Kitabu: A Simple and Free EPUB Reader

| In-Depth Review

Kitabu, from Sixty Four, LLC, is a simple, no frills EPUB reader for OS X. It has some basic but well chosen features, it’s fairly solid and, best of all, free.

For serious e-book collectors, it may be desirable to have a full-featured e-book reader like Calibre or BookReader. However, others may simply have a need to occasionally inspect an EPUB document, and a free one hits the spot. That’s what Kitabu is.

Kitabu icon

Developed in Estonia, by Sixty Four, LLC, Kitabu is just part of their EPUB technology offerings, and a free EPUB reader is a good way to introduce customers to their products. For example, there is an ePUB Metadata editor (US$3.99) and an EPUB Packager ($0.99).

Kitabu-1Showing the TOC sidebar, position slider and sepia background

Features:

Kitabu has a short but pleasing list of features:

  • Font size adjustment
  • Background color adjustment (3)
  • Lion Full Screen mode
  • Control of number of columns (1,2,3)
  • Copy or move document into the library
  • Finder inspection of the library
  • Slider and percentage indicator for position in e-book
  • TOC sidebar
  • Can open HTML links
  • Supports embedded media files, audio & video

Kitabu-3Simple display options

Negatives:

  • Can only view one document at a time
  • Limited font selection (Times New Roman, Helvetica, Georgia, Arial)
  • No search
  • No bookmarks
  • No change of font color
  • No gesture support
  • Only reads EPUB format

The app claims drag and drop support. Not knowing for sure what that meant, I dragged an EPUB document into the library (using Lion 10.7.3) and the app promptly crashed. Even if I didn’t take the meaning of “drag and drop” correctly, that bug needs fixing.

Kitabu-2Three column mode

All things considered, for a free app that doesn’t aspire to go toe to toe with the major apps like Bookle, BookReader, Calibre, and Murasaki, it’s a convenient, small (0.8 MB), and stable during reading of docs that gets the job done nicely. (See TMO’s Guide to Writring, Publishing & E-books for more on those apps.)

Do I Recommemd it?

I do. The app is modest in its ambitions yet does the job nicely. I found it to be stable, except for the bug noted above, and fast. For that, it gets a Solid rating. It has room to grow if the developer sees fit. It has some essential features, and implements those gracefully. This is a good app to have around if you’re not into collecting e-books on your Mac, but occasionally need to inspect an EPUB document.

Kitabu 1.0.1 requires OS X 10.6 or later. It’s free.

Kitabu libraryA modest library of EPUBs

Product: Kitabu v 1.0.1

Company: Sixty Four, LLC

List Price: Free

Pros:

Simple, lightweight, well chosen features, font size and background control, handles embedded media, free.

Cons:

Missing features most major EPUB readers have like search & bookmarks. Limited to casual use.

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Comments

Gary

Thanks for the tip John.  Pulled it and gave it a quick try and I mostly agree with your assessment.  But I quickly found four small issues that you didn’t mention.  (The background for me is, briefly, I’m running a project at work where we’ll be making some existing DOCs and PDFs also available as EPUB and .mobi files.  I’ve been using various different apps and devices to test the files I’ve been producing as I learn about Scrivener which will, probably, be my main production/conversion tool.)

1) Certain pages will display text missing off the bottom of the page - and no scroll bar shows up to indicate that vertical scrolling will reveal more text.  It was only because I’m familiar with the large test doc I’ve I’ve been working with that I realised a two column display was missing some text.

2) In a Section which has less text than will fill a two or three column page, it will split the text equally across columns, instead of the more obvious/natural behaviour to fill the first column and then move onto the second and then the third.

3) My test document has a number of embedded images and in at least one occasion, when moving from two to three columns, the image which was initially displayed okay was suddenly squashed in the now narrower column.  ie it was scaled down, but the aspect ratio was not correctly maintained.

4) In mutl-column mode, it will also happily split a table between the column - and I don’t just mean at a row boundary.  In the example I’m looking at, it has split a line of text so that you get the top part of the letters at the bottom of one column and the lower parts of the letters of the same line when the table wraps to the next column.

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