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If You’re Reading eBooks on a PC, Chances Are You’re Reading on Windows 7

microsoft-windows-8-logo[1]The trend of releasing a reading app which can only run on Windows 8 has been in vogue for several years now, but sadly the market statistics continues to show that that is a not a good idea.

A well-known ebook company is releasing a Windows 7 compatible Epub app in the next few days. I happen to get an early look, and while getting ready to write about that app I looked into the current statistics for OS adoption and Windows reading apps, and was inspired to pen a little rant on the current state of Windows reading apps.

4041741554_8fc7bd1eb6_b[1]As someone who likes to read on my laptop, I am increasingly frustrated with reading apps these days. As time goes by I see more and more of the major ebook platforms either abandoning support for Windows in favor of Windows 8 or never supporting it in the first place.

There’s Apple and Google, which never supported the OS (and to be fair no one ever expected them to). Kobo has both a Windows app and a Windows 8 app, but the apps can only read content acquired from Kobo. And then there’s B&N, which abandoned support for Windows native apps in 2013 in favor of a largely dysfunctional Nook for Web and the Nook Windows 8 app (which was itself subsequently EOLed). B&N is especially saddening because in NookStudy they had the singularly best reading app for Windows – right up until they threw it in the trash.

And while we’re on the topic, Amazon has both a Windows and and a curiously limited Windows 8 app (like many Win8 reading apps, it cannot read ebooks bought elsewhere).

In short, readers who like to control their reading experience, who like to buy an ebook and choose their own app, are running out of options to read ebooks on Windows.

Not counting the apps no longer supported, I’m down to Kindle, Adobe DE, calibre, and a handful of 3rd-party reading apps (list). (That list, coincidentally, is a lot shorter than the selection of reading apps for Windows 8/RT.) And if you’re not comfortable with removing DRM, the list is even shorter; you’re down to Kindle, Adobe DE, and the new app which is launching in the next few days.

eBook developers big (B&N) and small (Comixology, txtr) are foolishly choosing to only support Windows 8 and not the rest of Windows. And it is a questionable decision; the current market statistics bears me out on this point.

At this time Windows 8 makes up about 14.3% of the desktop OS market, while older versions of Windows make up 75% of that market (according to StatCounter). And with a 55% share, Windows 7 is the single most widely used OS on PCs.

In short, many ebook developers are ignoring the vast majority of the existing market in favor of a market segment which is slowly and gradually not replacing its predecessors.

Now, one could argue that people are more likely to read on tablets so it makes sense to focus on the tablet-friendly version of Windows. That would be a good argument, if not for the fact that 60% of Windows 8 installs don’t have a touchscreen and thus aren’t tablets. Microsoft revealed that factoid back in April, confirming that once again their concept for the future of computing was a bust.

Not to unduly bash Microsoft, but they are the ones encouraging developers to create apps which can only run on Windows 8, a platform that users are avoiding in droves. As one of those users, I think it’s only fair to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

And sadly, in spite of the continued strong showing of Windows 7, I don’t see this trend reversing itself. And other than ranting about it, there’s not much I or any other user can do.

So tell me, do you read on your PC? What is your preferred app?

image by Zeusandhera

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Sturmund Drang July 1, 2014 um 10:41 pm

I could rant for hours on this topic. Nate, I agree with you. These are stupid decisions Microsoft and the others are making. But at least Microsoft has a reason! And as you pointed out Apple, Google, and even Amazon might not want to favour Windows. But what besides self-immolation would be behind Barnes and Noble’s abandonment of it’s largest potential audience? I abandoned B&N when B&N abandoned Windows.

To answer your question, I read on Windows 7, Linux, & Cyanogenmod. My wife reads on Windows 7 and rarely on her Kindle Fire. My daughter reads on Windows 7 and sometimes on an IPad.

Sturmund Drang July 1, 2014 um 11:01 pm

Don’t miss this story.

Windows 8 lost .1%:

"The loss is minimal — Windows 8 dropped 0.36 percent and Windows 8.1 gained 0.26 percent, so the aggregate is a drop of just 0.1 percent"

While Vista gained .5% šŸ™‚

"And while Windows 8.x is lying bleeding on the floor Iā€™m afraid I have to deliver one last kick to the head. In June, Windows Vista — yes, bloody Vista — gained 0.5 percent market share. Twice as much as Windows 8.1. Oh dear."

"Oh dear" indeed.

Nate Hoffelder July 1, 2014 um 11:05 pm

I saw a similar story based on the same data; I’m not sure the data is accurate. StatCounter is a source I trust and it doesn’t show the increase in Win7 or Vista.

taosaur July 2, 2014 um 12:16 am

One could argue that people are more likely to read on tablets, so it makes sense to focus on not-Windows. There are reasons why ebooks never took off when desktop and laptop PCs were the primary ereading devices. Not least of all, most publishers are terrified of letting their content anywhere near a workhorse OS. The introduction of a mobile hybrid (what some would call dumbed-down) version of Windows may be the only reason you’re seeing any reading apps introduced for a Windows OS. I hit this brick wall back in 2009 looking into ways to use a netbook as an ereader. Publishers harangue the storefront providers like B&N or Amazon into putting out DRM management suites instead of readers (and of course, Adobe volunteered). Open source or otherwise volunteer produced readers are hampered by everyone else’s DRM.

All that said, I was recently in the position of setting up a Windows 7 netbook for ereading again, for a family member, and Calibre’s built-in reader has come a long way. I found it unusable (along with much of Calibre–I never was a cheerleader) back in ’09, but these days it has a nice set of options, and of course it’s plugged in to your library already, not to mention having de-DRM baked in if you’ve made friends with ALF.

AltheGreatandPowerful July 2, 2014 um 1:18 am

I use Calibre, or a pdf reader, if I’m reading on my PC. I have the Kindle App, and Adobe DE, but why read with the tablet reader on the PC instead of simply using the tablet, which I can walk around with?

Most of the time, though, I’m using the PC and Calibre to put books onto my Nexus tablet or my Kindle DX.

I very briefly tried using my iphone as a reader, but find the amount of text that fits on a screen just silly, like trying to read a novel posted on Twitter. I’d probably wear a stripe through the Lifeproof case just flipping pages while I read.

Jim Self July 2, 2014 um 2:55 am

I pretty much only read on my laptop when I’m proofreading a book while I prepare the ebook files. Yeah, it’s a Win7 machine. I do my main reading on my android tablet or phone. I even gave up on reading on my Kindle 3 once I realized my phone was always in my pocket and glowed in the dark.

LoganK July 2, 2014 um 3:40 am

I split my time between a Nook and Windows 8.1 (where I tend to use the Modern Nook application). I agree that Windows 8 applications are like stepping back I’m time two years, but I felt the same way when Android and iOS were growing. It’s a fact of this market that everybody is re-inventing the wheel to see if they can make a better cuddle, but I learned to just accept that there will be tradeoffs until the market matures.

It isn’t terribly difficult to release (mostly)the same application as touch-screen enabled and old-style variations, but it’s certainly not a popular choice. I suspect it’s a management problem (segmented teams).

As for the current market versus the future, I think it’s a no-brainer: more PCs will run Windows 8+ than 7 going forward. If your goal is to capture marketshare today, then invest in the old technology. If your goal is to position your company to capture future markets, then invest in the new technologies. Yes, there is a risk you could bet on a losing market or go out of business before you can capitalize on your investment, but Microsoft continuing to own a significant percentage of the market isn’t the worst bet to make.

Valentine July 2, 2014 um 4:24 am

Linux all the way, nothing fanboy-ish, I just liked it more years ago and never looked back.
For PDF’s I use Evince, very lightweight and stable, Calibre’s ebook viewer for everything else.
90% of the time though, I read on tablets, every since I got my first one, with nothing but FBReader.

The only features I generally care about, is bookmarks, font size (not caring for PDFs), and font color. The rest is negotiable.

Also, my laptop has a little piece of software called redshift (open-source -> free), that adjust colors and warmth, very useful for reading in the evenings or at night.

Anthony July 2, 2014 um 6:14 am

Adobe has a free epub reader called Adobe Digital Edition on Windows platform. You can change font size but not margin or background color like Kindle App.

Nate Hoffelder July 2, 2014 um 6:38 am

That is the Adobe DE I referred to in the post.

Name (required) July 2, 2014 um 10:10 am

Nate, please read the first sentence of this article: "The trend of releasing a reading which can only run on Windows 8 has been in vogue for several years now,"
Shouldn’t there be "The trend of releasing a reading applications which …"

Do not get me started on topic of Linux support ;-).
I am not a fanboi, I just like to use the system. For many years (cca 2002 – 2007) I was using FreeBSD as my main desktop, then PC-BSD. Nowadays I use Mint Linux. Have been using it since 2007.
Calibre and its ability to connect to my [now retired] Sony PRS-500 plus its ability to convert from any format to any format was a saviour for me.

Nate Hoffelder July 2, 2014 um 10:20 am

Whoops. So it should.

Chris Meadows July 2, 2014 um 12:05 pm

Furthermore, how could it be in vogue for "several" years? Windows 8 isn’t "several" years old yet.

Nate Hoffelder July 2, 2014 um 12:15 pm

I got the pre-release versions (including September 2011) mixed up with the official release.

Carmen Webster Buxton July 2, 2014 um 12:06 pm

I had to buy a new laptop a while ago, so I learned the hard way how crappy Windows 8 is. One thing it does (or possibly the apps do; I ago not sure which is to blame) is to put files in totally new locations that are not anything close to where Windows 7 used to put them. It is aggravating as hell.

I rarely read on my Kindle Fire, as I prefer my Paperwhite. I was hoping the Fire would work as tablet for travel but the apps on it suck, especially the Silk browser. I don’t usually read on my laptop, but when I tried it, the Kindle app was tolerable but not great. Except for the problem with where it puts the books, of course.

Nate Hoffelder July 2, 2014 um 12:16 pm

I think that is forced on the apps by Windows 8; I doubt developers would all have come up with it on their own.

William Ockham July 2, 2014 um 1:08 pm

"In short, readers who like to control their reading experience, who like to buy an ebook and choose their own app, are running out of options to read ebooks on Windows."

Are the number of ereader apps available for Windows 7 greater than the number people you describe? I am kidding, but only slightly. Nate is part of a tiny minority with peculiar requirements. Most of those people won’t pay for an ereader app anyway.

The number of people who read ebooks on a laptop or desktop is falling rapidly (just check out the Pew polls). There is no money in ereader apps. Windows 7 has a limited lifespan and many Windows 7 apps look like crap on high resolution screens. No sane developer is going to target Windows 7 for a consumer app that is just a bit of chrome around a web viewer.

Nate’s options are:

Hope for an OS project.
Hire a developer to write the app he wants.
Come up with a convincing reason that anyone should support Windows 7 for ereading app.

Nate Hoffelder July 2, 2014 um 1:19 pm

"Are the number of ereader apps available for Windows 7 greater than the number people you describe?"


"The number of people who read ebooks on a laptop or desktop is falling rapidly (just check out the Pew polls)."

Then there is no need for Windows 8 apps either, but everyone is still releasing them.

"Windows 7 has a limited lifespan"

That is probably not true. The only way Win7 will have a limited lifespan is if Win9 fixes the many things wrong with Win8. And even if that happens, we are more likely going to see many users abandoning Win8 in droves while a larger number continue to hold on to Win7 with both hands. That is, after all, what happened with XP/Vista/Win7.

I would bet that Win 7 will still have a sizable market share even 3 or 4 years from now.

Sturmund Drang July 2, 2014 um 3:17 pm

William O. PCs are not dead. That’s my opinion (and a whole bunch of other people’s) but I believe it enough to bet money on it.

Nate, "even 4 years"? Microsoft just might get their heads out of their … yeah. But if they follow the norm (IBM… AT&T…HP…GM…) they won’t. They won’t and we’ll be using Windows 7 longer than we used XP. Four years? Try fourteen. Or more.

Nate Hoffelder July 2, 2014 um 5:56 pm

I’d like to say that you are exaggerating but I am not so sure. WinXP was officially replaced by Vista over 7 years ago, and it still has a larger share than Windows 8.

And just to be clear, when i said Win7 would have a sizable market share in 4 years I meant it would be the single most used version of Windows. I expect it to exceed the combined Win8/Win9 share 4 years from now.

Sturmund Drang July 2, 2014 um 3:25 pm

comment misplaced

Thomas July 2, 2014 um 5:21 pm

Well, when I read an ebook on a PC, it’s usually on a six-year old netbook running WinXP using CoolReader. But since I use open-source software, I’m not really the kind of person they’re looking to sell their apps to.

Bill Smith July 2, 2014 um 6:44 pm

Windows 8? Hahahahaha.

I use Puppy Linux and have a pretty solid reading experience — I can run Calibre and FBReader for any non-DRMd Epub or Mobi, which includes an awful lot of vendors these days (I read mostly sci-fi and fantasy, and most of the small press publishers offer DRM-free downloads).

I also use the read on the web options with both Amazon (Firefox 10+) and Smashwords (works on almost any browser imaginable including really simple browsers like Dillo and very outdated versions of Firefox, etc.).

B&N, Apple and Kobo won’t give me the time of day because Linux…but I honestly feel like I’m not missing out on anything at all. I have access to an incredible selection of product without them.

William Ockham July 2, 2014 um 9:26 pm

I never said PCs were dead. They just all come with Windows 8.1 now. Which is a great OS, despite Nate’s irrational dread of Windows RT.

Do any of you people write software for a living? I do. It would be insane to create an ereading app for Windows 7. The economics are untenable unless you are doing it to sell ebooks. How many NEW computers will come with Windows 7? That is the question that matters to software developers. The answer is zero.

AltheGreatandPowerful July 3, 2014 um 2:11 am

That’s rubbish, the question for developers is who’s gonna buy a Win 8 computer at all, instead of just waiting for Win 9… It would be insane to write reader software for windows 8, When Win 8 is making even VISTA look good. If you think XP lasted a long time, you see how long us Win 7 owners will keep it on.

And as for this… "How many NEW computers will come with Windows 7? That is the question that matters to software developers. The answer is zero." I can find new computers for sale RIGHT NOW with Windows 7, on the first page of a search with the keywords "new computer windows 7" so that’s rubbish as well.

Frank Lee July 3, 2014 um 7:16 am

Currently, the majority of reading apps are native apps which depend on operating systems. A native app for Windows will not work for Android or Apple’s iOS. It may not work for newer versions. Future apps should focus on Web apps such as Web Books Viewer (at and Math Ebook Viewer (at that are cross platforms (Windows, Android, Apple’s iOS, etc.) Both viewers support the EPUB format. The latter also support MathML. To test it, you may download a free epub file from (select epub 3 with mathml).

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