BookReader: a Full-featured EBook Reader for Mac

| In-Depth Review

BookReader 3.8 for OS X is a mature, full-featured ebook reader for the Macintosh. It has an iBooks-like bookshelf with good sorting and searching options, and it can read documents in many standard formats, including .epub, .doc, .ibooks and many more.

This app looks so much like iBooks that some customers, in the past, thought that it might be able to view books purchased from Apple’s iBookstore and typically viewed on an iPad. However, none of the ebook readers for Mac will read DRM’d books, and the developer makes that very clear on the Mac App Store’s description page.

BookReader-1BookReader Icon

Released in July, 2010, it has had a chance to become fairly mature, and is now at version 3.8. It has a lot of features, described in the comparison chart below, and will generally delight anyone who’s building a library of ebooks. It tries to make the book reading experience as natural as possible thanks to the bookshelf metaphor and a very nice set of viewing options.

BookReader is notable for the nuances and details. You can just open a document and read it or you can (non-destructively) import it into your library, shown as a wooden bookshelf. There you can sort by title, author, genre, last opened date and more. You can also search by all of those properties in a “combo” search and you can control the sort method: ascending or descending.

Bookreader-2

Library manager draws from iBooks UI

It’s the Little Things

Once in a book, you can define several ways to view the book, either as a two page book or a single page notepad. It should be noted here that you have very good control over the basic style, but you may have to create a new or modify an existing style to achieve, say, a one-page book just how you want it. As shipped, all the book styles are two-pages by default.

I liked the detailed control over the background, text size, font and color. Things like the text margins, interrow spacing and a light gradient applied to the page make for great customization. You can modify the defaults for page turning and even add an audio sound effect for the page turn and control the animation. You even have your choice of processors in case one XML parser works better than another. I also very much liked the global search. It highlights the found text nicely and allows you to step forward and backwards easily through all the occurrences.

BookReader-4

Just a few of the many, many options

To view the metadata for the book, right click it as it sits on the bookshelf and select “Properties.” Some of that metadata is editable. You can do Text to Speech as an OS X service: Select the text, right click, then select Speech.

One problem I noticed, and many ebook readers have this problem, is the display of the ebook cover. There seems to be some inconsistency in how some EPUBs identify the book cover, and different apps handle it better than others.

BookReader-3

Slider at bottom right allows fast browsing

The developer wrote me that “the next version will support EPUB3 standard, used by iBooks Author. That means all iBooks formatting with multimedia content will be supported.”

One thing BookReader can’t do yet is open mailto: and html links embedded in an ebook. Also, there is very little help available now, and the included ebook is just a list of features and developer credits. The developer wrote me that a “more extensive users guide is currently under work.”

Comparing to Other Apps

BookReader is the most natural and Mac-like reader that I’ve seen so far. Bookle was previously reviewed, is just getting started and has very basic library management. Murasaki, which I’ll review soon is a very basic ebook reader that, nevertheless, is still ahead of Bookle in its feature list. Because BookReader has an iBooks-like bookshelf that’s easy to manage and can be displayed in different ways, it will likely appeal more to iPad users who use iBooks. Moreover, if you have non-DRM’d books in iTunes, you can import them into BookReader directly.

Comp Chart

A Good Ending

BookReader is a very nice looking, mature, capable ebook reader. Currently, it’s way ahead of the competition in its design, UI and functionality.

As I mentioned in the Bookle review, Calibre has been considered the most powerful ebook reader and library manager, but it doesn’t have that special Macintosh look and feel. If you want a full-featured, Mac-native ebook reader that has excellent library management, can open lots of different formats and has excellent control over the appearance of the book, this is the one to look at.

This app, available in the Mac App Store, requires OS X 10.5.0 or later and has been localized to English, Chinese, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish.

Bookreader-6

Product: BookReader 3.8

Company: Leo Mesentev Software

List Price: US$9.99

Pros:

Bookshelf metaphor and strong library management, reads books in many formats, Mac native, excellent customization of ebook appearance, small, stable, and fast.

Cons:

None noted.

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Comments

Will

I wrote of my experience with Bookle after reading John?s original review and then purchasing it. However, most of my concerns have been covered in the BookReader review. I like the comparison list and, as noted, Bookle?s text to speech feature is handy. However, I choose BookReader as my favourite reader on the Mac, even without speech to text. Finally, I haven?t found any chapter?s list on BookReader. It?s support is fairly rudimentary.

I have used Calibre from its start and it just gets better with each iteration, which comes often. Other than not being a very intuitive application (the learning curve can seem formidable), its book reader can be tiresome. The font is dark and I haven’t found any way to change it. But as a book library, it is excellent. It is getting better at converting PDF books and other ebook forms but at times, I have to resort to Sigil to reconfigure the ones I wish to keep forever.

Plugins can be found to break DRM in Calibre on a few formats and since Stanza has now been paralysed by Amazon for some iProducts, I have finally resorted to erasing the DRM from the books I have purchased.

I wish to have all my books on a single library but I don’t want every book in my library on my iPt or computer ebook reader. iBooks on my iPhone fits the bill and BookReader (BR) on my MacBook is the best I have found. It, too, reminds me of iBook, which on my iPt I now prefer to Stanza of old. It took the demise of Stanza to make me move. It’s all what you get used to, I guess.

I should add that I wouldn’t count on BookReader to store my books. It is easy to add a book, easy to remove one and possible easy to lose everything should your computer go down. I just checked and BookReader refers to where the book was kept when added.

John Martellaro

The BookReader developer pointed out to me that you can, in fact, use Text to Speech as an Apple service.

Select text, right click, select Speech => Start Speaking

I will amend the review.

wab95

These reviews of Mac-based eBook readers are much appreciated, John.

Although I have not read a book on my Mac since the release of iPad1, it is good to know that there is a Mac-like solution, should it arise.

I had considered getting Bookle, following Chuck Joiner’s interview with Adam Engst and Peter Lewis, but having read your review, and comparing it to both BookReader and Murasaki, I am inclined toward BookReader v3.8. I will be interested in Bookle’s further evolution, so will stay tuned.

For now, I’ve spent my allotted Mac/iBudget for the month, so will have to wait a few days before giving it a spin.

Joost Lommers

In the meanwhile, BookReader has released a free version, BookReaderLite. You can only have one book at the time in its library, but it gives you the opportunity to try the app without spending your money.

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