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eBooks offer a lot of advantages over physical books, but to get the most out of them, you need a solid eReader app.
If you’re using a Windows 10 device to get your reading in, your options are mostly limited to the Windows Store. You could still download apps from other sources, but for the simplest process, downloading from the Windows Store is the way to go.
So what eReader apps are available in the Windows Store, and which one is the best for you? Let’s examine the pros and cons of a few of them.
Barnes and Noble’s NOOK brand is probably the largest mainstream competitor to the Amazon Kindle. Because of that, it has a pretty impressive library of eBooks to choose from (though not quite as impressive as Amazon’s).
You don’t need to have a NOOK account to use the app — but you will need it to download any books from the store, even free ones. Without an account, you can still import and read your own ePubs and PDFs. You’ll have to right-click on the home screen or swipe down from the top to see the option to import eBooks.
The reading interface itself is great. You can choose how many columns you want, set the line spacing, adjust the text, and a lot more. All of the controls fade away while you’re reading but can be easily brought up at any time by tapping in the middle of the screen. You can create annotations and bookmarks just like you’d expect.
One weird quirk of the app, though, is that it always runs in fullscreen, unlike most other Windows 10 apps that can be resized like any other window. This is frustrating if you have a device with a larger screen, but if you have a smaller Windows device, it could be an ideal setup for reading eBooks anyway.
Download: NOOK (Free)
Kobo is next in line in terms of popularity after NOOK. Its library is noticeably smaller but still has a decent number of titles. You can always import your own ePubs here as well (though no PDFs) if you’ve managed to snag any free eBooks in that format.
The interface is simple in the Kobo app but may be a little too simple. One downfall that a lot of Windows apps share is that their buttons have confusing icons. For instance, the button for importing eBooks in Kobo is along the bottom, and it’s the back arrow nestled in between the refresh arrow and the settings cog.
As far as the reading interface is concerned, Kobo is alright. It has settings for Day, Night, or Sepia as well as adjusting the text alignment, columns, and text size. Its page customization options don’t seem as thorough as some of the other apps, but it’s still plenty customizable.
Unfortunately, you will need a Kobo account to use the app at all. So at the end of the day, this app might be best suited for those who want a companion to their physical Kobo eReader tablet.
Download: Kobo (Free)
freda is the only app on this list that doesn’t make you sign up for an account at some point. It’s entirely based on finding your own eBooks from other sources and loading them up in the freda app, meaning it’s great at importing eBooks in ePub, FB2, HTML, or TXT — though, strangely, not PDF.
freda’s homescreen is extremely crowded. There are lots of icons along the left and along the bottom, and their functions aren’t 100% clear unless you test each one out individually. There’s also a hefty banner ad along the bottom, though it can be removed for about $2.
The reading interface is very customizable — maybe too customizable. It’s certainly less user-friendly due to the vast options, like being able to set custom colors for the paper and the text. Navigating around the whole app just feels a little more jerky and less fluid than it does in other apps.
Overall, freda is a highly customizable app for those who don’t want an account with a large eBook store or just don’t want to be tied down to one platform. It’s just not the prettiest app in the world.
Download: freda (Free)
OverDrive is all about library books. Without a library card or an account at your local library, you’re mostly out of luck here.
It can read ACSM, ODM, ePub, and MP3 formats (I’m assuming that last one is for audiobooks), but everything here is encouraging you to read library books. It has a huge database of library websites and can redirect you to them from within the app so that you can borrow eBooks and immediately import them into OverDrive.
Once you borrow a book, the reading interface is solid. Toggle between Day, Night, and Sepia, adjust the line spacing and the font size — all that good stuff. It’s a perfectly good reading app, but it’s really only useful if you’re willing to rely mainly on library books.
Download: OverDrive (Free)
What About the Amazon Kindle?
Unfortunately, Amazon pulled their Kindle app from the Windows Store in October of 2016. You can still download Kindle for PC, but Kindle for Windows 8 is now officially dead (like a lot of other Windows Store apps). You can also use Kindle Cloud Reader for reading on any desktop operating system.
Kindle for PC isn’t a bad app; in fact, it might be better than several of the Windows Store options. Amazon’s eBook library is unmatched by anyone else, and the app is fluid and intuitive. The only problem is that you can’t import or read ePubs (though you can import and read PDFs).
Download: Kindle for PC (Free)
Which Is the Best?
There’s no clear winner. They all have some positive and negative aspects. The NOOK app is probably the best in terms of its book library and simplicity. However, freda is great for anyone who doesn’t want to be tied down to one store. And OverDrive is a must for anyone who enjoys checking out library books.
The Kindle app, of course, might be the best choice if you don’t mind downloading an app that’s not in the Windows Store. Amazon’s collection of eBooks is just unmatched, and it syncs with your physical Kindle eReader.
For a look at the other side, see our primer on how to write an ebook.
Image Credit: mehmet dinler via Shutterstock.com