The Ultimate Guide To the Best eBook Reader Software

For those of you who equated e-books with a simple PDF file format that is available for download either free or after payment, think twice. First up, e-books involve many more file formats than the well known Portable Document Format (PDF) including but not restricted to ePUB, MOBI, CHM, DJVU, LIT, PDB and so on.

On the surface, you may not feel the need to explore these formats but if you view these formats in the context of e-book reading devices and tablets, comparing them would surely become easier while analyzing them for the position of the best eBook reader. Comparing the demand of electronic books with traditional printed books, one would be alarmed by the conclusion.

According to a PEW Survey conducted in December, last year:

“In the past year, the number of those who read e-books increased from 16% of all Americans ages 16 and older to 23%. At the same time, the number of those who read printed books in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population ages 16 and older to 67%. The move toward e-book reading coincides with an increase in ownership of electronic book reading devices. In all, the number of owners of either a tablet computer or e-book reading device such as a Kindle or Nook grew from 18% in late 2011 to 33% in late 2012. As of November 2012, some 25% of Americans ages 16 and older own tablet computers such as iPads or Kindle Fires, up from 10% who owned tablets in late 2011.”

Popular Ebook Reader Devices

To begin exploring the various e-book reader formats out there, it is essential to analyze the popular e-book reading devices that have resulted in increasing penetration and popularity among the populace.

These are the major ebook readers in the market:

1. Amazon Kindle (Formats: HTML, MOBI, PDF, KINDLE, etc.)

2. Barnes & Nobles Nook (Formats: ePUB, HTML, PDF, etc.)


4. Android Tablets like Nexus 7, Sony Reader and the like.

5. iOS Devices like iPad and iPad Mini. ebook-readers-breakdown-comparison ***Picture Credits: Social Media Chimps

As evident, there are a wide scale of option both in terms of devices and compatibility when it comes to electronic books. Let us now look into the popular e-book formats in detail.

Useful E-book Formats For An Easier Reading & Publishing Experience

Before delving into the variety of formats used for e-books, it is important to know what DRM is. DRM or Digital Rights Management is a set of restrictions on an e-book such that you may not be able to benefit from it across platforms and devices. Simply put, you cannot transfer DRM protected e-books to other devices (that haven’t purchased the e-book yet).

AZW (Amazon Word)

This is an Amazon Kindle specific e-book format that can be used to access documents on the device as well as the Kindle software on PC or iPhone. AZW is a variant of the MOBI format with the high compression option enabled. In order to produce e-books in this format, you must employ Amazon KindleGen to generate the same. Unprotected AZW files can also be treated as .mobi or .prc for Kindle use.

BBeB (BroadBand eBook)

This format is specifically designed for Sony e-book readers while originally been developed by both Sony and Canon. LRF is the unencrypted extension of the Broad Band eBook while LRX is the encrypted variant for DRM relevant applications. Most Sony e-book stores now deal with the more popular EPUB format.

CHM (Microsoft Compiled HTML Help)

This format had been developed by Microsoft for the collection of HTML pages, index and relevant navigation tools such that it could serve as a unique help and support package format for users. It has now been extended to the .lit format.


The DjVu or DJV format is primarily used to combine text, drawings, images and photographs with the context of scanned documents in mind. It is designed to store high quality scanned images in minimum space due to very high compression ratio. Quite often it has resulted in more compression than the widely popular PDF format.


This is the well known document format that can easily converted to other formats using Microsoft Word. With Microsoft Office 2010 and beyond, the DOCX format is also more frequently used.

EPUB (Electronic Publication)

Being an open e-book standard, the EPUB format is fairly popular among tablets as well as mainstream e-book readers. Just like smartphone apps have to deal with the challenge of display sizes with respect to screen resolution, tablets and e-book readers are struck with the same chord. EPUB format is designed for reflowable content which means that the text is optimized for both fixed-layout content and the rest such that the challenge of varying screen sizes is overcome.

FB2 (Fiction Book)

The Fiction Book eBook file format is a PocketBook-friendly format while being unable to gather support in either the Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Nobles Nook. What is special about this extension is that rather than focusing on the appearance, it lays special emphasis on the structure such that tags, titles, metadata and related content is saved in a way that could easily be indexed, processed and managed. For e-Book collection management, this format is a must-use. Calibre or FBReader can be used to open this type of e-books.


The HTML format is most well-known with respect to web pages, storing and accessing them. An extended extension XHTML follows a similar structure.


This format is specifically designed for Microsoft Reader and lays immense focus on improving readability. Using Microsoft ClearType technology it accomplishes the stated goal.


As highlighted earlier. the LRF format is an unencrypted variant of the BBeB format that is designed for Sony Reader. LRX, on the other hand, is the encrypted DRM-friendly extension.

MOBI or PRC (Palm Resource Compiler)

The MOBI file format is compatible with Amazon Kindle as well as a huge base of smartphones supporting it. It can be read using Mobipocket Reader while it can be generated using Mobipocket Creator. It can be treated as a PRC extension with reference to the application. As evident, it is a very popular format by Mobipocket and can be converted to other formats with ease.

PDB (Palm Database)

Widely supported by handheld devices like BlackBerry, iPhone, eReader, zTXT, iSilo and Palm Devices.

PDF (Portable Document Format)

The most popular format with respect to electronic books but for tablets and readers, displaying e-books using this format is a major issue due to which there are dedicated software with the aim to enhance PDF display on e-book readers.

RTF (Rich Texture Format)

It is supported by almost all devices and word processors. It boasts the ability to manage special characters and text formatting well.


This e-book format is used in devices by Archos Diffusion. Files with this format can be opened using eBooks Writer for Microsoft Windows.

OPF (Open Packaging Format)

This stores the structure of the EPUB e-book and contains the title, metadata, ID, display formatting and similar properties. Ebook Reading The above list is by no means complete but we have tried our best to touch on the most useful e-book reading formats. If you wish to highlight any other format, feel free to comment in the section below this post.

Which E-book Reader Is Best for Your Use?

As a food for thought, try the popular e-book readers recommended by users with both compatibility and reliability in mind. Following is a brief summary of the poll conducted by LifeHacker regarding the Five Best PDF viewers on the same topic and the outcome is self explanatory.

In order of popularity, we have the following readers:

  1. PDF-XChange
  2. Foxit Reader
  3. Adobe Reader
  4. Preview (for Mac)
  5. Sumatra PDF