An Israeli software developer by the name of Helicon Books made a startling claim today. According to their press release, they’ve developed the first fully Epub3 compliant reading app for Android.
That claim is startling, or at least it would be if it were true. Until today the only apps which fully supported Epub3 were iBooks, which is unfortunately limited to iOS, and Readium, which is currently limited to running in Chrome.
According to Helicon, their app supports:
- Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) including animated SVG.
- Displaying mathematical formulas using W3C MathML standard.
- RTL languages including page progression direction.
- Media overlay (Speak aloud as called by Apple) for audio books or mixed text and audio.
- fixed layout mainly for comics and children’s book.
- integrated video
Unfortunately, the app does not actually support all parts of the Epub3 spec. I couldn’t contain my curiosity, so I bought the app. It does not live up to the hype.
I installed the app on my original Samsung Galaxy Tab, which is running Android 2.3 on a single core CPU. I’ve tried a number of the demo files from the EPub3 archive and I found any number of issues.
MathML did not display at all, though I did get to see empty boxes where the equations were supposed to be. And while this app does display languages like Arabic in the correct rtl direction, page turns are incredibly slow.
Update: the MathML equations showed up after the rest of the ebook was rendered.
I could continue and list in detail all the things wrong with this app, but I don’t see a reason to do so. The claim of full Epub3 support is, well, fiction.
And the app itself is disappointing. This app is slow, ugly, uses poorly designed menus, and lacks such basic behavior as responding correctly to the Android “menu” button. It also lacks almost all of the basic features you would expect to find in a paid reading app like bookmarks, notes, and a dictionary.
I can’t believe I wasted $5 on this piece of crap.
And the truly scary part is that Helicon says that the app is available for license. Yeah, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.