12 Highly Recommended eBook Readers

Living in an age of public online libraries and ebook swarms can make anyone with a Windows PC invest in ebook collections. True, the file types are still far from appealing and nothing (at least for our generation) beats the dust, pages, ink, and cover of the printed book. But ebooks break away from the printed book’s weight and bulk in order to turn reading into an easier convenience applicable to our gadget-filled years. So for the simple pleasure of reading and nothing more, people should give ebooks a shot.

But the terrifying thing about this electronic experience is that one has to struggle with finding the right reader. Ebooks are quirky; some appear well, some appear horribly, and some appear differently in different software. It takes a lot of exploration to know the good ones, but lucky for you, I had and am going to share it with you. These recommendations are curated for users of the Windows 8 platform, but users of previous operating systems may find something they like as well.

For the Classic Desktop Environment:

Mobipocket Reader: 
My Standard for ebook Readers:(MOBI and EPUB)

epub or .mobi via Print2eForms

Ever since I have downloaded the Mobipocket reader for Windows Vista, I long craved to install it on every laptop I have possessed, even when it had been written for Windows XP and is now discontinued on their website for the sake of Amazon’s Kindle app and AZW format. It is the reader designed for MOBI ebooks but supports EPUB reading too (it does so by converting it to MOBI).

Now, why is it my standard? This is what I believe the first reader of its kind that balances user experience customization with proper rendering and a clean, accessible interface. After sampling other readers for different formats, I couldn’t help but think that they should be inspired by the experience Mobipocket provides, which can be gauged from the following features:

1. You are given four views for your library: Thumbnails, Cover List, Bookshelf and Details. And every time you load one in Mobipocket, it downloads a short description of the book from an online server. Works most of the time.

2. Other than rendering its main format well, it also contains many options for customization. You can change the font to any of your system fonts, its size, and its color. You can also change the background color, enable or disable ClearType, and change the spacing and margins. There are times when it cannot override the publisher preferences of the ebook’s code, but it happens rarely from my experience.

3. And other than using it in full-screen mode, you can also choose between a one-column, screen-width display, two column display, three column display, and paper-book aspect ratio. You may even automate this according to your font size. You may also automate your ebook scrolling.

4. You may add notes, links, bookmarks, and corrections.

5. All of these features are rounded up a neat, ribbon-like interface that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. It feels like a simple reader, but in fact, it is feature rich. 

BLIO: Your best-looking desktop reader 

and bookstore (EPUB)
via iTunes Apple

Who wouldn’t be charmed by the sky, the balloons, the castle, and the islets that load every time you open the Blio Reader? Sure it asks you for an account; it acts as a bookstore after all. But after you get to log on to the software, what then?

You don’t need to buy the books at Blio to use the software (but if you have the money, why not?). You just have to locate the Blio folder at My Documents and manually import (read: copy-paste) your ebooks there. Once you do, open the Blio software again and there it is your library.

Blio’s features are limited as compared to Mobipocket, being a reader for EPUB and PDF. For EPUB reading, in particular, Blio has preset color themes: white, black, and sepia. Only five font sizes are provided; only its default font is there. One may also choose between two transition animations: curl and slide. You can bookmark a page by marking it as your favorite, highlight a text, look it up, or annotate it. But despite these limitations, it renders the ebooks remarkably well and offers its nifty features in nice buttons, which fade to the background after use.

On the plus side, it is the only reader I know so far to use Windows Narrator to read the text for you, integrated as a feature.

Microsoft Reader: 
The (Most Likely) Only Reader for LIT Files

Back when the ebook market is young and growing, Microsoft was one corporation to dip its toes into making a profit out of its potential. So it launched Microsoft Reader, released the LIT Format (which can originally be created through a plugin for Word 2003), and discontinued it after (just like what it did with its tablet). No other reader supports the LIT format anymore, I believe, but you may choose to read a LIT ebook for the very purpose of using the software. Why?

Microsoft Reader combines the basic features of its Narrator (which is provided as a plugin) and ClearType to provide a reading experience in paper book ratio and Palatino Linotype font. It has five options for font size and allows for bookmarks, highlights, text notes, ink comments, and drawings. Reading it in full screen will not change the ratio, however; you will read it in the software’s original dimensions but with a black background.

And it looks antiquated but still pleasing to the eyes. It is a nice, comfortable ebook reader. I used it to read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games Trilogy by the way.

Foxit Reader: 
The Lightweight, Feature-rich PDF reader
Foxit Reader, Adobe Reader’s contender, has long been my preference for PDF files for the mere reason that it is lightweight and feature-rich (too many to list down). It is quick to render most if not all PDF files. What’s more is that it makes an effort to integrate its interface with the user interface developments of Microsoft. Its most recent update makes it largely resemble the environment of the Microsoft Office 2013 suite, but think of it as a compliment, a spice to this proprietary software.

But if you don’t like it, Foxit Reader gives you the option to revert to the old button toolbars, in five different colors. Cute.

Other Readers: I recommend but not prefer to include:

Calibre: The Open- Source Ebook Management Software

It may be a must-have for every person with ebook libraries, particularly because of its diverse file type support and conversion, properties management and folder organization options. But its reader renders the files terribly, and most of its features seem to be all over the place.

Martview: Only for its Flipping Animation

Martview is a bloated software that is intended for reading PDF files but currently supports a rough EPUB support. It is the only reading software for the desktop that has a beautiful flip animation, such that it really feels like you are reading the real thing. If only it renders the pages as quickly as it flips them; the process is still jarring even for my high-spec laptop.

If you feel like flipping through a simulation of the real book, try this one out. Just be patient with it.

The Metro Environment

Hate Windows 8? Love it? I personally am neutral about it. It improves the Windows environment but in an awkward way (why couldn’t it integrate the two together?). I, however, am grateful for the Windows store and the opportunities it provided for developers. It also paved the way for Metro-style ebook readers.

Gauging ebook readers in Metro is a challenge. Not only do most, if not all of them, feel scratchy, but you must understand what the developer wanted: a reading experience unique to the app or a reader eased for the user’s comfort and satisfaction. It should be a balance of both, right?

It doesn’t appear so among the apps I’ve tried. Luckily, there are gems to be found in the rough. For me, here they are (note: these open mostly, if not only EPUBS:

Nook: The Readable Reader

If only I discovered Nook earlier; it might as well be the top recommended app for EPUB reading. While it doesn’t have much in terms of library views, it makes up for it in a nearly complete suite of features akin to Mobipocket and Blio. You can change the line spacing (3 options), the margins (3 options), the theme (6 options), the font (6 options) and the font size (7 options). You may even annotate, bookmark, highlight, and search within the text. There is a button for the table of contents. There is an option to pin it to your Start Menu.

There is also an option to enable or disable the default formatting of the publisher. Quite cool isn’t it? Even the interface integrates well with the Metro Environment but adds its own taste to it by making the ribbon menus look like matte plastic.

Book HD: Comfortable

Book HD has a comfortable experience to it, but it is one that needs a little more of improvement. For your library, you may create your own bookshelf or look at your list of recently read books. It renders the EPUBs in a default two column layout. The reading options aren’t integrated into the Charms bar but accessed through a transparent button at the top. It contains options for unrestricted line spacing, a set of five textured backgrounds, five fonts (Microsoft Yahei, Segoe UI, Serif, Arial, Black), and for activating the animation. The animation, however, feels too transparent, I recommend users to disable it.

You may also navigate through the ebook, change its font size, add a bookmark, and shift into night mode. But all of these options are placed in buttons that feel a bit awkward and thin. But it supports rich formatting to a degree.

Liberty: Eclectic

If only I found the Nook reader earlier, I would not have made this my default. But I still have no regrets, since it presents your library in tiles similar to Live Tiles. You may also create categories for your books.

It is the kind of ebook reader that aims to make its mark in your reading experience because it renders your ebooks in a peculiar manner. It may or may not add spacing between paragraphs. It may or may not render the headings well. If it does, it resizes it to a size larger than what the publisher may have preferred. But it supports rich formatting and overrides it in a way I like if it weren’t a bit glitchy.

There are many features too, such as a support for Table of Contents as a ribbon menu, annotations, bookmarking, font choice, font resizing, and three theme options. You may also change the margins and the brightness freely. What’s more, all of these customizations can be saved in Styles so you can have many combinations accessible instantly.

Bookviser: If only for that flip animation

This is like MartView, in a sense that I feature it for its beautiful flip animation and bookish lay-out. By default, it reshapes the book cover into a hardbound impression of a book as you flip through the pages. You may also change the font into any of your installed fonts in your machine, and change the font size and line spacing. It also has six theme options, a choice for justification, and for rendering the location, author, and title, on the edge of the page.

It seems to be feature-rich. Sadly, it can’t render rich formatting well. Hence, any ebooks appear dull and unorganized because of it.

Mediabook Reader and Bibliovore

Good support for rendering publisher layouts, but doesn’t contain many options for users except for bookmarking and font resizing. By the way, Mediabook Reader has Arial as its base font; Bibliovore, Times New Roman. Bibliovore, however, provides a comfortable library interface with unique views, assembled together in a paper-texture background. Mediabook, just an assembly of tiles.

Authors Note: When choosing between these options, it is best to try most of them at once. They are free and lightweight (well, except for the bloated one). Most of all, it is because a great desktop reading experience is a balance between finding the right reader for the ebook you are reading. Is the formatting horrible? You might want to use a reader that allows you full customization. Does it use rich formatting then? You might want to use a reader that supports it. Do you have a penchant for an animated flipping? Why not explore? As I said before, ebooks are still in eclectic formats, and what goes for one ebook doesn’t go for all.

Luckily there are ebook readers to chose from. I know these aren’t the only ones. What do you think are the readers I’ve missed? Add a comment down below. Thanks.

Contributed by: Ace Alba

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