The most common type of ebook, EPUB files can be opened with almost any ebook reader, with the very important exception of Kindle. This format is highly flexible and can include interactive features— though not all devices and readers can support them. EPUB books come in two basic varieties:
Apart from smartphones, tablets, and dedicated e-reader devices, EPUBs can also be read on computers using iBooks on Mac OS X, and Calibre for Mac, Windows, and Linux. There are even web browser-based epub readers, such as Google Play Books (you can upload your own epub files), and the browser add-on Readium. If you want to create your own EPUBs, this can be done on a Mac with Apple Pages or iBooks Author*, or you can convert a Microsoft Word document to EPUB using Calibre.
* EPUBs made with iBooks author are compatible only with iPad and Mac— not iPhone, and not any non-Apple device.
Kindle Books are a proprietary collection of ebook formats used in Amazon.com's Kindle Reader platform. While having similar features to EPUBs, Amazon Kindle ebooks can only be read with a Kindle reader: you have to use Amazon hardware or a Kindle app. Fortunately, Amazon has released Kindle reader apps for basically every computer and mobile device imaginable, including Mac, Windows, iOS, Android (which includes the Nook HD), Blackberry, and even the web-browser based Kindle Cloud Reader. Kindle books include many nice features, such as the ability to sync highlights & notes across devices, and its innovative reference tool X-Ray.
Ebooks can also be a .pdf file. There are some disadvantages, like not being able to size text or add interactive elements, but this is also a format that can be accessed on almost any type of device, be it a reader or a desktop.
If you have an account with your local public library, you have may access to ebooks through Overdrive. Ebooks borrrowed through Overdrive can be read on nearly every device. For more information about how to use the website or app see Overdrive's website.