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. 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.
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.
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 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. 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. 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 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.
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 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