5 Best PDF & Ebook Readers for Windows

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.


Over the past few years, eBooks have gone from a novel idea to a broadly embraced alternative to print literature. Devices like the Nook and the Kindle have become commonplace — but they’re not the only option if you’re looking to see what eBooks have to offer.

More and more people are turning to their Windows computer as a device to read with What's the Best E-Reader App for Windows 10? What's the Best E-Reader App for Windows 10? Does reading ebooks on your computer sound mad? Newer, lighter Windows 10 devices make this a much better experience. Let's take a look at the top eReading apps from the Windows Store. Read More . It’s perhaps only natural; we use our computers to listen to music, and to watch films and television, not to mention the amount of online content we read using a PC — why not use them to take in a book.

Whereas once reading on a computer was something of a clunky experience, devices are becoming more compact and apps are being released that can offer just as pleasant an experience as on a dedicated device. You don’t even need paid software, like Adobe Acrobat Reader, to consume your PDF-based reading material.

Here are some of the best options for an app that turns your Windows computer into a digital reading room.


Slickly designed, beautifully presented app catering to Amazon eBook customers.

Kindle for Windows

The Kindle app for Windows is a crisply designed reader — but to get the most out of it, you’ll need to be an Amazon customer. If being able to easily open and read a range of different file formats is important to you, there are better options available, but it’s a very elegant way of dipping into your Kindle library from a Windows machine Take Your Books With You On Windows Phone With The Amazon Kindle App Take Your Books With You On Windows Phone With The Amazon Kindle App When I head out I’m already carrying my Windows Phone. What I don’t need is an extra device in order to access any books I might fancy reading. Fortunately, Amazon appreciates this and has released... Read More .

The interface is excellent; open the app and you’ll be presented with the books you have stored in the cloud or on your device. A simple click will put you right where you last left the book, with nothing to distract you other than unobtrusive icons to flip pages, make a bookmark or return to your library. A right click will give you the options shown in the screenshot above — the ‘Find in Book’ tool being particularly handy.

This app caters to the Kindle customer, and if that’s how you buy your eBooks, it’s a robust program that gives you easy access to your collection. If you read on more than one device, you’ll even find that your current page is synced no matter what platform you’re using. However, accessing books that aren’t bought via the Kindle store will require a workaround — for many, that’s a dealbreaker.


User-friendly reading app with plenty of options to import your own eBooks or buy new ones.


As the app accompaniment to one of the most popular models of eReader device, it’s no surprise that the Barnes and Noble tool for reading eBooks on your computer is extremely user-friendly. It’s very simple and straightforward — which, for this type of application, is no bad thing.

It’s obvious that the thought process behind this app was making something that anyone could use, no matter their familiarity with technology. That can sometimes lead to a situation where adept users find themselves needlessly constricted, but thankfully that’s not the case here. You can browse the Nook store Leatherbound - eBook Price Comparisons for the Kindle, Nook & iBookstore Leatherbound - eBook Price Comparisons for the Kindle, Nook & iBookstore Read More directly from the app, and it’s well-categorized enough such that you’ll soon find what you’re looking for.

The Nook app beats its Kindle alternative by the slimmest of margins in terms of design and aesthetics, but the fact that you can import other formats of eBook and PDF so easily with the Nook app is potentially a big advantage for some users. Unless you own a Kindle device or you already have a large library with Amazon, the Nook app is a better choice than its Kindle rival.


A dedicated comic book reader with support for a wide range of specialized file types.


While the occasional reader of comics might be able to get by with their standard eBook reader, a tailor-made app is a must for anyone serious about their comic books 5 Websites For The Comic Book Fan 5 Websites For The Comic Book Fan If there was one thing the Web was made for, it was for comic book reading. Instant downloads, lots of fan information, and no waiting in line at the comic book store anymore. Read More . It’s a simple fact that comic books and graphic novels are read a different way to traditional text-based books — and as such they require a slightly different reading experience from an app.

Cover supplies just that, particularly if you’re reading on a device with touch capabilities Reading eBooks on Your Tablet: Windows 8 vs. iPad Reading eBooks on Your Tablet: Windows 8 vs. iPad I'm off on holiday today, and intend to do a bit of reading. This is all very well, especially when it comes to my handful of print books that I want to catch up with.... Read More . Being able to zoom in on particular panels with a pinch, or swipe between pages is a very intuitive way of reading this type of content. Using a conventional computer is slightly less natural, but it’s a workable alternative.

Also of great importance to an app that caters to comic books fans is the selection of file types it can handle. Cover accepts most major formats; CBZ/ZIP, CBR/RAR, 7Z/CB7, PDF and EPUB, as well as standard image formats like JPEG, PNG, GIF and BMP. The app itself is free, but comes with a limited library space for your comics — this limit can be lifted via an in-app purchase.


A super-light, super-efficient PDF reader.


Sumatra is such a standout PDF reader The 6 Best PDF Readers for Windows in 2019 The 6 Best PDF Readers for Windows in 2019 The best PDF readers don't cost any money. Read our roundup of feature-rich PDF viewers that out perform even Adobe Reader. Read More that it deserves a place on anyone’s computer. However, the fact that it can also handle EPUB and MOBI format eBooks makes it a fine choice for a no-nonsense eBook reader.

The real appeal with this program is how little it demands from your computer — PDF readers can sometimes be very bloated and run slowly as a result. That’s not the case here; your files will load quickly and you’ll be able to flick through them without any stuttering. There’s even the option to download a portable version so you can run it from a memory stick without installing.

Another great feature that Sumatra offers and most other eBook readers don’t is tabbed browsing. This might not serve much purpose if you’re reading a novel for pleasure, but it does make cross-referencing texts and documents a breeze. It’s particularly for anyone who has reason to read eBooks or PDF documents for academic or professional purposes.

One drawback is that to tinker with any advanced settings, you’ll have to make manual edits to a text file, which isn’t particularly user-friendly. Most will likely have no reason to tweak these options, but if you do then the interface can be quite off-putting. However, Sumatra PDF doesn’t set out to deliver the most beautiful interface around — it’s far more concerned with being a PDF and eBook reader that occupies as little of your computer’s resources as possible How To Really Speed Up Your Computer - Common Myths & What To Do Instead How To Really Speed Up Your Computer - Common Myths & What To Do Instead Suffering from a slow computer? You might not know why and maybe you're trying to fix it in all the wrong ways. Let us help you with tips for a real speed boost. Read More .


Library management software that doubles as a capable reading tool.


If you own a dedicated eReader device like a Kindle or a Nook, you may well have already heard of Calibre. It’s a go-to library management tool How To Manage Your Ebook Collection For The Amazon Kindle With Calibre How To Manage Your Ebook Collection For The Amazon Kindle With Calibre The biggest problem with an eReader like the Amazon's Kindle is that it requires unreasonable effort to move books between different devices. Before Kindle, I fell in love with Calibre. A bit on the heavy... Read More that makes it easy to keep your collection of eBooks organized and transfer them to your eReader. However, it’s also a capable tool for reading eBooks in its own right.

While it might not have as attractive a reading interface as the likes of the Kindle and Nook apps, Calibre offers a very functional environment to read in. There’s a broad range of options for the sort of typeface and reading scheme you’ll use, and when you’re in full screen mode you’ll be free from any distractions.

However, this is a tool that’s at its best when its supplementing your use of a dedicated eReader. It’s not a great solution if your reading is going to take place exclusively on your computer — but if you’re using your Windows PC as well as another device, it’s a super way of consolidating a reader app with a way of keeping your library organized and transferring files to your eReader.

Do you have your own favourite eBook or PDF reader that we’ve missed? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

Image Credits: computer with books Via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Amazon Kindle, Calibre, Ebooks, eReader, PDF.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Nate
    November 13, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    The problem with programs like Nook is that you have to have online access to read your books.. I use an app called Kobo. You can buy books from there just like on book or kindle and you can read them and access them offline. This one should definitely be in the list.

  2. Jim stewart
    November 3, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Amazon Kindle = woefully slow to start up. this software is really bloated.

    Some ebook readers also have a Library Management feature which can be quite cumbersome if you just want to open a book and read it.

    Sumatra PDF seems to render well, is not bloated, starts fast, just does what its meant to (no 'library' feature though)

  3. Chuck Fenton
    February 23, 2016 at 10:01 am

    For quite a few years now, my personal favourite has been PDF-XChange Viewer.
    I have been using the free portable version which is just as good as PDF-XChange Editor, its latest incarnation.

    I'm still on Windows 7 - and plan to stay on it for as long as I can - but PDF-XChange Viewer is also fully compatible with Vista, Windows 8 & 10.

    To begin with, I switched to it because of the tabbed interface, the basic editing capabilities (it's pretty easy to create bookmarks when there are none!) and the fact that compared to any version of Acrobat Reader it's super fast and slick (eye candy should not be a factor for the power user but it does not hurt, either).

    Someone at "makeuseof" should really cover this superb free PDF reader, just to make more people aware of its existence and good value.

    Anyhow, check out the article on Wikipedia here

    and their website here

    Also available on PortableApps.com

    Chuck Fenton

  4. Azus Smith
    December 31, 2014 at 5:58 am

    In current scenario, Kindle is used by majority of Windows users.

  5. Fik of borg
    December 30, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    I was looking for some time for a reading platform that allowed me to start reading on one device for a while and later continue reading on another device on the page I stopped on the first device. Just for clean reading pleasure, I don't need advanced features (that tend to clutter the reading experience).

    I think Kindle would work but only for books bought from them (which is no option in a currency restricted contry like mine, Venezuela).
    I had hopes for some time for Foxit reader, since I found out that it keeps where I left each PDF, but turned out that it keeps that in the local Windows registry along with the settings for every other software in the machine. Besides, it doesn't support other ebook formats.
    Calibre looked promising but it doesn't support syncing of reading status out of the box: one must jump thru hoops using third party utilities that I could never get to work.

    Then I started using Sumatra while looking for a ebook reader light enough to use on one of my older machines (a Windows XP machine with a Pentium4 and only 1GB of RAM).
    Then I discovered that Sumatra's portable mode keeps it's configuration on one file in the same directory, INCLUDING the recent file list and each book reading status. I copied this portable version on the same folder within Dropbox that I keep my reading and presto! Each book reading status is synced via this configuration file. I have my Dropbox folder installed in diferent folders on each machine, but I solve that on each machine startup by mapping it's particular folder to a virtual "B:" drive (for "Bookshelf"), so Sumatra always look for books on B:SomeGenreSomeAuthorSomeOtherFolderWhatever.pdf.
    Now I am using Sumatra for most of my reading, on this old machine up to the 8GB i7 and in-betweens.
    The only remaining thing is android phones and tablets...

  6. suzybel
    December 30, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    I read novels on my Kobo Mini. I use my iPad for magazines. I tried the magazine subscription on my PC but it's not portable, biggest drawback, even though they render beautifully on a large screen. I also read novels on my Playbook with the Kobo app, because it is backlit and the Kobo Mini is not. I use Calibre as my library management. I read short articles on my PC, but a novel or magazine, nope, I like to be comfortable when I read, move around and not be tethered to my PC.

  7. epub reader
    December 30, 2014 at 3:35 am

    CoolReader handles many formats with ease. Available for Android and Windows.

  8. Anggelos
    December 29, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Not all windows devices are localized PCs (Desktops & Large Laptops) my friend. New windows tablets are cheap and of course portable (Dell Venue 8 Pro and now many coming out of China that give the full Windows 8.1 experience). This blog title aids those who have such devices.

    For example many ebooks for medical school are in PDF format. We have no choice but to read these PDF to gain knowledge, but we also depend on the productivity from windows. Would not make sense to have a device for reading books and another for productivity with Med School already being expensive and also the constant movements to various locations.

    • John - IMRGinc.
      January 10, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Nicely said.

  9. Phil N
    December 29, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I can't imagine sitting at my desk reading a book on my monitor.

  10. Mark N
    December 29, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Sumatra also handles CBR and CBZ comic book formats.

  11. Akash
    December 29, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Martview works excellent for me !

  12. Ivan Icin
    December 29, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Maybe you should give text to speech apps for books one spot on this list. ReadAloud supports PDF, but I think my app Share to Speech (and its free Lite edition) has the most complete support both considering formats (.epub, fb2, .pdf) and features.