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Ebooks and Ereaders

How to read ebooks, Part 5: How to read ebooks on your computer

Say you want to get into ebooks but you’re not sure what reading device you want to buy yet. Don’t worry, you’re not out of luck! If you’re reading this post at all you still have the ability to read ebooks right in front of you: i.e., on your computer. This post is all about your options for doing so, with a final addendum about the incredibly helpful ebook management program Calibre.

Readers, please feel free to drop comments on this post with your own recommendations for ereading clients!

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Ebooks and Ereaders

How to read ebooks, Part 4: Do you want a dedicated reading device?

This is the (overdue) part 4 of my series of posts on how to choose what you want in a reading device. This particular post’s topic: do you want a device that just focuses on reading books? Or do you want it to do other things as well?

I was pretty happy with my iPhone as a reading device until I got the nook and made a hugely important discovery. The fact that the nook focuses on being a reader, for me, means that it comes closer to the experience of reading a physical book.

The nook does actually have other functionality–it’s got rudimentary web access and a couple of games on it, for example, and you’re supposed to be able to listen to music and audiobooks as well. But since these functions aren’t as obvious as the reading functions, I can pretty much safely ignore them. I don’t have the impulse of “oh hey I’ll just check Facebook/Twitter/my email/whatever for a minute” to distract me from the book I’m reading.

The e-ink screen contributes to this for me as well. I see the e-ink, and it looks a lot more like a printed page to me. So I’m much better able to think of the nook as a “book-like thing” rather than a “gadget I can do various nifty things on”. If I open the nook’s cover, reading will ensue, just like with a printed book.

On the other hand, one of the reasons I resisted getting an ereader for so long was because I disliked the idea of carrying around multiple gadgets. I had already condensed the cell phone, iPod, and PDA I’d been carrying before into one iPhone, and I didn’t want to bump my gadget count back up–extra gadgets, of course, meaning extra things to have to keep track of so that they don’t get lost or stolen as you carry them around.

And there’s also the very real question of budget. If your finances are an issue, you’ll want to think seriously about the dedicated ereaders just because they’ll be significantly cheaper than an iPad or any smartphone that’s also capable of reading books.

In short, what do you need your device to do, and what are you able to spend? The answer to these questions for me was certainly “I want and can afford a dedicated ereader in addition to my smartphone”. For others, it’s a harder call.

But what about if you want to read ebooks even if you don’t have an ereader? Part 5 will be all about how to read an ebook on your computer.

Ebooks and Ereaders

Ebook postings now resuming!

Apologies for the hiatus on the ebook posts, y’all; they ran into a roadblock when Seattle got smacked upside the head with winter early last week, and then the holidays kicked in, so!

As of tomorrow I will resume the rest of the ebook posts, though! If you missed the previous ones, here are their links:

Come back tomorrow for Part 4: Do you want a dedicated reading device?

Ebooks and Ereaders

How to read ebooks, Part 3: Touchscreen vs. e-ink

Here’s part 3 of my little series of posts about ebooks and ereaders! As I’ve mentioned on previous posts, this series of posts about how to read ebooks and what ereader you might want to get focuses on what reading devices I’ve had personal experience with: the nook and the iPhone.

The nook:

E-ink is pretty damned good overall for emulating the look of an actual printed page.

The big complaint I had initially about an e-ink device is the weird way that it refreshes the screen when you turn a page. I found this extremely distracting at first–but on the other hand, I quickly got over it, particularly after a couple of firmware updates for the nook made that screen refresh faster. I don’t notice it at all now.

A somewhat bigger complaint might be the lack of relative contrast though, depending on what reading conditions you want to read under. I find my nook to be sub-optimal for reading in less than direct sunlight, such as when I’m commuting to work on the bus during the winter, and the bus lights are likely to be turned down in between stops.

Of course, with the original nook, most of the device is an e-ink screen with a touchscreen section at the bottom. This is a bit confusing and I still occasionally catch myself trying to touch the e-ink section of the screen directly to tap pages. Fortunately this actually works, but only sort of.

If you’re interested in a nook (the original model thereof, anyway), I’d recommend going into a Barnes and Noble to handle one first to see if you actually like the interface and the e-ink/touchscreen combo. Ditto for if you’re interested in the new Nookcolor, which is all touchscreen–though I haven’t seen one of these yet myself.

The iPhone:

I definitely go over to reading on the iPhone in low-light conditions, since the phone actually can light the screen for me; in theory I could get a light to put on my nook, but in practice I’d find that a bit too much effort and it’d be just one extra little fiddly bit to have to keep track of.

The phone’s touchscreen is ideal for my reading speed, since I can pretty much just whip right through a book by tapping. Since the screen size is in fact small, I can build up quite the tapping speed as well as I glance at little chunks of page at a time and tap right on through to the next one. On an iPad, I suspect I’d slow down somewhat since it’d be more comparable to the nook in screen size. Now, what reading experience you’ll get on the iPhone or iPad will again depend on what app you’re using. Just about all of the ones I’ve played with, though, will let you configure whether you want to turn pages by tapping or swiping.

Other readers:

It’s worth noting that userinfoseattlesparks has advised me that the Kindle 3’s e-ink screen has really raised the bar on contrast. On my nook, the black text against a somewhat grayish background might be a problem for people whose eyesight is worse than mine. So if you have vision issues, you might want to consider either the Kindle 3 or a touchscreen device (an iPad or the Nookcolor) because of the clarity that a touchscreen can provide you.

Overall though I still prefer my nook as my primary reading device, and I’ll get into why in tomorrow’s post: do you want a dedicated reading device?

Ebooks and Ereaders

What kind of e-reader should you get? Posts to come!

As y’all know, I’m an e-author as well as a voracious reader of ebooks. So I get asked about this semi-regularly, and just this afternoon userinfokeethrax was the latest person to ask me about recommendations for e-readers.

So I thought I’d do me a series of posts about ebooks and e-reading devices. I don’t have firsthand experience with all of them, so I’m going to focus on what e-reading experience I’ve had, and try to give as clear a picture as I can to folks. I’ll break it down roughly into the following topics:

  1. Ebook formats, who sells what format, and what devices can handle which formats
  2. Ebook pricing, whose prices are better, and how the agency pricing model has affected who sells what titles
  3. Touchscreen vs. e-ink and which is better to read when
  4. Do you want a dedicated e-reading device, or a device with many other functions as well?
  5. Can you read ebooks on your computer? How?
  6. How to check out ebooks from the library
  7. Some technical differences between devices, or, how much of a pain in the neck is it to get your books onto the thing you want to read them on?
  8. Pointers off to reviews of various devices

That should get me started and give me plenty to post about, but if anyone has any specific requests or questions they’d like to see me address, please drop a comment! I’ll be linking off to the various excellent reviews of various devices that the fine ladies at Smart Bitches Trashy Books have done, too. However, y’all please feel free to link me up with any reviews that have influenced you in favor of specific devices as well.

Ready? Next post to come: ebook formats!