Ebook Apps for Non-ebook Device Owners (or How do I read your book?)

Yesterday I was at the Toronto Romance Writers’ monthly meeting when I was approached by someone who asked:

I bought your latest book but I don’t have a dedicated ereader.  How can I read it on my PC? Can you recommend a program?

At the time I’d recommended Calibre but in doing some research (I asked on Twitter) I’ve discovered she has all sorts of options. (You should see the tweetstream that’s resulted when I posed this question on Twitter) By the way, the screenshots were all taken on my 22 inch monitor so the size of your pages might be different if you have a different size/shape of monitor — if you click on the images you should be able to view it full size although they may be a little blurry as I didn’t save them in the highest jpg format to meet WordPress’s graphic limitations. (Hmm, you may have to click twice on the image to see it full screen.)

Since I figured others may have the same question, I thought I should post some alternatives here. I’m assuming you already own the book and bought it from the publisher’s site like Samhain’s or Carina’s online stores, or somewhere like All Romance eBooks or Fictionwise (which is technically part of Barnes and Noble now) then you have lots of apps you can download for free for your PC. If you haven’t bought a book yet, try out some of the apps and see if there’s one you like.  For even more information (including charts) Jane of Dear Author has done several posts on the topic — just click on that link for one article. Others can be found in the Ebook pulldown menu at the top of her page.

**Edited* I’m not recommending one over the other. Everyone will have their own requirements for what they want in an ereader, so I’m just offering you some of the alternatives. I’m also basing my suggestions on the reader’s question about a book she had already purchased in epub format.  If you have a favorite bookstore you tend to buy from, then you may be more drawn to that store’s app. (Personally I like having flexibility to buy books on sale at various sites, instead of being locked in to one particular site/store.)

I have multiple readers on my computer — the Kobo, Sony and Kindle (yes, I own all three dedicated ereaders as well–I’m an overachiever ;) ) as well as Calibre. Personally I prefer reading on the Kindle device and app. It’s just so easy to buy and to use, I can see exactly where I am in the book (although you have no idea if there’s a lot of excerpts at the end that the publisher has tacked on) So I’ve taken some screen shots, plus looked for recommendations from others.

You can also download all these apps for free. (Being in Canada, sometimes the only way I can download an ebook is through the Kobo bookstore. Thanks geographic restrictions.)

First up, the Kobo app:

You can adjust both the font type and the font size, the size of the margins, and, like the Kindle, whether the page is white, sepia or black depending upon your reading requirements. The one drawback I find with the Kobo is it only tells you how many pages are left in that particular chapter. You have no idea how many pages you have left in the books, which, since I often will stay up until I finish a book, is a serious drawback for me. Especially when I was recently reading a book that was 1200 pages long. (By the way, the book in that screen shot is “Never Enough (Brown Siblings)” by one of my favorite authors, Lauren Dane. I used it since I haven’t loaded any of my own books onto my Kobo. Oops.)

The Kindle, shown below, also lets you change font size and whether the page is displayed in white, sepia or black (for night reading).

One thing I like about the Kindle is the ability to save your books into “collections” such as “read”, “to be read”, “keepers’, etc.

There’s also a Sony Reader app you can download a copy for your PC or Mac for free. I still have mine on my computer that was associated with my 505 Sony Reader which has long been retired. I quite liked the Sony Reader app — I find it easy to read — the screenshot shows the text in “Small” text — there are options available, as there are in the other apps above too, to change to a larger font.

Taryn Kincaid and Lori Ella (aka Ella Drake) suggested the Nook app — I wasn’t sure if it would work for those outside of the States, so I downloaded it myself to test it out and Hallelujah it works!  You just have to create a B&N account (no credit cards required, just an email address that doesn’t care where you live) and then add your books.  It’s a nice clear easy-to-read screen and it lets you choose the size of the font (a real plus for trifocalled me). Which is one advantage I love to reading on my laptop or on my iPad or my actual Kindle and Kobo devices —  I can change the font size to make it easier to read, something no paperback lets me do.

As I was tweeting about it, Lori Ella downloaded and tried out the Mobipocket reader and it imported an epub file for her without any problems. So I downloaded it and tried it — yup, it imported my epubbed AND Kindle files just fine! Since the Mobipocket app reads both epub format books as well as Kindle books now I’m having to consider which app to use because…the Kindle app requires you to convert any files that aren’t in the Kindle format and side load them to your Kindle, or you can pay for them to convert them for you.  Which is a little onerous. If the books are already in the Kindle format, then just send them to your free.kindle.com address and they’ll show up on your library where you can read them on your PC.

Marie Dees recommended Bookworm to read epub books on your laptop or PC. Considering the number of ebook programs I’ve now loaded onto my computer, I didn’t want to chance trying this one, but it’s also an available option.

If your already-purchased books are in an older format (HTML or LIT), you might want to convert them — for that I recommend using Calibre (it works for both PCs and Macs) It’s a free program that you can download that will also allow you to manage your ebook library by letting you add different tags to your books, as well as reformatting old books you’ve purchased in other formats to whatever format the new ereader you decide to buy requires.  For instance, I used to have a Sony reader which used its own format, but I had lots of ebooks I’d purchased in various older formats and used Calibre to convert them.. Or you can convert it to a PDF as a lot of people like reading in PDF format. (Not me, but I’m a stubborn child and despise PDF.)  And as I said earlier, if you own a Kindle, you can send them to your Kindle email address for Amazon to convert, but there is a charge.

And as an absolute last resort, you could try Adobe Digital Editions to read PDFs. *shudder* Not for the faint of heart and I really don’t recommend it.

NOTE: if you’re a smart phone owner, or own a tablet like an iPad, these apps can be downloaded for free that will allow you to read on those devices too.  But note — if you’ve downloaded them through iTunes Apple has forced Amazon and Kobo etc. to take off their links to the stores or else pay Apple 30% — needless to say, Amazon and Kobo redesigned the apps so you can’t buy books through the apps anymore. You’d have to do that through Safari or one of the other browsers. **Edited since original post**Amazon has since come out with “cloud” storage, so you can access your books without having to go through the Apple App store.  But that’s a post for another day…