One of the benefits and curses of living in a modern Western country is the standardization of education. Everybody has to be somewhat competent at reading, writing, basic math, and you’re expected to be able to find where your country is on a map of the world. No matter how much you might protest “But I’ll be a programmer! I don’t need to know the literary significance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night!” you will still have to take an English class at some point.
That’s traditionally where SparkNotes comes in. Anyone who’s ever struggled with a literature class has probably heard of this service. The creators summarize a book, give themes, explain the characters and basically do your thinking for you. We at TechNorms disapprove of using SparkNotes as a substitute for actually reading the book. Don’t do that. However, SparkNotes can be a useful supplement, something to aid you while reading the book.
Finding SparkNotes is easy enough. They sell small blue booklet guides in the library of most universities. You’ve probably seen a display of them stocked full of guides to King Lear. We never really understood why people buy those, though, as you can read all of them for free online. With this app, you can also read the entire SparkNotes collection on your Android device. There’s really no excuse to pay for a physical booklet when you can get this free app packed full of free guides.
What is a SparkNote?
Like we said before, SparkNotes is a service that provides free guides to those works of classic literature that are read in English literature classes. The service was already quite helpful in its previous forms, and it’s lost nothing in transition to Android. Historical context, plot summaries for the whole book and individual sections, analysis of the characters and symbols and themes, a review quiz and works listed for further reading.
All of that is built right into the app. Just tap a work and a table of contents will come up with each section clearly labeled. Reading the sections themselves is okay, it’s not great. Maybe we’re spoiled from the superb reading experience on Instapaper for Android, but we feel a bit cheated that the SparkNotes app for Android comes only with the option to change the font size. No night mode, no custom fonts, no adjustable margins.
The app is free and ad-supported, although the in-app advertisements can easily be blocked with Adblock. Once the noisy ads are gone, the interface looks quite nice… by iOS standards.
SparkNotes is guilty of one of the most obvious copy-and-paste ports from iPhone that we’ve seen in a while. The UI coloring, overshoot effect, and jump to letter sidebar are all pulled straight from Apple’s smartphone. The app works fine, but it would have been nice to see some Android-centric design.
SparkNotes for Android comes with links to hundreds of guides, all of which can be downloaded and read offline within the app. The app also comes with 50 guides pre-downloaded for offline reading convenience. The works are very commonly read books like 1984, Animal Farm, The Awakening, Brave New World, The Catcher in the Rye, Death of a Salesman, most of Shakespeare, The Odyssey and so on.
We were quite impressed with the depth of the SparkNotes catalogue. They’ve got a guide for just about every work that you might read in an introductory English literature class. English majors will no doubt read works too obscure to merit being SparkNoted, but we assume that you can handle it. You’re an English major.
The guides are divided by category into literature, Shakespeare, poetry, philosophy, drama, and short stories. It’s relatively easy to find a guide, especially with the built-in search function. As long as you know either the title or author of a work, you can find it.
Is SparkNotes Android App Useful?
SparkNotes for Android is an excellent app form of a very helpful service for anybody struggling in an English class. Again, it is not a replacement for reading the book. Don’t do that. However, it can be a great supplement.
Download SparkNotes Android App