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Sometimes you have to wonder what Apple is thinking -- or not thinking. The company still hasn't added EPUB reading capabilities to Preview or Safari in Mac OS X. And iBooks still aren't supported on the Mac.
So it's TidBITS Publishing and Stairways Software to the rescue. They've rolled out Bookle, an EPUB reading app for Mac OS X. Finally, there's a good eReader app for our favorite computing platform.
Available in the Mac App Store for US$9.99 (visit http://tid.bl.it/bookle-app), Bookle 1.0 provides the core features needed for reading DRM-free EPUBs. Future updates will be free.
Bookle is sorta like iTunes; it can open EPUB files from anywhere on your hard disk, but upon opening them, it copies the file into a special location for future use. (The original remains intact and is never touched.) That way, when you want to return to reading an ebook later, you don’t have to open the file from the Finder again, since it’s ready and waiting for you in Bookle. Also, the software stores all opened EPUBs in an internal library so you can quickly switch among EPUBs.
Bookle offers mouse, trackpad, and keyboard navigation controls so navigating an EPUB. document is easy. Text formatting, background colors, and graphics all appear. Links both within an EPUB and out to Web resources are live. You can customize the font, size, and background color in most EPUBs on a per-title basis. Bookle can even read EPUBs out loud.
There is one thing that you should note: though you can download EPUB books from Apple’s iBookstore, there’s no way to tell in advance if the book has DRM that will stop you from reading it in Bookle. Whether or not a book has DRM on it is entirely up to the publisher (though all the Take Control titles in the iBookstore are DRM-free). In other words, iBooks may or may not open in Bookle.
As a new app, Bookle still has some rough edges to smooth out and some features that need implementing. A global search across the entire library would be helpful, as would more alignment options and the ability to sync Bookle's library between multiple Macs.
Also, the list of titles in Bookle is currently static; all you can do is add and delete them. In a future version, the developers say they're envisioning an interface more like iTunes, where there are multiple columns displaying the various metadata for each book: title, author, date added, size, and so on. You'd be able to sort the list by any of the columns, which would help with much larger libraries. That would be very welcome.
Bookle is so easy to use that you probably won't need documentation to use it. But if you do, there's "Take Control of Bookle," a free Take Control ebook that is loaded into Bookle by default. Even if you don't need it to use Bookle, it does offer handy tips on finding EPUB-based books and creating EPUBs for cross-platform reading.
"Take Control of Bookle" is also available at no cost from the Take Control Web site for those who want to see what Bookle can do before purchasing, since the Mac App Store doesn't allow demos. You can download the free book at http://www.takecontrolbooks.com/bookle .
Bookle is a commendable effort, and one that is only going to get better. It's one of those apps that Apple should be including with the Mac. But since it doesn't -- and iBooks for the Mac is nowhere in sight -- spring for the 10 bucks for Bookle and open up the world of EPUB docs to your Mac.
Rating: 8 out of 10