Lets leave the ‘why would you read a book on your PC?’ question to one side for a moment, and take a look at Amazon’s new free eBook reader:
What you can see is everything Kindle for PC can do. You can insert bookmarks, but not annotations or highlights (like you can on the Kindle device). The library system is basic, although clear and there’s an amazon button that takes you to the shop via your browser. The presentation of text – the important bit – is minimal. You can’t alter font, but can change size and the width of pages. There’s no option to mess around with color or background at all. I was pretty unimpressed with the text, as there are tiny apps like Gargoyle (unfortunately not an ebook reader) that present text in a much more readable form. This just looks like text in MS Word! You can use out-of-copyright eBooks from the Gutenberg project, though, which is good.
Dedicated desktop readers aren’t very common, but there are other options. Check them out after the break – I’ll start at the bottom!
The Microsoft Reader: This aging reader appears not to have been updated since 2005, and while its minimal style and pleasant text are good, the general design is awful, and it appears to only open eBooks bought from the Microsoft Reader store. I couldn’t make it open any of the various ebook files I have on my PC. In its favor, the online store has some hilarious book titles available!
Barnes and Noble eReader: I’m not sure why, but I had high hopes for this one during installation. More fool me – it’s clunky and inflexible. I’m sure it’s fine with purchases from Barnes & Noble’s online shop, but it doesn’t like other eBooks you may own. This is a shame, as the reader itself is attractive, and I found it much more comfortable to read, with a good range of text options and some nice backgrounds.
There is also Stanza, who’s developers were bought out by Amazon earlier this year, so who knows if the beta will ever be developed further! This is fairly neat, with attractive text, and a clean, fast interface. It looks just like a Windows window with text inside – hence no picture! Stanza’s not particularly user friendly – it’s not bad, and I think most people will manage it, but it could be smoother.
Luckily, there’s the Mobipocket Reader. This mixes the modern interface of the Barnes & etc app and Stanza’s file flexibility and readability. Importing eBooks is a breeze, there are no format issues, and the library takes its organizational cue from iTunes – great! For a free application, you couldn’t ask for more – as far as reading books on your PC goes, this is pretty comfortable, and it even features RSS feed support, so you can use it as an everyday reader too.