Buy books in Edge browser

Ian Paul re­veals how to get the most from Mi­crosoft’s ebook pur­chas­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

PC Advisor - - CON­TENTS -

As part of the blitz of new fea­tures in the Win­dows 10 Cre­ators Up­date (read our re­view on page 20), Mi­crosoft has added e-read­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties to its Edge browser. It’s a bit quirky, given its in­fancy, but with a bit of prac­tice you can be loung­ing by the pool with an elec­tronic novel in no time.

The first ques­tion you’ll ask: Does it sur­pass Ama­zon’s Kin­dle app. Well, sort of: the Kin­dle app avail­able for Win­dows tablets re­jected my (cor­rect) Ama­zon pass­word, a bug that nu­mer­ous other users have re­ported. (The Kin­dle for PC app buried within Ama­zon’s site works, how­ever).

Edge of­fers pretty much what you want from an e-reader app any­way: a progress bar, the abil­ity to re­sume where you left off (mostly), and solid text-for­mat­ting op­tions. Read­ing ebooks is also an op­por­tu­nity to take full ad­van­tage of a de­tach­able Sur­face tablet, as op­posed to a tra­di­tional note­book PC.

The Win­dows Store makes buy­ing ebooks easy

Win­dows’ ebook-buy­ing process be­gins with Win­dows 10’s Store app, which as of the Cre­ators Up­date adds an ebook store along­side its selec­tion of apps, games, mu­sic, and movies. All told, the Store app has evolved into a re­spectable mar­ket­place.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the ebook store looks re­mark­ably like the other cat­e­gories: At the top of the screen are a few ‘hero’ se­lec­tions, a handy link to some free classics, and some links to ‘top’ and ‘fea­tured’ books. How many books does Mi­crosoft of­fer? “Hun­dreds of thou­sands,” ac­cord­ing to a com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tive, with plans to of­fer New York Times best­sellers as well as other top ti­tles across a range of gen­res.

Scroll down, and you’ll see the hand­i­work of Mi­crosoft’s cu­ra­tors, with col­lec­tions of dif­fer­ent gen­res and other fea­tured works. Though there’s a search box, you can’t do some­thing as ba­sic as search for ‘cook­books’. That term ap­pears in the genre-based col­lec­tions at the bot­tom of the main page, how­ever.

As we were writ­ing this, Mi­crosoft had not high­lighted any sales or dis­counts, some­thing the com­pany will need to do if it truly wants to chal­lenge in the mar­ket. Ama­zon, for ex­am­ple, com­petes no­to­ri­ously hard on price. Dis­ap­point­ingly, some books, such as the Harry Pot­ter se­ries, sim­ply weren’t avail­able in the Mi­crosoft Store at the time of writ­ing. Mi­crosoft’s in­di­vid­ual de­scrip­tions of the books are a bit sparse, lack­ing pre­views or any art be­yond the il­lus­tra­tion on the book jacket. Since Edge’s e-reader only sup­ports DRM-pro­tected books in the EPUB for­mat, that’s all you’ll find in­side the Store. (Edge it­self in­cludes a PDF reader, too.)

If you choose to buy a book, Mi­crosoft uses any stored pay­ment in­for­ma­tion you have in­side its sys­tem to charge you. Un­for­tu­nately, there are no re­funds or trial pe­ri­ods. What’s nice, though, is that Mi­crosoft de­faults to us­ing bio­met­ric iden­ti­fi­ca­tion within Win­dows Hello to stream­line the pur­chase, if your de­vice sup­ports it. (If it doesn’t, you can use a PIN or pass­word in­stead.)

The Edge easy e-read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Once you’ve pur­chased an ebook, feel free to open it im­me­di­ately. Oth­er­wise, you’ll be off on a hunt – where is my ebook li­brary, again? In­stead of tuck­ing short­cuts to your li­brary all over the place, you’ll need to re­turn to the Store’s main ‘Books’ home page, and then click the My books link.

Doing so will launch Edge. Un­for­tu­nately, Edge opened my ‘Read­ing List’ – a col­lec­tion of web pages I stored to read later – and not my col­lec­tion of ebooks. Even in Edge, ‘Books’ isn’t found in­tu­itively; you’ll need to nav­i­gate to the Hub – the icon to the right of the ‘star’ in the URL bar – then nav­i­gate to the icon that looks like a col­lec­tion of books lean­ing against one an­other. Mi­crosoft might not force you to open a sep­a­rate app to read an ebook, but that doesn’t mean it’s any eas­ier a process. Within the Books side­bar, you’ll see your col­lec­tion of books, with a progress bar show­ing how much you’ve read. At the bot­tom of the side­bar is a link back to the Store.

Once an ebook is opened in Edge, nav­i­gat­ing its con­tents is sim­ple enough. Edge will open the book to the ti­tle page, pos­si­bly (de­pend­ing upon how the book it­self is or­gan­ised) with a list of hy­per­linked chap­ters. At the bot­tom of the screen you’ll see the ti­tle of the book, the chap­ter (if any) and your progress as a per­cent­age of the book.

More op­tions open up if you tap the screen, which re­veals a black border at the top of the page. At the up­per left there’s an icon that dis­plays the ta­ble of con­tents, which slides out from the left. Click the icon next to that and any book­marks you’ve saved will ap­pear. Edge also in­cludes a search func­tion to look for spe­cific terms.

In the right-hand cor­ner, the Op­tions icon (al­ter­na­tively Ctrl + Shift + O) lets you ad­just text font, size, colour, and spac­ing. There’s also an icon to ‘read aloud’ via text-to-speech, which also lets you ad­just pac­ing, ev­i­dence of Mi­crosoft’s com­mit­ment to as­sist­ing those with vi­sion prob­lems (al­though there doesn’t seem to be a hands-free Cor­tana com­mand to ‘read my ebook’ – hope­fully that’s forthcoming). There’s also an icon to set book­marks within your ebook, one per page.

Un­for­tu­nately, fea­tures you might ex­pect in an e-reader app, and which are avail­able else­where in Win­dows – ink­ing, high­light­ing, sticky notes, ti­tled book­marks – haven’t yet made it to Edge’s e-read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. If you stop read­ing an ebook – say, be­cause Win­dows 10 un­ex­pect­edly re­boots your PC – your progress will be saved. That’s how it’s sup­posed to work, any­way. As we were eval­u­at­ing Edge us­ing a build of the Win­dows 10 Cre­ators Up­date that Mi­crosoft pro­vided to jour­nal­ists, the op­er­at­ing sys­tem up­dated to a new build – forc­ing us to re­down­load all of our books and los­ing our progress. That needs to be fixed.

Un­for­tu­nately, Mi­crosoft’s mo­bile ebook ex­pe­ri­ence is limited to the small num­ber of Win­dows phones or tablets in ex­is­tence, as Mi­crosoft doesn’t make a ver­sion of Edge for An­droid or iOS. That’s a se­ri­ous and un­for­tu­nate hand­i­cap for train or bus com­muters. Since Mi­crosoft does in­clude a browser in­side its Bing app for both mo­bile plat­forms, it’s at least the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble that this ca­pa­bil­ity could be added later.

For now, you’ve prob­a­bly al­ready set­tled on an ebook for­mat and reader. If Mi­crosoft launches its ebook store with a splashy sale, how­ever, you could be lured in. And aside from the ob­vi­ous mo­bile lim­i­ta­tions, read­ing ebooks within Edge isn’t half bad.

Mi­crosoft’s Store now has a nice col­lec­tion of ebooks to go along with its movies, mu­sic, apps, and more

If you’re the type of per­son who reads a band’s bio­graph­i­cal info in Groove Mu­sic, you’ll no­tice a sim­i­lar­ity: mas­sive blocks of sum­mary text

Pur­chas­ing an ebook is easy

Lush, lav­ish cook­books lose a lit­tle some­thing in the EPUB for­mat, though tra­di­tional text-heavy books look just fine

The Mi­crosoft Edge Hub, in which your ebooks are stored within the Books sec­tion

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