Friday, April 16, 2010

The best eBook reader for Linux is currently....

 Microsoft Reader run under WINE.

Sigh. Not only is it the best, it's practically the only one unless you're content with fixed-format PDF. Few eBooks are available in, or reasonably convertible to, HTML, and even if they were there aren't any HTML renderers that can do half-decent H&J. None at all can hyphenate even poorly, and justification support tends to be limited to clumsy expansion-only justification that is ugly and not very nice to read.

So, to get a decent result one would basically have to hand-convert a plain text or HTML format book (possibly after pdf-to-text conversion) to TeX and typeset it for a particular display. That's not exactly a nice, convenient way to sit down for a good read. Even then, unless you use pdftex and read with Adobe Reader it won't even remember your place!

By contrast the Microsoft Reader .lit format is fairly widespread, supports automatic and somewhat decent H&J (though nothing on TeX / InDesign ), remembers your place in each book in the library, tracks and manages the library without forcing a particular on-disk structure on it, supports easy drag-and-drop of a book onto the program even from Nautilus, etc. It's friggin' emulated* Windows software that hasn't been updated or improved since it was practically abandoned by MS in 2003 and it's still better than anything available natively for Linux.

The situation is just as dire for Linux-based ( and Symbian-based ) phones and tablets. Given the spread of Qt to more and more devices, as well as all major platforms, I'm increasingly tempted to start work on a Qt-based reader with decent H&J, library management, place tracking / bookmarking / margin notes, etc. But how can there not be something out there already? Am I just blind, or is there really a gaping hole this big in free software capabilities?

Any suggestions? Anyone interested in working on one?

* I know, I know; I just don't care that W.I.N.E. Kudos to the WINE folks for their amazing work.

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