Ebooks may have come a long way, but it sure feels like all the action is happening on mobile platforms. Android and iOS powered devices, both, have a much better selection of ebook reading apps available, something that Windows 10 has tried to fix.
With its native support for files in the EPUB format in the Edge web browser.
And while no software comes close to being the perfect solution, you do have a lot of choices here, depending on whether you want powerful feature sets or simple yet refined reading experiences. There is something for everyone that wants to read ebooks on your computer!
Icecream Ebook Reader
Adobe Digital Editions
Kindle for PC
Let’s rundown some of the options you have for reading ebooks on your Windows 10 device.
1. Microsoft Edge
It may seem a little odd throwing in a web browser in this list, but if you have some simple EPUB files laying around, then the latest version of Microsoft’s new Windows 10 default web browser is all you need to open and read them. In fact, so lacking is Edge in some areas that many believe this new ability to be its best bit — it certainly is the most refined, that’s for sure.
You can directly open up ebooks in the EPUB format in Edge, and dedicated UI elements help you navigate around. The files are loaded quickly, and two pages are displayed at once in the main window, with the navigation placed below including the book and chapter titles, as well as percent complete. If you click on anywhere in the ebook, you will get a little bar up top with half a dozen icons.
There’s Table of Contents, Bookmarks, Search in the top left corner, and Options, a read aloud icon, and the ability to add a bookmark in the top right corner — pretty much all you need to navigate, read, or listen to your ebook.
And this is where Microsoft Edge really shines. This no-frills approach is sometimes all you need to read an ebook, and the browser delivers. Multiple voices are included, with the option to add more, and you can also adjust the speed of the narration. The options panel, meanwhile, allows you to choose a font style, and set text size and spacing. Three themes are also included, namely Light, Sepia and Dark.
Microsoft is sure to add to these features and enhance support for ebook reading in Edge with future updates to Windows 10. But as things stands, the fledgling new web browser has picked up some very neat abilities that are sure to please ebook readers on both PCs and smartphones powered by the OS.
If there’s one program that’s got the ebook reading market cornered on Windows, it’s Calibre. This free, multiplatform software is more than just an ebook reader — it’s a complete ebook management solution that can be used to read, edit, manage, and transfer your collection of ebooks to your electronic reader devices like an Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, or even an Apple iPad.
Expect highly accurate rendering of text and syntax highlighting, particularly for professionally laid out ebooks that you buy from online stores. The library management features in Calibre are second to none, and allow you to maintain your digital library and sync them across devices. All the latest formats are supported, from EPUB to MOBI and AZW, to PDF and plain old TXT files, while the program can convert between them with effortless ease.
And that’s without even mentioning the range of plugins that have been developed for Calibre. They extend the functionality of the program, and allow its various tools to do a lot more. It also helps you find the best prices for whatever books you want to buy, and one of its best features is the news feature that can be used to fetch news from different websites all over the world and display it as a book.
All these features do make Calibre a bit more complicated to use than your standard ebook reader, and its user interface may be a bit intimidating for beginners. But those that want something a little more advanced than Edge to read their ebooks, can do no better than this.
3. Icecream Ebook Reader
You’d hard to think really hard to name a more delightful name for a software, but beneath the fancy interface is a one of the best ebook readers that is available for Windows users. In fact, this is practically the only ebook reading programs that you can buy. Although the free version is capable enough to let you read and manage your library of ebooks, the pro version that retails for $19.95 adds in a bunch of new features — including the ability to copy text from ebooks, add notes, edit title and author names, and create customer libraries.
Getting back to the free version, though, it plays nicely with ebooks in almost all of the popular formats, like EPUB, MOBI, FB2, PDF and a few others, including CBR and CBZ, which are usually reserved for comic books. A reading progress keeps check on how many pages are left, and allows you to continue from where you left off, while options like search, copy and translate, or set bookmarks make the experience of reading ebooks on your PC easier.
On the user interface side of things, while the UI provides for very fluent navigation and ebook reading, it’s a bit clunky for what is clearly an application designed primarily for desktop Windows users. You’ll either really love it, or really dislike it. And it’s certainly not light, with the program taking a while to load and open ebooks. Some optimization here would go a long way. On the flipside, a whole bunch of settings are available that let you customize fonts and colors, and the full screen mode completes the deal for a distraction free ebook reading experience.
There may be a small selection of ebook reading software available on Windows 10, but few offer the refinements and complete feature set of Icecream Ebook Reader. Definitely give the free version a try!
4. Adobe Digital Editions
This free software to read EPUB files from Adobe is just what you would expect. Not terribly high on features, but the options that are there, are well thought out and implemented. This means that this neat little program provides one of the better user experience when it comes to readers available on the Windows platform — in many ways comparable to what mobile users have access to.
Text is correctly rendered, there is support for multiple bookmarks, and some well thought out library management features have made the cut. The user interface is polished, with clean aesthetics. Which is impressive, considering the initial version of ADE was built using Adobe Flash.
Yes, that Adobe Flash.
Adobe eBook Reader was what the company had to offer before this, and the first release of Digital Editions in 2007 required Adobe Flash Player to be installed to function. That all changed with version 2, and ADE quickly became more and more capable with each new release, with features designed for acquiring, managing and reading ebooks, newspapers and other digital publications.
But one thing that goes against Adobe Digital Editions is that it’s rarely updated with big new features, more so now that it has all the necessary and essential options baked in. It also comes with some rather interesting digital right management functionalities, whereby the program stores ebooks as PDF files locally on Windows machines. The DRM locks content to up to six machines, and while the ebooks can be copied and handled like other files, they can only be opened with Adobe Digital Editions.
At the end of the day, this is just one of the two ebook reading applications for Windows that are developed by big companies, the other being the Kindle app. Adobe has put a fair amount of thought into designing Digital Editions. The overall experience you get from this free program is right up there with the best. It will require some time to tinker and adjust the various settings, but once you set things up, it’s smooth sailing from there on.
5. Kindle for PC
Kindle for PC is Kindle for PCs, alright. Available for computers running Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or 10, this free ebook reader and manager lets you both shop for new titles and manage your library and collections, in a layout that is optimized for the Windows operating system.
The experience this program provides is very much in line with what a handheld Kindle device would.
Down to the integration with Whispersync that synchronizes the last page read and annotations between devices, allowing you to pick up where you left off on your reader. Of course, all the standard features you would expect are here, too, including color modes and brightness control, different reading views, and text to speech functionality that make for an immersive reading experience. In short, if you are already invested in the Amazon Kindle ecosystem, this is a rather good app to have.
Not so much, if you are not.
Because while the features are there, many are either inadequate or do not work at all, depending on the device you are using the program on. For example, Surface users and owners of other tablets will find the touch functionality woefully lacking, requiring the use of keyboard and mouse or trackpad to accomplish even the most basic of tasks.
And since the EPUB format is not supported out of the box, you will need to convert your library into the file formats that Kindle for PC can open —MOBI, for example. The conversion process is not all that difficult, and well worth it, if you really like this program and plan on using it to manage your ebooks.
To its credit, Amazon continues to optimize performance and refine these features with each new update. The latest version, for example, adds two new fonts (Amazon Ember Bold and OpenDyslexic), while improving the experience with content in other languages. Aside from these regular improvements, the Kindle for PC app also packs in features that are part and parcel of any modern ebook reader, like streamlined navigation, search, page turns, changing fonts, setting the number of words per line, notes, highlights and bookmarks, dictionary and synchronization with other devices.
6. Sumatra PDF
Clearly the odd one out in this list, Sumatra PDF is actually a PDF reader — with a twist. It’s practically your best choice if you have ebooks in some of the more obscure formats like XPS, DjVu and CHM. It obviously also supports PDF, and more mainstream formats like EPUB and MOBI, as well as CBZ and CBR, the two most popular formats comic books are delivered in.
Since this program is basically meant to read files in the PDF format, its functionality is primarily geared towards that. That said, this fast and fluid application is equally at home with all variety of ebooks, and does a solid enough job maintaining the formatting of text and other elements in an ebook.
Its interface is centered around simplicity. Open the program, and you get a plain old window with a title bar up top that houses all the options. Options like page navigation, zooming in and out, open and close files, print and search. Even the settings panel is kept simple, with a dedicated section for those that want to tinker with more advanced options.
Think of this as a moderately capable PDF reader that has the power to fly with most ebooks that you throw its way. The lightweight usage and clean UI just sweeten the deal, for what is one of the better options available for people that could do without advanced management.
The open nature of many of the ebook formats means that there is no shortage of apps from smaller developers that can open them. And while most of these free solutions have not seen updates recently, and lack in new features, they are fine enough for reading books on your PC.
The main concept behind FBReader, or Favorite Book Reader, is to offer you a simple tool to read ebooks in EPUB, MOBI, RTF, FB2 and plain text formats. The focus is on simplicity, with a functional interface. But you do get solid navigation, along with features like color schemes and bookmarks.
Another open source solution like FBReader, Cool Reader may not offer you much in terms of thrills, but it comes with multiformat support and bookmarking. It also requires minimum system resources, making it a good option for those that want to read EPUB files on low end PCs and budget tablets.
With a slightly more complex user interface, eREAD lets you both read your ebooks and manage them. You can read ebooks online if you want, or download them for offline reading. And while the UI may be a bit cluttered, it’s familiar, and allows you to organize your collection in different categories.