one!
Another tip is to try the $50 Fire on different routers. It didn’t get along well with my Airport Extreme, for some reason, but did fine with a Netgear router. Using the Ookla speed test app, imported from my Samsung, I found that speeds approached 20MBps. That is a fraction of what my cable connection and the router can do. But it’s still good enough for downing and shopping for e-books and offers surprisingly decent video quality for a $50 tablet.
Now—on to some cosmic philosophical questions. I don’t feel the slightest guilt repositioning the apps on a slightly different platform, regardless of any possible technicalities. I paid for them in the Google Play store. As for use of Amazon for apps from external sources, remember that the company itself allows downloading from sites other than the official app store. Otherwise why allow the choice within security settings to get software from unknown sources?
Of course, the ultimate question is, “Why can’t Amazon liberate us Fire owners so we don’t have to use these workarounds to enjoy the best ePub readers?” Yes, I know, Jeff has somewhat walled-garden-ish business model. The solution would be to include Moon+ Reader Pro and other goodies in the Amazon App Store for use by everyone with a powerful enough device, not just nonFire owners—while charging a reasonable fee for the expanded access. For $15, Amazon will remove ads from the Fire’s lock screen. Why not a similar model, then, even at a higher price, for full Fire access to the App Store for the discussed e-reader apps and everything else the Fire can run?
At any rate, let’s hope that Amazon is sensible enough not to plug up the holes I’ve found in $50 Fire’s garden walls. The overwhelming majority of e-book-lovers are not technically adept enough to try them. And those with the smarts are probably among Amazon’s most gung-ho customers and are likely to sing the Fire’s praises if they find the machines useful to them personally.
Detail #1: Movies play well on the Fire. No UHD but good enough, and I can easily skip around from place to space, with my Internet connection at least.
Detail #2: Again, for people who want to spend no more than $50 on the reader and related software, let me emphasize again that free e-readers should also work this way, assuming you don’t just want to download them directly. Mantano, Moon and Aldiko all come in free versions. And “free” was the FBRreader incarnation I used, even though a FBReader Premium is available from the Play Store.
How I got the screenshot: Just press your power button and down-volume key simultaneously.
Disclosure: The links to the Fire pages at Amazon.com are affiliate links.