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E-Reader Critiques

Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2018 10:02 am
by Danny
Good morning Team,

Throughout the course of this project, I've already tried several E-reading apps on different devices. I wanted to share what I've found in hopes that it would be of interest. It would be very interesting to hear what other apps you've tried and how they worked for you. Who knows, perhaps we could share some of this information with someday.

VinVision's EVO-E10, a handheld device. This player utilizes the excellent Ivona speech engine for device navigation and TTS book playback. It is 100% accessible and has great tactile buttons. It, however, seems to have limited support for advanced navigation such as footnotes and clickable items, and doesn't support media overlays in ePub 3. It also seems to make up its own page numbers, whether or not page markers are provided in the ePub 3 document. I'd say 4 out of 5 over all.

Dolphin EasyReader on Android Tablet with TalkBack. This app is totally accessible, and has a nice tab for importing books directly from the Download folder. It offers a clean interface that works well with Android's speech system for finding and clicking buttons. EasyReader stops speaking when TalkBack has something to say, so after clicking Play, you have to tap Next or Previous to keep the speech talking. Navigation is done by Level 1 headings only, and footnotes and links are not clickable. That being said, it reads image descriptions well, and does appear to support page navigation (though I have yet to find a book that's coded well enough to try it). My son reports that it randomly stops reading after a while, though I have yet to experience this (and could be an issue with the device itself). 4 out of 5.

Dolphin EasyReader on Windows 10 with NVDA. This is a fairly well-designed app that closely mimics the feel of the same app on Android. It has a few more options that are quite well laid out. Again, though footnotes appear clickable as links, pressing Enter on them has no effect. Navigation is done by a nice tree view which supports cascading level navigation beautifully. I did have trouble navigating back to the book after utilizing heading navigation, having to return to bookshelf and reopen the book to get back to reading. The read-aloud feature utilizes the TalkBack voice by default, though this can be changed. You also have to select the next section to continue reading with the arrow keys. I've also heard reports of this app being rather unstable, though I didn't experience this myself. Not my favorite app, I'd give it a 3 out of 5.

qRead on Windows 10 with NVDA. Here is an outstanding application with a clean, clear interface. It utilizes pulldowns for navigation while reading, always remembers your position and current book, and is fast and responsive once loaded. It even appears to support clicking on footnotes, though this is difficult to verify fully with the demonstration version. Yes, this seems to be a paid app, but it could be well worth the money. A real pleasure to use, 5 out of 5.

Adobe Digital Editions on Windows 10 with NVDA. Apart from a couple of unlabeled controls, this app was really easy to use. The bookshelf presents as a bit cluttered, but once you get the tabs set to show titles and you stay within the book selection list, all is well. The app opens decently fast and books open quite quickly. Table of contents navigation is by tree-view levels which is great, and page navigation is easy with the "Go to Page" edit box. Once you select an item from the table of contents, you do have to Tab over to the reading pane, but that works every time. A huge bonus here is that the entire book is presented in the pane, without having to click to advance to the next chapter. It was becoming my app of choice until I ran into the documented ePub crashing bug. Often, when ADE attempts to open an ePub book, it will freeze, locking up the entire computer until Windows realizes the app has malfunctioned and gives you the chance to close it. This is catastrophic for NVDA, and it is necessary to invoke Narrator to access the Close option and terminate the application. The best workaround seems to be to downgrade to ADE V3.0, where this bug does not exist. I find this totally unacceptable, giving it a rating of 2 out of 5 largely for this reason.

Rakuten Kobo on Windows 10 with NVDA. Installation was easy, but the app is completely inaccessible. Much worse than Overdrive, which was impressive. When clicked on from the Desktop, it opened a window that appeared completely blank with NVDA. Nothing with standard navigation keys, nothing with the mouse cursor, nothing with screen review mode. I even set it up as an app so Windows could feed it a book directly. The book opened, judging by the window title, but still nothing audible was detectable on the screen. 0 out of 5 for sure.

Redshelf. This just turned out to be a browser app. We're not testing with browser plugins, and so I didn't take it any further. Myself, I'd rather read a book just in the browser itself. I don't have a rating for it, though, as I didn't bother to try it.

Amazon Kindle on Windows 10 with NVDA. Installation and registration was easy, and the app appeared to be quite accessible. However, though Kindle supports the direct importing of Pdf files, it does not natively support ePub. Those have to be first converted to Pdf - which would drastically change the presentation of the title. That wouldn't be terribly suitable for testing a particular book, so I abandoned it without performing enough tests to rate it.

Microsoft Edge on Windows 10 with NVDA. For a mainstream app, this reading solution is surprisingly accessible and comfortable to use. In typical Microsoft style, all controls read and can be interacted with well. There is good usage of keyboard shortcuts here, to pull up the table of contents or start reading. The Table of Contents indicates the percentage in the book of each heading, a nice touch. Links to footnotes are clickable, and imbedded links to external resources (such as online web pages) can also be accessed with a press of Enter. After you stop read-aloud, you have to close the reading pane before you can pull up the table of contents which feels a bit clunky, but not difficult to do. This app also loads the fastest over any other Windows app I've tested. In addition, it comes pre-installed, and is completely free to use! I would have to give it a 5 out of 5.

Re: E-Reader Critiques

Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2018 11:30 am
by rmarion
Thanks Danny for the summary of apps you have tried to test your ePub files. I will prepare a more detailed version of my response and post it later this week. So far my primary tests have been done using Mac OS and iOS. Therefore, I have limited my tests to four different apps. I have been using Apple Books for Mac and iOS, VoiceDream reader for iOS and Adobe digital Editions for the Mac. So far my general findings have been that the IOS experience is more seamless and accessible than using the Mac computer. Apple Books for the Mac does have some accessibility challenges compared to its iOS counterpart. For example, the Mac version does not have a read to end of book option that I have not been able to easily find. Adobe digital editions has issues finding any text elements like headings as well.

I will write more later but that should give you an idea of my experience so far. Thanks again for sharing your technical knowledge as well with us.

Re: E-Reader Critiques

Posted: Thu Nov 08, 2018 10:08 am
by steve.murgaski
Hi! I've been looking in the other forum area for App testing, since that's my focus for this project, but this is good stuff. Thanks Danny.
I use QRead on PC mostly, and I agree with your assessment, but I'd add that it can slow down a lot if you add large books to it. I've been using its built-in feature to add books from BookShare, and because it opens all the books you're reading each time it starts that can take awhile to process. So I feel QRead is more effective for a bunch of short files, unless you close large books before exiting the program. For my research articles it's perfect though; it can have ten open at once and let me ctrl-tab between them, and open them all again when I restart the program.

Voice Dream Reader is my iPhone app of choice for ebooks, but it doesn't integrate with public library systems here, unless you were to use its legacy web browser feature perhaps, which isn't recommended by the app manufacturer. Like QRead it isn't free, but it might be worth testing on a consistent set of ebook files to see how it handles them compared to other apps. I don't think it supports automatically skipping footnotes, or other content, but I like its support for audio files as well as etext, and the simplicity of its interface.

Re: E-Reader Critiques

Posted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:57 pm
Hi Danny,
Thanks for the reviews.
I agree that Edge is quick and that there are several keyboard commands. What screen reader did you use with Edge? I'm trying to diagnose a bug with Edge but I'm not sure if it is a screen reader problem or NVDA.

Right now, I've noticed that NVDA reads the content but it is choppy because it's reading certain words as though there are line breaks when there aren't any. also, the back and next buttons are displayed in the buffer as 1 line which is fine if Screen layout is enabled but I have it disabled since that emulates how most users will interact with a web page. If it is an NVDA issue, I'll make a ticket for it on Github.

Re: E-Reader Critiques

Posted: Sun Nov 11, 2018 9:08 pm
by Danny
Thanks so much for your feedback and comments, everyone! This is awesome teamwork.

Ka Li, I also use NVDA with Edge, and have experienced the choppy reading you mention. I just tested a children's book last week, and the publisher's overbearing use of <Span> tags made it nearly unreadable - often pausing several times per word. Horrifying. However, Dolphin EasyReader did the very same thing on my Android tablet, so it may not be just poor Edge experiencing this. It was interesting to note that Edge's read-aloud feature also paused for these places where it really didn't need to. Common practice I suppose to denote things like emphasis text, but it takes it to an unnatural extreme.

Does that help at all?

Re: E-Reader Critiques

Posted: Mon Nov 12, 2018 2:49 pm
by Daniella.LP
Thanks everyone for providing such insightful comments and observations about these apps. I expect that the findings from the EPUB tests will allow us to identify paterns across platforms and reading systems. Cross tabulating each book with each app in which it was tested would shed light on the applications that support image descriptions or footnote navigation, for instance. Please continue adding to this thread when you can, if you discover something new or test a different application.

Re: E-Reader Critiques

Posted: Mon Nov 12, 2018 6:17 pm
by Karoline
Hi everyone! Thank you for this information. This weekend I spent many hours working on converting Epub to Kindle or Mobi.
I learned that my Kindle device will not support Epubs. The suggested fix is to convert and move them into the Kindle app on the device. I can tell you that once you accomplish this magic trick, it does read well. You do not have access to the table of contents or some of the other details. It does do read all. It works well with Voice View. It is the screen reader for this device. I ended up using an on-line converter as Calibre was not accessible.
I Can continue testing with it, as it is available to everyone at an affordable option.
I will go fill in my report for this shortly.

For those of you who are looking at the split words in Edge, I noticed this right away. Did you notice that it does not do this when you are in reader? I actually quite like it with NVDA. It is not good with JAWS 18 at all. I hope to have JAWS 2019 later this week. I am looking forward to testing it out.

Thank you for pointing out that I can use EasyReader for Windows. I am not sure how I missed this.
If anyone has a better way to convert from EPub to Mobi,please let me know. Thank you all for sharing so much information.

Re: E-Reader Critiques

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:52 am
by Karoline
I will put this post here as I could not copy my original post over for some reason. So, I have been getting similar or identical results for many of my tests with the same combination of E-Reader, IOS, and Voice Over. I asked Daniella if I can change things up and try a different app. I so far have looked at Capti, Bookshare, Kobo Books, and I have downloaded Google Books, but haven't tried it much yet.I liked Capti, but they wanted a subscription. putting them out of the running for me. Bookshare, their app is not so easy to navigate. So disappointing. I then tried Kobo Books. I did not like it. At first, it was promising. As soon as I got intoa book, I realized that you can not flick or swipe or any of those other things one does with touch screens. Even though the help blogs tell you to. I discovered that they were all too old. We are now at Version 9.11.2. So, my question to you, Are there any apps that you have heard of or tried that I should take a look at? BTW I went through a similar process with Android. I have now switched to Talk Back. I found it so much easier to use then Google Assistant. I am also using Simply Reading rather than Voice Dream Reader. I had been using VDR for a few weeks now. The change is nice. Please let me know of any other suggestions here as well.

Re: E-Reader Critiques

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 3:41 pm
Hi Karoline,
For Android, you can try Lektz reader ... z&hl=en_CA
R2 Reader ... ader&hl=en
One of the cool things about this app is that it supports OPDS feeds, which allow you to access sources providing free EBooks. It is also based off of Readium.

For IOS, Cloudshelf is pretty good. There's also R2 reader for IOS as well.

Here's a list of apps that are based on Readium architecture:
The apps I mentioned above are ones that I've tried.