We’ve long thought Apple would add EPUB reading capabilities to Preview or Safari in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, or port iBooks to the Mac, but it hasn’t yet happened. While we have no plans to switch away from PDF as the primary format for our Take Control ebooks, it’s clear that the EPUB format is the future of ebooks. Unfortunately, we haven’t been happy with the best-known EPUB readers for the Mac, such as Calibre, which is cross-platform ugly beyond belief; Stanza, the Mac version of which strips all formatting and graphics and is now obsolete; and EPUBReader, which requires Firefox and isn’t Mac-like.
So rather than write an editorial about how Apple was slighting Mac users, I drafted a spec for a straightforward EPUB reader for the Mac. That, of course, was the easy part. Luckily, I was able to recruit Peter Lewis of Stairways Software to do the real work of programming an EPUB reader. Peter’s primary program these days is the wonderful macro utility Keyboard Maestro, but he’s best known for creating the file transfer program Interarchy (previously Anarchie) back in the early days of the Internet.
Enter Bookle — a straightforward, elegant EPUB reader for Mac OS X that maintains your library of EPUBs, available now from the Mac App Store for $9.99. Bookle 1.0 is intentionally simple, since Peter and I wanted to get something out quickly and then react to requests from users, but it has all the core features needed to read DRM-free EPUBs. (This unfortunately excludes titles purchased from protectionist publishers and resellers, including DRM-shackled titles from Apple’s iBookstore. We don’t apply digital rights management encryption to our Take Control titles on the iBookstore, but not all publishers respect their readers.)
Reading an EPUB with Bookle is as simple as dropping it on the app’s icon in the Dock, or choosing File > Open. The clickable table of contents appears in the sidebar, with the EPUB itself in the main window. You can navigate within chapters using the keyboard or mouse, or use the standard two-fingered trackpad gesture. Jumping between chapters is similarly easy: you can use keyboard shortcuts, two-fingered left/right swipe gestures, or the toolbar buttons.
Text formatting, background colors, and graphics all appear as you’d expect, and all links are live, both within an EPUB and out to Web resources. In short, Bookle just works the way you’d assume, and you can even customize the font, size, and background color in most EPUBs. Honestly, that’s about it for now, because we wanted to get Bookle to you quickly, and because book-reading software should be as obvious and easy-to-use as possible.
Nevertheless, Bookle does come with full documentation: the software includes “Take Control of Bookle,” a free 32-page ebook that covers everything you can do in Bookle, along with advice on where to find tens of thousands of ebooks in EPUB format — many of them free — as well as suggestions for programs that you can use to create your own EPUBs for cross-platform reading. With the included copy of “Take Control of Bookle,” you can start reading an EPUB right away.
Of course, we have ideas for additional features in Bookle, and we’re also interested in learning what you want to see in a refined, effective, Mac-focused ebook-reading program — just check in at the Bookle UserVoice forum to see (and vote for) what others have suggested and to offer your own ideas.
Bookle costs only $9.99, and it’s available from the Mac App Store to make it easy for you to get and us to manage. Bookle runs on any Intel-based Mac in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or 10.6 Snow Leopard.
(If you’ve purchased ebooks from the Take Control cart and want to download the EPUB versions for reading in Bookle, just log in to your Take Control account and click the green EPUB icon next to the book you want to download. Alternatively, you can click the Check for Updates button on the cover of any of our ebooks to go to the book’s Ebook Extras page, where you can find a link to the EPUB in the Downloads tab. Note that we don’t have EPUB versions of some of our oldest titles.)