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Friday, 24 April 2020

Windows 10 e-book reading options

Microsoft announced the cessation of the Edge Browser's ePub support. While Windows 10 is not an ideal platform for e-reading, there are capable options to read e-books. Below is a list of possible apps:

Freda

There is a paid and non-paid version of Freda. The non-paid version has ads that appear at the bottom of the home page but disappear after opening an e-book.  Of all the apps listed in this post, Freda offers the most customisation options. Customisation options include theme presets (this includes page background colour and text colour), control options and export bookmarks. The application also allows the syncing of e-books through the creation of a designated folder in OneDrive. As Freda has an Android app, it is possible to read and sync e-books between a mobile device and a Windows 10 laptop or tablet.

The main drawback with Freda is that it is not user-friendly. It takes time to discover the different features, so patience is needed. Another issue, I noticed, is the lack of smoothness when navigating the app's menus.

Book Bazaar

While Book Bazaar offers fewer customisations options, its user interface is easier and quicker to navigate. A drawback, with no touch screen, is the difficulty of selecting and highlighting text. To highlight text requires pressing both left and right mouse buttons and carefully dragging the cursor to select text; afterwards, a menu appears that allows the option to highlight, add a note, share etc. (the process is even more difficult using a trackpad). Significantly, there is no option to edit a highlighted passage to include more text. To alter a highlight, it is necessary to start again by first deleting the previously highlighted text through opening a separate marks and notes menu.

Sync features are supported via OneDrive - e-books, similar to Freda, are uploaded to a designated folder. Unfortunately, there is no Android app, and so there is no way to continue reading an e-book on a mobile device.

In comparison to Freda, ads appearance is more extensive. They appear not only in the library home page but also inside settings menus after an e-book is opened. Overall, in my view, Book Bazaar has too many flaws, and Freda is the better choice for e-books.

Calibre

Calibre is known as the go-to software to manage and convert e-books and other digital reading documents. Any e-book loaded into the library can be accessed via Calibre's inbuilt e-book viewer. The e-book viewer is barebones and supports features like font customisation, searching, table of content, colours of page and text etc. It also supports the option to inspect and change the CSS style sheet of the e-book viewed. Calibre's e-book viewer, it appears, is focused on changing the e-book's formatting to then be read on an e-reader. Thus, I wouldn't consider it as a dedicated e-book reader app like, for example, Freda.

Google Play Books

If you use Google services, then using Google Play Books is a good option. Google doesn't support the Play Books app in the Windows 10 store, but it is possible to access the service via a web browser. As Google Play Books is supported in Android and iOS, it is possible to upload personal e-books and read/sync them across different platforms. Also, notes and highlights are synced to Google Drive.

In a future post, I'll cover Kindle's PC app and Kobo's Windows 10 Store app. In the post, I'll explain why I think both these apps are limited and aren't worth using.

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