Top Three Free Epub Readers for Mac OS X

Well I’ve written and ranted before about free epub readers for Mac OS X. There are few such apps and those that are available seem to me to be limited as ebook readers. While I’d love to repeat and expound on my complaints, right now, I’d like to present you with a small list of epub readers I’ve found for Mac OS X.

Those looking for an epub reader for Mac OS X might want to try one of the free apps mentioned below.

Read more after the jump.

I’ve written about installing Stanza and Calibre and couldn’t help but complain about what I see as their limitations as readers. Now I’d simply like to list down some of their basic features. And I’m also writing for the first time about an app from Adobe. This list are in my opinion the top three epub readers for Mac OS X. There are other good ebook readers, but I have included in this only those that are free and those that support epub files.

Here are the top three free that you might want to check out

  1. Stanza Desktop
    • Stanza Desktop allows for customization and can read books in various formats.
    • It can be installed on PPC or intel Macs running OS X 10.4.8 or later. The problem is that is is no longer in development and it appears it is no longer available for download online. Downloading is working perfectly again.
    • Downloading
  2. Calibre
    • Calibre reads epubs and other file types and touts its ability to convert files from one format to another.  It can also be used as a library manager, similar to iBooks library for iOS. The Calibre user interface looks dated and rather un-Mac-like, though.
    • The latest version runs on Intel Macs running OS X 10.5.2 or later. An older version for PPC Macs on OS X 10.4 and later is also available.
    • Download Calibre for Intel Macs, OS X 10.5.2 or later.
    • Donwload Calibre for PPC Macs, OS X 10.4 or later.
    • Installation instructions for Calibre.
  3. Adobe Digital Editions
    • Adobe Digital Editions boasts that it is designed specifically to be a fast and free ebook reader. It reads PDFs and epubs, and XHTML books and has “borrowing” suport. Like Calibre, Adobe Digital Editions has a “bookshelf” where you can see the digital books in your library collection. The bookshelf is a little is better looking than Calibre’s and so is the user interface. Actually It looks a little like the Kindle app for Mac OS X. It can read even DRM-protected books and is recommended by some book publishers.
    • Adobe Digital Editions can be installed on PPC G4 and PPC G5 Mac running OS X 10.4 and 10.5 and Intel Macs running OS X 10.4.1, 10.5, and 10.6. I’ve been able to install it successfully on Mac OS X 10.7.2.
    • Go to Adobe Digital Editions download page.

The Kindle app for Mac OS X is a better looking reader in my opinion. Unfortunately, the Kindle app is for reading books bought from the Amazon digital book store. It cannot read epubs.

So what are my recommendation? Reading on Stanza Desktop, in my opinion, is the closest thing to reading epubs on iOS. Unfortunately it is no longer available. So at this point, it’s a choice between Adobe Digital Editions and Calibre for now. The good news is that both are compatible with PPC and Intel Macs on OS X Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Lion.

Adobe Digital Editions is prettier. To its credit, the app is also smaller: Adobe Digital Editions only takes up 19.1 MB of disk space compared to Calibre’s 218.1 MB. So points for Adobe here.

On the PPC, Calibre is a bit of a memory hog and it tends to freeze once in a while. On Intel Sandy Bridge, performance is pretty much equal. Overall, I’d recommend Adobe Digital Editions for reading epubs. It’s still not as elegant an ebook reader as its iOS counterparts, but it’s the best of the free apps I’ve found.

Screenshot: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on Adobe Digital Editions

Do you use or like any of the ebook readers mentioned in the article? Do you know of other free epub readers for Mac OS X?

Are there paid apps that you use to read epubs?I would love to hear from people who have bought and used paid ebook readers for Mac OS X.

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22 thoughts on “Top Three Free Epub Readers for Mac OS X

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  7. Good info., thanks. I’m looking for a library management program like Calibre, but that works a little better with mac. Basically, all I want to do is to be able to put all my titles & their pertinent info, from all my sources (Kindle, pdf’s, iBooks, etc.), into an Excel file where I can look at them in different ways, i.e. author, title, publish date, etc., and create a column to check off what’s been read, or not. That’s it really. Are you aware of an easy way to do this that works well on a (new) mac? Thanks!

    • Hi, Nikster. Yes, that would be cool! I don’t know of a program that automates that process. There is Ehon, it reads epubs and lets you check which books you’ve read. You can view your books as a list, with options to sort the books by title, author, year, etc. I don’t believe you can import Amazon ebooks into Ehon, though.

    • Nikster, Calibre has an “export library” option that will export to CSV format, which you can then import into Excel. It gives you the option to choose which fields you want to export. In my current version (0.9.31 for Mac) the option is under:

      “Convert Books -> Create a catalog of the books in your calibre library”

  8. Thanks for your review. I just looked into Adobe Digital Editions, and found it to be heavy with DRM. Their specs say if you download anonymously, you will not be able to copy the book to another device, etc. There are several paragraphs of restrictive statements like that on their FAQ page, which have put me off even trying ADE. Looks like I’ll have to go with the non-standard interface of Calibre.

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  11. Ehon is terrible. I really, really wanted to like it but – awful interface, book covers don’t display correctly, feels like you’re reading a word processing document. How on earth do you turn a page? Overall, it fails to simulate the feel of reading a real book, something which every good ereader MUST accomplish. ADE is so meh and Calibre feels so clunky. Found a satisfying comics reader with SimpleComic. Wish somebody would design an beautiful app for my ebooks.

  12. I don’t think it’s fair to compare file sizes between Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions. Calibre does much more than just display epub books.

  13. Surprised that nobody mentions BookReader. It’s still to be improved, but at least to me, far better than ADE, Stanza, Calibre, or Ehon.

  14. Stanza Desktop cannot open some epubs properly. For example “Lonely Planet” ebooks.

    Calibre is bulky and ugly too. Reading ebooks should be simple in my opinion.

    Adobe Digital Editions locks the epubs so you can only read them with one computer or one “adobe id”. No way I’m agreeing with that!

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