7 Ebook Readers For Your Mac Compared

Justin Pot 30-04-2014

Read books on your Mac. Sure, tablets and e-ink devices are better ways to read than your computer – and even your phone is nicer than a laptop if you’re on the couch. But sometimes you need to open a book on your Mac.


Maybe you’re using a text as a reference for a project, or maybe you just want to read a few chapters of a novel at your desk. Whatever the reason, choosing which app to open your books for depends on a few factors. Books you buy from a particular service (iBooks, Kindle and so on) can only be opened with their software, for example, while free EPUB files you find at Project Gutenberg can be read with a variety of free software.

There might not be a single program for reading all your books, so it’s good to know your options. Whatever your situation, here are the best options for reading ebooks on your Mac.

If You Love Apple Defaults: iBooks


Mavericks, the latest version of OS X, brought Apple’s iBooks service to the desktop. Long offered on iPads and iPhones, iBooks allows you to read the books you’ve purchased from Apple’s bookstore on your desktop – and also offers support for EPUB files. Your current reading list and bookmarks will sync between your various devices, so if you’re an Apple fan with multiple devices this might be ideal for you.

EPUB files you add on your Mac won’t sync wirelessly to your mobile devices.



The interface is minimalistic and focused on reading – even the toolbar fades away if you’re not using it, leaving you with just your book. You can take notes, tag and highlight information, but you won’t find a lot of customization options (so I hope you like the default font).

iBooks is a solid reader if you like the idea of a book library and mostly want to focus on reading. It’s probably perfect for most users, but only works if you’re using the latest version of OS X. Mavericks is free; here’s how to get it OS X Mavericks is Free: Here's How To Get It & Why You Want It Apple really outdid itself this time. The words "software sells hardware" never rung more true, and now that OS X Mavericks is free to all, isn't it about time you got on-board? Read More .

If You Own An E-Reader: Kindle, Kobo Or Nook

If you have a dedicated reading device – a Kindle, Kobo or Nook – you’ve likely purchased books for it. If that’s the case, you’re probably best off using the Mac reading software offered by the company that made your device.



Download Kindle For Mac, Kobo for Mac or Nook for Mac to sync your existing collection right now. None of these services offer the ability to import EPUB books found outside their ecosystem, so you may want to check out another alternative. But if all you want is to read your current books on your Mac, these apps are your best bet.

If You Want A Store-Free Alternative: Kitabu

If you’re not using Mavericks, or would rather avoid software tied to a specific online bookstore, Kitabu is worth looking into. This open source reader sports a minimalist interface, with columns, and allows you to customize the fonts.



Reading itself couldn’t be easier: use the arrow keys to turn the page, or scroll sideways if you prefer to use the touchpad.

There is a library feature; you can choose whether books are moved or copied to it in the preferences. This might be annoying for users who would like to simply open an EPUB without adding it to a library, but others will surely see it as a feature.

Notably missing features include bookmarks and notes, but on the plus side you do have full control of the reading font. You can download Kitabu from the Mac App Store, or from SourceForge if you prefer.

If You Borrow From The Library: Adobe Digital Editions

This is not the best reading software on this list. It doesn’t support columns, so you need to either resize the window or adjust to massively wide paragraphs. It doesn’t offer a lot of customization at all – there isn’t even a Preferences screen.



And yet, you might want to install it. Why? For one thing, many public libraries offer books protected by Adobe’s software, meaning you’re going to need Digital Editions if you want to borrow books from them. The software can also transfer such books to your (non-Kindle) ereader, and is required for offline reading of books purchased from Google and a variety of other online bookstores.

So it’s not the best, but you might be stuck with it sometimes. Go ahead and download Adobe Digital Editions for Mac

If You’re Hardcore/Awesome: Calibre

If you collect a lot of ebooks, and want to convert them from one format to another so you can read them on various devices, Calibre is your program. This ebook managment software can do anything, from converting MOBI files to EPUB to transferring files to a tablet or ereader. It can even download blogs or newspapers for offline reading Download Entire Newspapers or Blogs To Your eBook Reader With Calibre Read More , which is great before a long trip.


There are some down sides. The app isn’t that great for actually reading files, and its interface feels like a relic. But while Calibre might not be the best reading experience for Mac, it’s a must-have tool for power users looking to organize, convert and transfer their colleciton.

Learn more by reading our Calibre manual A User's Guide To Calibre eBook Manager Easily manage, convert and transfer your books using Calibre, the swiss army knife of eBook software, and a variety of related programs. Read More , or go ahead and download Calibre.

If You Still Want More Choices

The above options should meet just about anyone’s needs, but more choices are always good, right? Here are a few.

  • Firefox users: you can install the EPUBReader for Firefox and open EPUB files in your browser. It’s perfect if you just want to quickly open a file to check something.
  • Clearview ($6.99) [No longer available] has gotten positive reviews for its tabbed reading interface. You might like it.
  • Murasaki ($7.99, free older version) is worth a look if you prefer scrolling up and down to “turning pages”, and don’t want a library for your books.

Did I miss your favourite ebook reader for Mac? Fill me, and your fellow reader, in using the comments below.

Related topics: Ebooks, eReader.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

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

  1. shuko
    March 16, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    This article fails to mention that iBooks will only sync books you have purchased from Apple. Anything outside of this and your screwed,

    • Justin Pot
      March 16, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      It's a major downside, it's true.

    • zarazik
      August 15, 2016 at 1:35 am

      It's syncing DRM-free .EPUB and .PDF files between my MacBook Pro running OS X El Capitan and my iPad 2 running iOS 9. Once a book is added on one device, I go to the other and make sure "Show iCloud Books" is enabled to get them to show up so I can download them.

      • zarazik
        August 15, 2016 at 1:37 am

        Also, bookmarks and highlights are stored in iCloud and automatically synced with all devices.

  2. Anonymous
    September 20, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    Thank you for the review. I still have a question: what types of e-book readers are the best for textbooks with *figures*. When reading textbooks, you often need to look at a figure to understand the text, but with e-books, they are always on different pages and its difficult to go back-and-forth between reading and picture, reading and picture... "wait.. what page was I on?" I currently use Kindle, and I'm about done with it.

    Which e-book readers make pictures and figures easy to see?

    • Justin Pot
      September 21, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Hey Nicole. It really depends which formats your textbooks are available in. PDFs are reliable in terms of page numbers, but iBooks and Amazon offers all sorts of features you can't get otherwise. But I can't say I'm particularly certain which format is best for textbooks specifically.

  3. steve
    March 23, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Murasaki for me is one of the best. It has a lot of nice features I've never seen in any other reader.
    A bit pricey, perhaps, but worth every penny. IMHO.

    • Justin Pot
      March 23, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks for letting us know! Which features are exclusive, I'm wondering...

  4. Charlie Lewis
    May 13, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    An update as well as some personal opinions here: be careful, vigilant and scrupulous what you load into iBooks as they will permanently remain; you cannot remove or delete them once loaded.

    Also, Nook for Mac has pretty much been abandoned. Besides that it's pretty much worthless and prone to repeatedly crash. And if you've already got Calibre installed on your Mac add 'no reason to even have it in your Applications' folder to Nook for Mac.

  5. J. Klug
    May 5, 2014 at 3:19 am

    Although your are technically correct that EPUB items will not synch wirelessly with other devices with iBooks, when an EPUB item is added to iBooks, they will be automatically synched into iTunes, where they can be readily synched with other Apple devices.