A few years ago, we predicted the end of physical bookstores. Not to say that we were the only ones who predicted it, because we certainly weren’t, but anyone who isn’t in denial should be able to see that eBooks are an inevitable future.
As a Linux user, where does that leave you?
For myself, I’ve mostly read my eBooks with mobile apps like Aldiko and Mantano. I’ve also done a good bit of reading with EpubReader, a wonderful Firefox extension that I highly recommend. But now that I’m on Linux, it’s time to see what kind of native readers are available.
Here are the best that I’ve found.
If you call yourself a fan of eBooks and you’ve never used Calibre before, you should drop everything you’re doing and install it right away. This beast of a program is more than just a reader – it’s a full-on library manager that simplifies everything about keeping your eBooks in order.
But it is an eBook reader as well, and a darn good one at that.
At first the interface can be overwhelming with its mess of buttons and panels, but most of it can be ignored and you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Only care about basic reading functionality? Just load in your eBooks, browse through the list, and double-click the one you want to read.
Calibre not only supports a vast array of eBook formats right out of the box, but can convert between formats as well. It can also remove DRM from locked eBooks. Additional features can be added through its third-party plugin system.
And if you’re the kind of person who’s always on the go, you should know that Calibre is available in portable form, meaning you can throw it onto a spare USB thumb drive and carry it around with you everywhere. Or you can throw it on cloud storage and use it that way if that’s more your style.
Despite being able on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, Lucidor hasn’t received the kind of attention that it deserves. Is it as powerful and feature-rich as the aforementioned Calibre? Not quite. Is it a powerful program that provides a great user experience? You bet.
Lucidor’s interface is exactly what I’d expect from a desktop eBook reader. The table of contents in the sidebar is perfect while the viewer on the right is clean, allowing you to focus on the text itself. The bookcase, which is what Lucidor calls its library, is also well-organized and without clutter.
Speaking of the bookcase, Lucidor allows users to create multiple collections that are each comprised of their own books. This means, for example, that you could conceivably have separate bookcases for fiction and non-fiction, separate bookcases by genre, or however else you want to split it up.
But my favorite feature of Lucidor is tabbed reading. Multiple eBooks can be opened under multiple tabs, which is a trivial function in the grand scheme but absolutely important for its convenience factor.
One of the most popular eReader apps on Android is FBReader, but did you know that it’s also available on desktops? Not just Linux, but Windows and Mac OSX as well. While it’s a bit simplistic as far as feature set goes, it gets the job done without sucking up too many resources.
FBReader only supports open formats, which means it won’t be able to load any DRM-protected eBooks (such as those bought for the Kindle). That being said, most eBooks are available in open formats so it should only be a problem if you’ve already built a massive collection in proprietary formats.
The interface is hit-or-miss. Though I consider myself to be a minimalist in a lot of ways, FBReader is just too simple for me. I’d prefer a bit more customizability in terms of structure and formatting, but I can also see how some people would love FBReader’s look.
My biggest gripe about FBReader is an issue of convenience: it’s not possible to add more than one eBook to the library at a time. I don’t know if it’s a deficiency in the Linux version, an overall bug, or an overlooked feature – but as it is right now, the lack is a real thorn in my side.
I didn’t know Cool Reader was available on Linux. My first and only experience until now was with its highly popular Android app, which did not leave a great taste in my mouth, so I almost skipped over this one in my search for the best Linux eBook reader.
And while I still wouldn’t place this one anywhere near the top of my list, I was pleasantly surprised by what it offered.
You’ll have to play around with the preferences a bit because the default settings are rather ugly, but once you select a good font face and font size, that ugliness becomes quite pleasant. The interface is extremely simple, but in a way that works surprisingly well.
Unfortunately, Cool Reader lacks a library for eBook management; by design, it’s meant to load files on a read-on-demand basis. It does have a list of eBooks that were recently read, which may or may not suffice depending on how large your library actually is.
Cool Reader supports most open formats. If you have a lot of DRM-protected eBooks though, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
Which eBook Reader Do You Like Best?
Gone are the days when Linux didn’t have any good eBook reading solutions. Some of the above listed ones are cross-platform, but even the ones that aren’t are good enough to stand alongside the best Windows eReaders and the best Mac eReaders.
My personal favorite at the moment is Calibre, but I think I’ll be switching between them over the next few months as I figure out which one best suits my day-to-day needs.
Looking for stories to read? Here are a few places to read fiction online for free. Is that not enough? Consider these eBook subscription services that provide unlimited access to online libraries for a small fee.
Which one is your favorite? Are there any eBook readers I missed that you think deserve a mention? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!