Read EPUB books in your browser

Rudi Lehnert asked if there’s a way to open and read .epub books in a browser.

Most of the e-books I read are in the .epub format, primarily because I’m allergic to Digital Rights Management. (An .epub can have DRM, but they usually don’t.) A handful of e-tailers sell unprotected .epub books, although you may have a hard time finding recent bestsellers that way. And almost any book old enough to be in the public domain is available free in that format from Project Gutenberg and similar sites.

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Unlike the better-known .pdf format, .epub supports flowable content. You can select larger or smaller text, and the paragraphs will realign to fit the screen.

Epub readers aren’t as ubiquitous as .pdf readers. You can’t assume that clicking one of these files will open it up in Adobe Reader or your browser.

But with the right tools, you can come pretty close.

Consider Google Play Books. You likely think of this service as an Android and iOS app, and one specifically designed for reading books that come with Google’s own DRM. But it also works in your browser and can display unprotected .epubs. (For more on Google Play Books, see Learn where you can--and where you cannot--play your Google content.)

You’ll need a Google account; a Gmail or Youtube one will do. Go to the Google Play Books page. To read a book already on your PC, click the Upload files button near the top-right corner. Once the book uploads, it will appear in the My Books section.

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One problem: You can’t take it with you. You’ll need an Internet connection in order to read these books. On the other hand, your bookmarks will be synced across multiple devices.

If you use Firefox, you’ve got another option: the EPUBReader add-on. Once installed, it’s ridiculously easy. Just drag an .epub file into Firefox and it loads automatically. You can also use EPUBReader to search for and download books from Archive.org, Feedbooks.com, and the aforementioned Gutenberg. And yes, you can read your books offline.

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I wish I could recommend equally good Chrome and Internet Explorer add-ons. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any that are worth recommending.

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