MoonOn$50Fire_2015-10-04-13-42-43Want to read ePub books on your new $50 Fire tablet—in style? TeleRead has the answer for you. Just install Moon+ Reader Pro, Mantano Reader Premium, Aldiko Book Reader Premium or FBReader.

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.

FBReader Appstore for AndroidHey, 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 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 are affiliate links.


  1. There are browser plug-ins that will let you download the APK files directly from Google Play (as long as they’re free and not pay). You can then just put them on the SDXC card using a regular card reader and move the card over to the Fire for the install. Or just use Dropbox on the computer. This is particularly useful if the store claims the app isn’t compatible with your device, or it’s not accessible because of your region.

  2. @Frode: Great tip, thanks! The more ways to enjoy e-reading goodness, the better! Please pass on the relevant links. Just the same, the approach I laid out will work even with the pay stuff (or at least a lot of it).

  3. I hope, while those holes exist, some good person comes up with an easy way to put a more standard Android on the $50 model. Complexities will be very painful for those less tech-savvy than David.

    I have one question about loading the epub readers through Dropbox. I get the impression that users must have (or perhaps borrow) an existing Android smartphone or tablet to get them in the first place. Is that true?


    I’m not surprised this $50 Amazon tablet doesn’t work with Apple’s Airport Extreme. I could never get my Kindle 3 to work with my older Apple WiFi gear. Amazon admitted to that and gave no indication they were trying to fix the problem.

    Both Amazon and Apple have walled gardens. For Apple, the compensation is that OS X and iOS devices work well together, with apps exchanging data with one another. And epub readers aren’t a problem. There are a host of them for iOS, including Amazon’s.

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure Amazon’s walled garden has any compensations. It’s more like living in a coal-mining company town a century ago. Everything you buy, rent and do has ties to the company.

    In one contemporary account I read about such a town, the author noted that in the town he visited the only land not owned by the coal company was the narrow strip of land used by the railroad. For Kindle hardware, the equivalent to that rail line is the Internet. Amazon doesn’t own it.

  4. The browser plugin I mentioned does require you have at least one Android device registered to your Google Play account in order to work. The other way to get the apps is through an alternative app store or download the APK directly from the developer. If it’s not available from the developer, your only option left is to get a friend with an android device to help you, or Google the app name+APK and download that (risky, may contain malware – not recommended). Or you can bypass the limitations permanently by rooting and installing Google apps on it – or install a custom rom.

    As for the walled garden, I think the obvious compensation is that the Kindle fire costs $50 and you can even get 6 of them for the price of 5. It’s so cheap you can easily put one in every room of your house, car or boat or whatever and use it for dedicated tasks. And it still runs Android, not a proprietary OS.

  5. There are also other epub compatible reader apps on Amazon’s store, so you’re not completely locked out, just that some of the premium/pay apps are Google Play only.

    PS. I’d blame Apple’s old router for the compatibility issues, not Amazon. Some of their older stuff was pretty bad in that department. Can’t really speak for the state of their latest products however as I’m not that familiar with them.

  6. I don’t believe the system works with Moon+ Reader Pro since that’s not a free version. I have tried multiple ways and the apk will not transfer to Dropbox while many others will. There are also several apk extractor apps that work quite well also. As far as Docs goes, the new software does seem to hide them, or at least not make them as obvious. I have several generations of the Fire as well as a paperwhite and the solution for the latest version of the software on the new $50 device, a heck of a bargain, I would add, is simply to email the file to the device address and then they show up on the home (not the books) page. You can then move them into a collection. I liked Moon+Reader Pro for my pdf files of books that sync through Google Drive, but a workaround is to use the new Adobe Reader DC in the Amazon app store that will sync reading locations through the Adobe Cloud. Works quite well.

  7. @ecs0657: Are you taking about “the system” I used? As noted, I didn’t guarantee the system would work for everyone, but it certainly worked with me for Moon+ Reader Pro 3.1.0 (what I see when I open “About,” as I did just a second ago). It could be that either a quirk of Fire OS 5 or the particular Dropbox I used from the app store allowed me to succeed with Pro. In the past I have not been able to. Perhaps something was also happening or not happening at the Samsung end.

  8. Quote: “As for the walled garden, I think the obvious compensation is that the Kindle fire costs $50 and you can even get 6 of them for the price of 5. It’s so cheap you can easily put one in every room of your house, car or boat or whatever and use it for dedicated tasks. And it still runs Android, not a proprietary OS.”

    I suspect, Frode, that your Philosophy of Gadgets differs from my own. More gadgets, I’ve concluded, only mean more trouble. That’s particularly true of mobile ones that have to be kept charged and updated. I’ve also found that I inevitably settle on a few and ignore the rest. Currently, I’m using four: a Mac mini with dual displays for book layout and web browsing, an ancient MacBook laptop for book drafts, an iPad that needs to be used more, and an iPhone 5 for on the go.

    But the ideal number seems to be three, which is why that iPad gets neglected. When Scrivener for iOS comes out, that should be remedied. My iPad with its beautiful screen will become where I write. The MacBook will be retired to some subsidiary use, much like my iPhone 3gs now runs a weather app 24/7 on my desk.

    Times have changed and with that the prices. In the nineties, the difference between a low-end, generic computer and a high-end name-brand one was a thousand dollars or more. In that sort of world, buying cheap made sense. Both ran the same Windows software.

    Today, with the emphasis on less-expensive mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, the high-end v. low-end price difference isn’t that great in absolute numbers. I can get the world’s top tablet, the iPad Pro, for less than I can get Apple’s least expensive laptop. That means the gap between the top of the market and the bottom for mobile devices is just a few hundred dollars. That is important.

    You talk of getting this stripped down Amazon tablet for $50. Apple is selling one of their best tablets, a refurb iPad mini 2 for $229. Yes, that’s a $179 difference, but you’re likely to still be using it three years from now. I doubt that’ll be true of this $50 tablet. And during those three years the per-day cost of owning an excellent tablet with the world’s best selection of apps in comparison to cut-rate one that only runs a small slice of apps and requires all sorts of tricks to install some, amounts to about 16 cents a day.

    Imagine your business interests require you to lease a car. Now suppose the difference between a bland-looking Ford Crown Victoria (once a typical fleet car) and a beautiful Mercedes was only pennies a day over the term of the lease. Would you still get that Crown Victoria? Probably not.

    There’s also another factor, one that used to favor Microsoft over Apple but now favors Apple over everyone else in the mobile device market. Users are heavily impacted by how much a company invests in improving its products, both hardware and software.

    Apple’s huge market share means it can make investments that no competitor can make. It can spend $100 million making a specialized chip for iPhones that uses 10% less electricity. It’s competitors can’t. It sells so many iPhone and iPads, it can afford to support iOS upgrades to them for years. It’s competitors cannot afford to do that either because their marketshare, spread over many products, is far smaller (Samsung) or because they cut prices to the bone (Amazon).

    That’s why my Kindle 3 got one trivial OS upgrade before being abandoned. My iPad 3 is now running on its fourth major iOS and has far more features than what I originally purchased. Thus far, it’s been like getting a new tablet each year.

    In short, a lower price isn’t always a better deal. It’s the value you get out of a device over its useful life that matters. In the case of smartphones, you can buy used take advantage of the constant revisions and save money. In terms of the value returned, the $210 I spent for my iPhone 5 is probably the best money I’ve ever spent for any gadget.

    And I can remember back far enough to recall when $1500 for a Kaypro IV with mere floppy drives and 64K of memory was considered a bargain for aspiring authors and students.

    –Mike Perry

  9. > I suspect, Frode, that your Philosophy of Gadgets differs from my own.

    Yeah, I’d say my philosophy of gadget is very different. It’s not necessarily just the “more” aspect however, but I’m thinking of what you can do with cheap devices with limited functionality and use them in an Internet of Things setup. The $50 Fire doesn’t need to be a super fast and powerful tablet that does everything well. It just needs to do a set of limited tasks well enough. Paul’s earlier post about what to do with an old tablet can just as easily apply to a $50 Fire. Use a kitchen tablet for the things I’ve mentioned, have one in the bathroom to show a news and stock ticker while you brush your teeth and play music while you shower, with an alarm reminding you to get out in time to get to work/school on time etc. In the nursery it can function as an interactive toy while you’re there supervising, and a baby monitor while you’re out. In the living room you can use it as a remote for Plex, Netflix etc. and showing photos from your latest trip on the big screen. Put two in the back seat of the car and each of your kids can watch their own movie or play their own game when you go on a road trip. Have one in front with your entire music library on a microSD card.

    > More gadgets, I’ve concluded, only mean more trouble.

    Actually by limiting the tasks a single gadget does, you reduce the potential for trouble. You have less apps installed, which means more free space, free memory and CPU resources and less things that can go wrong. This is the basic principle behind the original eInk Kindle, and why it works so well. As tablets get bogged down with installed and running apps, performance and stability tends to suffer. By using multiple devices you also remove the single point of failure you’d otherwise have, and you could even have a spare backup device or two you’re not using for anything ready in case another breaks.

    While you can still use a single expensive tablet for some of these things, it becomes tied to you as a person and you have to carry it around with you always. This is probably fine if you’re single and live alone, but if you live in a multi-person household, having cheap tablets basically tied to each room in the house makes completely new usage scenarios possible and likely. All this also doesn’t preclude the possibility of having a more expensive and powerful personal tablet in addition that you use for media consumption or productivity. Tablet sales have slumped lately, because the market is largely saturated. Even 3 year old iPads are more than fast enough to use the majority of apps and games, so there’s little incentive for people to buy a second tablet. You said it yourself – you’re pretty happy with your iPad 3 still. New use cases and markets are needed, and the market for 6 Fire tablets at $250 I’d say is quite different from that of 1 iPad mini 2 at $229. If you’re already happy with the iPad 3, why would you buy the mini 2? What’s the use case that would make buying one in addition to your iPad 3, superior to a multi-room setup like I’ve described?

    PS. Normally I’d completely agree with you on a lower price usually not being better – I tend to buy the more expensive alternatives of a given product type, since I want quality and I don’t like slow devices, but this is a special case where the price itself enables use cases that would otherwise be considered too expensive.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail