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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.
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, 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.
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.