How To Read An E-Book: Embracing Your Inner Techno-Dweeb

This post, by author Cheri Lasota, originally appeared on her site on 9/8/11 and is reprinted here in its entirety with her permission.

Feeling over­whelmed by the tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion tak­ing place in the pub­lish­ing world right now? Wish you could make sense of the e-​​reader choices out there and how they com­pare? This is your one-​​stop shop for a crash course in choos­ing an e-​​reader as well as some tuto­ri­als on how to use them.

 

Also note that the file for­mat for each reader is listed below its descrip­tion in this post. Something most peo­ple are not aware of is how easy it is to con­vert e-​​book files after they are pur­chased, mak­ing them read­able on any device or app no mat­ter what they were orig­i­nally pur­chased for. Anyone who owns an e-​​reader or reads e-​​books really needs to down­load the free soft­ware cal­i­bre. Calibre is an e-​​book man­ag­ment plat­form that allows users to get about twice as much enjoy­ment from their e-​​reading expe­ri­ence. To see what I mean, visit their about page and check it out!

 

Kindle

I’ve owned a Kindle 2 for a cou­ple years. I love it.

My pros

  • Effortless to down­load e-​​books using its Whispersync technology.
  • I hear you can lis­ten to your own mp3 music files (if you set that up in the Experimental sec­tion of the Kindle set­tings. I’ve not tried it yet, but appar­ently it’s pretty cool.
  • I love the audio fea­ture of Kindle. I often plug my hands­free head­phones into my Kindle and lis­ten to my e-​​books on long road trips. Great for me, as I’m usu­ally to busy to read oth­er­wise these days.
  • I can read my Kindle books any­where. I can start read­ing on my Kindle device, effort­lessly pick up where I left off on my Kindle for iPhone app, then switch over to my Kindle for Mac or PC and not miss a beat. Awesome!
  • I can access the biggest book­store in the world and in sixty sec­onds down­load any book I want.

My cons

  •  A lit­tle slow on the page turn­ing but not bad.
  • No capa­bil­ity for read­ing enhanced e-​​books (audio/​video). This is a real bum­mer for me, since I’m excited about this up and com­ing tech­no­log­i­cal advance in e-​​publishing. It’s the main rea­son I am look­ing to buy a NookColor next, so I have that capability.
  • Clunky, slow access to the Internet. I don’t even use this device to access the Internet because it is so slow. I believe this slow con­nec­tiv­ity is much improved in the Kindle 3.

Helpful Links

You can down­load Kindle books to your Droid, iPod, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android tablet, or desk­top com­puter (vir­tu­ally any device out there that has a screen). Here are some quick links to unlock this potential.

Here’s an excel­lent tuto­r­ial on how to make the most of your Kindle:
Here are some cool tips and tricks on Kindle 3.
Wow. I just stum­bled on this arti­cle pub­lished yes­ter­day. Ooh, this Amazon Tablet is look­ing bet­ter than a NookColor or iPad! Might have to spring for one… http:// ​live​.drjays​.com/​i​n​d​e​x​.​p​h​p​/​2​0​1​1​/​0​9​/​0​7​/​5​-​r​e​a​ s​o​n​s​-​t​h​e​-​n​e​w​-​a​m​a​z​o​n​-​k​i​n​d​l​e​-​t​a​b​l​e​t​-​i​s​ -​a​-​v​e​r​y​-​r​e​a​l​-​t​h​r​e​a​t​-​t​o​-​t​h​e​-​a​p​p​l​e​-​i​p​ ad/. And here’s some more info on what’s com­ing from Amazon: http://​www​.squidoo​.com/​a​m​a​z​o​n​t​a​b​let. Looks like the 7-​​inch tablet will start ship­ping October 2011.
[File for­mat: MOBI]

iPad/​iPhone/​iPod Touch

I find read­ing books on my iPhone (and the iPad, when I get a chance to peek at one) to be the most user-​​friendly, intu­itive and aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing read of all my e-​​reading apps/​devices. The NookColor might be on par, but I’d need a full on com­par­i­son to decide for sure. I love the design of the inter­face of iBooks. Even on the tiny iPhone screen, it’s a plea­sure to read on. Of the few enhanced ebooks I’ve had a look at on iPad, they are spec­tac­u­larly designed and look beau­ti­ful on the device. Wow.

Helpful Links

[File for­mat: EPUB]

Nook

I’ve briefly played with NookTouch and NookColor. Both are well-​​designed and easy to read and use. I think the NookColor is over-​​priced, but I still want one because I want bet­ter access to enhanced, inter­ac­tive e-​​books. =) One of the coolest things about Nook? You can lend your Nook books to friends or fam­ily for a time period. Awesome, huh?

Helpful Links

[File for­mat: EPUB]

Kobo

Kobo is the soon-​​to-​​be dis­solved Borders Books’ answer to Barnes and Noble’s Nook E-​​reader. While Borders might be col­laps­ing, the Kobo E-​​reader will live on. If you own a Kobo or are think­ing about buy­ing one, you might be won­der­ing how safe your Kobo library col­lec­tion might be with Borders going bye-​​bye. Well, Kobo is set up dif­fer­ently than other E-​​readers. Borders Books part­nered with the inde­pen­dently owned ebook com­pany, so Kobobooks​.com will remain finan­cially sta­ble through­out Borders Books’ down­fall and beyond.

Note: I’ve explored a Kobo device once and don’t cur­rently have one avail­able to report more in-​​depth on. But I will say that I found the key­board incred­i­bly clunky to use.

Helpful Links

[File for­mat: EPUB]

 

E-​​Book and E-​​Reader Predictions

We’ll have to move closer and closer to a stan­dard in e-​​book formatting/​coding.

Current E-​​readers are woe­fully behind the Web on being able to dis­play even the most sim­plest of design choices–specialty fonts, wid­ows and orphans, videos, audio, etc. In the next five years, I see e-​​book design gain­ing the most growth. The fan­ci­est e-​​reader in the world doesn’t mat­ter a tiff if it can’t han­dle the sim­plest of html cod­ing. If you’ve never had to put an e-​​book on a reader, you might not real­ize that it requires a great deal of xhtml/​css cod­ing in order to get the design how you want it. Even then, a mul­ti­tude of com­pro­mises must be made and workarounds to major for­mat­ting issues must be sought out.

Current users of these var­i­ous e-​​readers often com­plain about the poor design in the e-​​books they are down­load­ing. Having gone through the design phase myself on iPad and Kindle, here’s what I’ve discovered:

  • Every e-​​reader has cod­ing bugs
  • Each e-​​reader has par­tic­u­lar for­mat­ting quirks, and each requires it’s own ver­sion of a book file to com­pen­sate for these quirks.
  • Traditional, small, and indie pub­lish­ers alike must over­come steep learn­ing curves, as most of us didn’t go to school for this sort of thing.
All in all, I’m pas­sion­ate about e-​​books and I see a vast poten­tial in their cur­rent and future use for busi­ness, edu­ca­tional, and plea­sure read­ing. Right now, I’m going to keep learn­ing how to bet­ter my read­ers’ expe­ri­ence in terms of the read­abil­ity, design, and inter­ac­tiv­ity of my novel. This is fun!

 

 

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