A free e-reading app called Freda might be just the ticket for your Windows phone.
Freda already shines by Windows Phone e-reading standards. It’s won an average of 4.5 stars out of 5 from 1,384 customers of the Windows Phone Store.
Perhaps when a Win 10 update rolls around for the app itself, Freda will be still better. Versions come in English, German, French, Chinese and several other languages.
Reads ePub (DRM-free), HTML, and TXT format books [and FB2]
Customisable controls, fonts and colours
Bookmarks and annotations
Integrates with on-line catalogs – Feedbooks, Smashwords, Gutenberg …
Connects to your DropBox account for downloading book files
Links to your Calibre book library
Can download books from any website using an in-application browser…
Just as hinted above, Freda has typographic options to help books look the way you want. And newer versions, at least, even can read books aloud to you. You can find detailed descriptions of Freda’s features at the Freda site itself. Please note that not all the features for Windows phone 8 and 8.1 will necessarily work in the older phones.
To obtain Freda for your phone, just click on the Store icon on the app list of your device and type Freda into the searcher. Then tap the Return key on the virtual keyboard.
The free and adless Version 3.13, discussed here, comes with four main menus: bookshelf, reading, sources and extras. You can go from menu to menu by sliding your finger horizontally.
Bookshelf is one of the first screens you’ll see once you’ve installed the app. It comes with sample books, although the screen shown here contains my own selections.
If you hold down your finger on a book in the Bookshelf, you’ll see these options: opening the book, information about it, adding it to favorites, downloading again, pinning the book to the your phone’s start screen, and deleting it.
One other tip: Freda responds to the left arrow command allowing you to return to an earlier screen. At least on the Nokia phone I tried Freda with, the arrow is directly under the screen.
This menu displays four possibilities. The open book icon, yes, opens the book up. The pin icon attaches it to your device’s start screen (yes, there’s redundancy). The two-books icon returns you to the bookshelf. The downward-pointing arrow downloads the book or redownloads it.
Here’s what to do once you’re within a book.
–Moving ahead or back a page. Tap right or left on your screen.
–Searching for words. Press the middle of your screen and a new screen will pop up showing a magnifying glass. It’ll lead to a find page. Use the left arrow in the lower left on your device to return to the text you were reading.
The pop-up screen contains many options besides search.
–Adding bookmarks. Press the bookmark-like icon on the pop-up screen, the same as above.
–Changing type styles and sizes, and other variables such as screen colors (including white text against a black background to reduce glare). Here again, the open sesame is the pop-up screen. Just tap the gear item within it.
–Reaching the table of contents. Also within the pop-up. Use the left-pointing arrow below your screen to return to where you were in the text, if you simply were looking at the T of C rather than following one of the links there.
–Moving around within the book. One again, this is within the pop-up. Use the slider, which shows the virtual page numbers at the top.
–Inserting notes and highlights. Slide over the words you want to highlight, and you’ll see a menu that lets you choose between those options and others.
The additional options include bookmark, find, look up, copy and read aloud.
Yes, read aloud! As you can see, you’re just acting as if selecting text to be highlighted. But instead of highlighting chose read aloud when the options pop up. Freda will start reading until you tap again to shut up the voice.
A problem might arise. Freda may shut up when your screenlock/screen-blanker kicks into action. The cure is to slide your fingers down from the top of the main screen of your phone. Then: all settings > lock screen. Within lock screen, choose a long time-out or none at all.
Battery life trade-off? Of course. But perhaps future versions of Freda or Windows Phone can address this. Something to hope for in Windows Phone 10?
Sources of free and commercial books
Directly from Freda you can download thousands of free ePub-format books..
You can also enjoy ePub books from bookstores as long as the books are not sold with digital rights management (DRM).
Within the sources menu, you can choose:
–Folder—apparently to add books already on your phone. For one reason or another, I couldn’t get this feature working. But read on. There is another way to pick up books from a storage card.
–Feedbooks. This is the site with some of the best-formatted public domain books online. Feed also sells books still under copyright.
–Calibre. You can download directly from your Calibre collection on your PC or laptop, after feeding in the user and password information.
–One Drive. Microsoft’s cloud storage—also, requiring prior authorization.
–Project Gutenberg. The granddaddy of public domain collections, going back to the 1971.
Don’t forget to tap the More option to learn of additional sources:
–ePub Books. A source of free and commercial titles without DRM.
–Smashwords. Home to thousands of independently published titles.
–Manybooks.net. A major public domain source.
–Ebooksgratuits. French titles.
–The Internet Archive—probably the biggest collection of free titles online.
To get into all these catalogs, Freda uses the Open Distribution Distribution System. It lives up to its name. At the end of Freda’s sources menu—don’t forget to tap the “more” to see everything—you’ll find a + sign. Tap it. You’ll see sources you can add, and one of them is opds catalog. Enter the home URL of the site involved, as well as the search URL. Here is MobileRead’s OPDS wiki listing catalogs, and here is KyBooks’ OPDS cat list. Not all listed catalogs, alas, are working. What’s more, either because of problems at my end or elsewhere, I’ve had trouble at times accessing even the Feedbooks catalog and some of the other majors. Just the same, Freda’s OPDS feature seems to work most of the time.
Within Freda’s source menu, the same + allows you to access books on the storage card of your phone or within your DropBox account.
* * *
Odds and ends:
Detail #1: You can also download ePub books from within your phone’s Internet Explorer if you’re at a site like Gutenberg.
Just click on an ePub link and your phone will ask if you want to use Freda to read the file.
By the way, although Freda works in other formats, ePub is the preferable one since it’s the e-book industry’s global standard.
Detail #2: The video says you can’t “sideload” books for the Windows Kindle app—titles from non-Amazon sources. But you can e-mail books in appropriate formats to the Kindle app. Still, Freda makes it a lot easier to load up your phone with freebies from Gutenberg-style sites, and it offers more typographical choices than Kindle apps and devices do.
Detail #3: On my Nokia Lumia 520 phone, I could call up only a Chinese version of Freda as well as Version 3.13 (free) and Version 3.13+ (99 cents) in English. The latter two so far seem identical. Perhaps I’m missing something. What’s more, at least so far, I have not discovered some capabilities present in earlier versions of Freda, such as being able to share notes and highlights with friends.
Detail #4: Any chance that Freda can offer all-text bolding?
Detail #5: Oh, how I longed for the Lumia’s volume buttons to be usable for paging.
Detail #6: If you’re female, don’t be put off by the “Hey, guys!” opening at the start of the video. E-books are just as much for girls and women as for boys and men—just ask my friends at Dear Author!
Detail #7: I may be refining the current Freda how-to. I’m publishing this now since Microsoft has just announced the release date of Windows 10’s desktop versions, July 29, with mobile incarnations to follow in the near future. See any glitches? Unclear about something? Speak up!