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The Best E-Readers for Linux

written by: Berry van der Linden•edited by: Eric Stallsworth•updated: 8/18/2010

It's been a year since Tolga Balci reviewed FBReader for Linux, more specifically Ubuntu. I thought I would take another look at the options now available to read e-books on a Linux computer. In this article you will find my conclusions.

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    Tolga Balci did a very thorough job of reviewing FBReader in his article. Therefore I will only briefly cover my experiences with FBReader. I also found another great option for reading e-books in Linux. There were a few proprietary applications released by websites that sell e-books for me to look at as well. Other problems of reading e-books on Linux will be covered as well. I will briefly mention converters, which are also important when reading e-books or trying to read e-books.

    The list of the best options are at the bottom of the article. Please note that this is "in my opinion"; after trying all of the software yourself, you might form a different opinion. The reviews below are in no particular order.

    I have one big problem with all e-readers available for Linux. None of them handle PDF like they should - if they even allow you to read PDF's at all, that is.

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    Rating Average

    FBReader has been around the longest and is in all probability the most popular reader on Linux. FBReader can be installed from repositories on most Linux Distributions.


    • Supported e-book formats are
      * ePub, an international e-publishing standard.
      * fb2, a Russian e-books standard de facto.
      * plucker, one of the most popular Palm e-book format.
      * Non-DRM'd version of Mobipocket, a popular commercial e-book format.
      * More formats.
    • Direct reading from tar, zip, gzip and bzip2 archives. (Multiple books in one archive are supported.)
    • Automatic library building.
    • Automatic language and character encoding detection is supported.
    • Automatically generated contents table.
    • Embedded images support.
    • Footnotes/hyper-links support.
    • Position indicator.
    • Keeps the last open book and the last read positions for all opened books between runs.
    • List of last opened books.
    • Automatic hyphenations. Liang's algorithm is used. The same algorithm is used in TeX, and TeX hyphenation patterns are used in FBReader.
    • Patterns for Czech, English, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian are included in the current version.
    • Text search.
    • Full-screen mode.
    • Screen rotation by 90, 180 and 270 degrees.

    FBReader does an excellent job at what it is designed for - reading an e-book is a comfortable experience. Loading books into its library is easy and really doesn't take any advanced knowledge at all. The interface is not dressed up with a lot of buttons you don't need at first glance and is therefore easy to understand and use. I also tried the network search. Network search is supposed to search & However all of the different searches I tried did not turn up any results. I tried to search for title, author, publisher, all with no result. The lack of PDF support is also a problem. Some publishers (like newspapers for instance) only have a PDF version available. This is why I can only mark this reader with 3 stars.

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    Rating Average

    Lucidor's feature set is smaller than any of the others. However this could be seen as an advantage to some.


    • Read EPUB e-books.
    • Organize a collection of e-books in a local bookcase.
    • Search for and download e-books from the Internet, for example by browsing OPDS catalogs.
    • Convert web feeds into e-book

    When it comes to simplicity, Lucidor takes the prize. The interface hardly has any buttons on the home screen. There are a few links on the home page. There is a list with last read books. To organize the books, it uses a bookcase. Lucidor is built on XULRunner(yes from the Firefox people). This means that it is possible to Skin Lucidor with Firefox themes. The Lucidor website features a list of themes proven to work. The browse catalog feature is great and works awesome. I was able to open an book from and read it. There are standard catalogs you can open(tip: click on the star).

    Browsing the Web with Lucidor is possible, but because Lucidor uses XULRunner, it has the same problems as Firefox(with Flash- and Java-plugins crashing). Lucidor had problems with a New York Times ePub file that has links included in the file. When clicking the links they work, but the previous and next links could overlap the article title. Scrolling sometimes doesn't go as smooth as I would like.

    In my opinion Lucidor still needs some work which is why Lucidor only has 3 stars. if it was possible, I would have given Lucidor a 3.5. , which is why it ranks higher in the list of best e-readers for Linux. I believe that when it's fully developed and the current problems are fixed, this would be a great reader.

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    If You Love Books Than You Might Want to Get an E-ReaderE-books are not a thing of the future any more like they where in 1985 when Voyager Company rapidly expanded it;s book on cd-rom project. in Linux we didn't have a lot of choice for e-book readers, so called e-readers, but this has changed. As popularity and sales of e-books increase so will e-readers. In this article we will find out which e-readers are the best for the Linux platform. We take a look at proprietary readers as well as readers that you can do more with than just read books. An estimated 1,5M books have already been digitized and made available for free by, and With such a big catalog of e-books it's very unlikely that you will read through all of them, even with your Linux e-reader.
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    Rating Average

    Calibre is a more than only a e-reader as you can see from the features below. Maybe it should be seen as unfair that I even put Calibre on the list.


    • Library Management
    • E-book conversion
    • Syncing to e-book reader devices
    • Downloading news from the web and converting it into e-book form
    • Comprehensive e-book viewer
    • Content server for Online access to your book collection

    Calibre is for the more advanced user. It has so many options and possibilities that it could be hard to figure out for the beginner. Also as far as I know Calibre is the only application that allows you to easily connect to your e-reader hardware. The number one feature I love of Calibre is the "Get News" functionality. This feature enables me to download news from newspapers and other sources all over the world. Because Calibre has such a rich feature set that I believe to have only scratched the surface of what Calibre can do.

    The e-reader feature is an excellent reader. The reader is easy to operate as soon as you figure out what the buttons are for. The search actually makes it possible to search inside a book or newspaper. This is a handy feature because I found the newspapers download has 447 pages. Without searching for keywords within this newspaper, it would be impossible to jump to subjects about Utrecht for instance.

    I have a Jetbook Lite e-reader in for review. Using Calibre I can schedule downloads of news sources automatically. So I can read USA Today, San Fransisco Chronicle, New York Times, The Register and Het Algemeen Dagblad(a dutch newspaper) daily. I like the fact that Calibre has a plugin system which adds even more functionality.

    Scrolling doesn't always work as well as it should. Also it's a python application some people might not like this. I will not go into the why of this because I don't feel like starting a comment war.

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    Proprietary Readers

    Proprietary readers are readers released by websites that sell e-books or e-magazines or a mixture of digital products. They are often bound to a proprietary file extension, which is why they are scored lower then the readers above. They don't allow downloading outside the application and downloading doesn't mean you can read the books on other applications of e-reader hardware. I believe when I buy a book it should be my choice whether or not I want to read it on hardware or even another software e-reader.

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    Rating Average

    Simple reader not to many functions. Only reads books from no feature set to speak off. Offers the ability to download books to a local library, for times when you are not connected to the Internet. I haven't found a way to read the books outside this e-reader which is a big negative if you ask me.

    The shop button opens a browser. This I would have build into the application personally. Other than this there is really not that much to say about this reader. For anything but it's own books this reader is excellent. I have to give them props for releasing a Linux version. But other than that this is a fail in my book.

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    Rating Average is more known the big collection of digital magazines then for e-book but they do also have some book in the Zinio Library. The Zinio Reader 4 is an Adobe Air application. This translates to it's using flash. This makes the Zinio reader slower by default. Pushing it down in the best e-reader for Linux list. Also I wasn't able to find any e-books, this is a problem with the website how ever not the reader. The shop button for Zinio Reader 4 also takes you back to the website via a external browser.

    I love Zinio's index it's great to take a look at the pages of a magazine by looking at thumbnails of the pages. The buttons are hidden in a drop-down, they don't obscure the view and you are able to use the whole screen for the magazine. Magazines is really the core business of Zinio the books they do sell seems to be an after thought. This is made obvious by the fact that you will not find, or at least I wasn't able to find any, free books. They do have a few free sample magazines however.

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    Below is your list of the best e-readers for Linux. There might be even more readers out there that I haven't been able to find. If you have a tip for me leave a comment below or send me a e-mail. Here is your list:

    1. Calibre
    2. FBReader
    3. Lucidor
    4.'s Ereader
    5. Zinio Reader 4