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Best Free ePub Reader Software

ePub Reader Software - Free DownloadsThe ePub ebook format is so important because of its reflowable nature. “Reflowable” means that the text will rearrange itself to fit your screen size. If you increase or decrease the font size, the text also rearranges itself. This is hugely different from standard page displays like those in PDF files. On those files, if you wish to increase the text size, all you can really do is zoom in on the page. eReaders try to let you increase the font size but it always affects the page size as well, cutting off the edges of the pages. If you zoom too far in, you have to scroll sideways back and forth in order to read the a whole line of text. This is the main reason why I think ePub is the best ebook format, and I hope it stays around for a long time.

And because of that, I wanted to compile a list of the best current ePub reading programs that you can use on your computer. Most eReaders can display ePubs, and you can use them on your Android or iOS device (with programs like Aldiko and Bluefire Reader, for example), but not everyone knows which program to use to open them on your computer.


If you’re going to buy an ePub file that is protected by Adobe’s DRM, you’ll have to use Adobe Digital Editions. Likewise, if you buy an ePub ebook at any specific website that has their own DRM, you’ll probably have to use the software that they recommend, but that depends on the website so I can’t tell you what you need.


For regular ePub files, you have some choices:

Adobe Digital Editions – You can still use Adobe Digital Editions for non-DRM ePubs. I do because I already have it installed on my computer.

calibre – This is a program that lets you create, organize, and read your ebooks.

EPUBReader – A Firefox addon that allows you to read ePubs directly in Firefox.

FBReader – Works on Linux/Unix and Windows.

Mobipocket Reader – Bought by Amazon a while ago, and seems to be slowly shutting down. Still good for now.

There are others available that you can dig up, but these listed above are the ones that I feel are best. Stanza, for example, can read many ebook formats but ignores a lot of formatting so you end up missing out on the intended design of the book. Because of that I suspect that other readers might do the same thing.

I think that we’ll probably see more programs released as more and more people use the ePub ebook format. Even now I am seeing that ePub and PDF are the most popular (Kindle notwithstanding) and since ePub works best on the widest range of devices, it is the clear winner as far as I am concerned.



Creating ePubs with Sigil

Recently I had the task of creating some ePub ebooks. I did some research to find the best program to use for this, and the best I found was Sigil. This is a free program for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is very easy to use. It’s simple and works well. It even beats out paid programs like Adobe InDesign because that program requires a lot of levels of unnecessary complication.

Here are some basic steps to take:

1. Download the version of Sigil that you need for your computer.

2. Install.

3. Get the text of the publication that you will be working with (more on this below). Sigil can import TXT, HTML, and other EPUB files.

4. Read the Basic Tutorial. This is an excellent tutorial that shows you everything you need to know to get started. I recommend just following along with it and doing each step. After that you”ll be really familiar with the process and you can do more involved work with your ePub creations.

My Tips

Here are some things I think are important that aren’t covered in the basic tutorial in detail.

Margins: One thing that Sigil lacks is a built-in method for setting the margins of pages. There is a really easy solution, though. You can just add a line to the CSS in the code view. I’ve found that this works well:

body {padding: 3%;}

You can change the percentage to anything you like. Putting some padding around the edges really makes the book look more professional and easy to read.

ePub Viewers: The ePub files that I’ve created look really good in Adobe Digital Editions, which is Adobe’s ebook viewer. They also look good on my BeBook Neo, so I assume they will look fine on other similar e-readers. I put my ePubs on my iPhone and opened them with Bluefire Reader and they look good there as well. I tested my ePubls in Stanza’s desktop reader, and it is not smart enough to recognize Sigil’s page breaks and some of its formatting, so I don’t recommend using that program or other less-developed ePub viewers.

Page Breaks: This is covered in the tutorial but I just want to reiterate it. Sigil has an excellent little tool for creating page breaks. This can be used, for example, at the start of each Chapter. You just put your cursor above the Chapter title, and then click the button that looks like a curly “Ch”. Where you’ve created these breaks, the reader will see nicely formatted chapter beginnings that are separated from the end of the previous chapter.

What’s not mentioned in the tutorial is this: You can make global adjustments to your text before you split the pages, and then those adjustments will be included on every page without you having to edit every single page. For example: if you implement the margin CSS code that I mentioned above, you should do this before you start splitting up the page. Each new page you make via the Chapter break will inherit that CSS line that you added to the first one.

Text Prep: I recommend doing a lot of work on your text before you import it into Sigil. For example, if your source file is HTML, you can set Headings on each Chapter title (or section title or whathaveyou) in the HTML. You can prepare any other special formatting like italics, line breaks, indents, etc. That way if you lose your work in Sigil, or if you need to start over, you’ll have it all saved in your source file.

For everything else, you can just play around and see what you can learn. If you have any questions about using this program, feel free to leave a comment. I might know the answer (and might not!).

ePub eBooks Overview

People seemed enthusiastic about ePub in a recent post’s comments, so I thought I’d do a post all about ePub. I’ve written this info elsewhere, but ePub really is a great ebook format, so I’d say it’s information that is worth repeating. If you’re wondering how to make an ebook or just getting into e-publishing, ePub is probably a good place to start.

ePub StandardsIDPF

ePub is the current open ebook format that is standardized by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). ePub files come with the .epub file extension and can be read with a variety of different ebook programs and e-reading devices. They are easy to use and create.

The ePub ebook format is goverened by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). They maintain current standards on the format. IDPF is also the organization that standardized the “open ebook” format, which was the precursor to ePub. You can find a complete list of format specifications on their website.

Here are the most important points about the ePub standard format:

  • It’s free and open standard
  • It uses re-flowable text, which means that the text will re-orient itself to match your screen size
  • It supports images
  • It uses CSS
  • It can support DRM, but DRM is not required
  • It makes use of metadata

What does that mean for you, a reader of ebooks? In a nutshell, it means that ePub files are generally easy to work with and can be used on a variety of operating systems and devices.

ePub-compatible eReaders

ePub eReader DeviceseReading devices that can use ePub eBooks include the following:

Acer Lumiread, Android devices, Barnes & Noble Nook, BeBook (all models), Cybook Gen3 and Opus, COOL-ER, Cruz Reader, Ctaindia’s eGriver Ebook Reader, eClicto, eSlick, Hanlin eReader, Hanvon N516, N518, N520, N526, iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch (using Stanza or iBooks), iRex Digital Reader 800, 1000, iRiver Story, Kobo eReader, Pandigital Novel, Plastic Logic, PocketBook Reader, Sony Reader.

This list is probably not comprehensive, and you should check the tech specs of your particular reading device to verify whether it can use .epub files or not. It probably can.

Free ePub Software

Adobe Digital Editions
Reads both DRM and non-DRM epub ebooks. Most people aren’t jazzed about DRM, but since mainstream book publishers require it on their ebook downloads, you can at least use Adobe Digital Editions to read popular modern books in ePub format.

Use Calibre to both read and create ePub files.

iBooks for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad can read ePub files. Download it through iTunes.

Mobipocket Reader was created for the original Open eBook format, and has been a good ebook reading choice for many years.

Bookworm from O’Reilly allows readers to add ePub books to their online library and read them on their web browser or e-reading device.

Stanza is a free application that you can use to read ePub ebooks on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

How to Make Your Own ePub eBooks With Calibre (Basic Instructions)

These are very basic instructions on how to create an ePub eBook using Calibre. Once you are comfortable with this process you can get more fancy.

Step 1 – Install Calibre

Download Calibre for your OS and install

Step 2 – Import a File

– Open Calibre

– Click the “Add Books” button (upper left corner)

– Find the file you want to use. You can convert almost any unsecured document, including PDF, Word, txt, and HTML.

Step 3 – Convert to ePub

– Your file should now appear in the main section of the screen. Right-click it > Convert ebooks > Convert individually

– Edit any of the metadata and other settings that you want. When you’re finished, click the OK button at the bottom.

– Calibre will process the book and create an epub file. From this point you can view your file and adjust it if necessary.

Also, Sigil: I’ve recently found a program called Sigil that can create ePub files. I haven’t used it yet but it looks powerful.

Get Free ePub eBooks

Google has a ton of free ebooks in ePub format. From what I’ve seen they are mostly classic titles that are in the public domain. You can get instructions for downloading the books from their blog.

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