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Shopping advice needed: ebook readers

Ebooks haven't been on my shopping radar until 10 minutes ago. I'm going to be buying one for upcoming client work in the next week or so. AKICIF: please advise.

To begin, I'll using the reader primarily to proof the appearance of magazines converted to the .epub format, and then to better design documents that will work well in ebook format. Most of these won't be actual books -- they'll be magazine and newsletter-style articles with images.

We're going to avoid DRM-locked formats, at least to whatever degree any of them limit us from offering the magazine in a format that can be read on other readers.

I'm also aiming for affordable rather than top of the line. Most importantly, I need a reader that will come closest to duplicating the screen size and sorts of interfaces the majority of techie and scientific ebook users are likely to have.

As for what else I need to consider, please, you tell me. I am but an egg.



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 11th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
I just got a wireless Kindle (the $139 model) and it works well and is a great improvement in eink. That being said, I think that they would translate epub into their own format.

I can bring it next weekend if you'd like to see it.

Looking forward to seeing your famous GOH self!
Nov. 11th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
Yes, please, bring your Kindle along to SFContario! I so look forward to seeing you there.
Nov. 11th, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
Kindle doesn't do epub. It only does MobiPocket/Amazon format.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 11th, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you, thank you!

I downloaded the Kindle for Mac. Alas, while Kindle has bunches and bunches of magazines available in regular Kindle format, so far I've only found three magazines available for the Kindle for Mac version -- MacWorld news, something called "Code" that does an excellent job of displaying likely problems we'll encounter in the free sample they offer, and knitting patterns.

Still, it's a quick start and I greatly appreciate that. I'll still get a reader, but having the desktop option should greatly expand my ability to see what publications do in different formats!

I'm betting ebook readers will be popular Black Friday sale items, another argument for waiting an extra week or so. Thanks to you telling me about the computer readers may well buy me the time I need to be able to wait. You rock.
Nov. 11th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
My understanding is that .epub format is somewhat like HTML; it tags the content, but the user has control over how it actually looks. My usual epub reader, Stanza, allows me to change font, line spacing, indentation, spacing between paragraphs, and font and background color.

The other epub reader I use, iBooks, gives me considerably less control, but the interface is a bit nicer.

Unless you know for sure which device people are going to be using, I'd suggest buying a low-end iPad, since that lets you use apps that mimic most of the readers out there.

The cheapest option, the $139 Kindle, won't help you at all, since it doesn't read .epub files natively; you have to convert them to .mobi.

Hope that's helpful!
Nov. 11th, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
It is helpful; thank you!
Nov. 11th, 2010 11:41 pm (UTC)
epub is XHTML for text content, CSS for styling, jpeg for images, a few XML files for content management and a zip compression wrapper around the whole thing. So that's cool, the standards it's based on are very standard and very common.

As a whole, it's a pretty shaky standard, and none of the major players are doing a terribly good job of hewing to it.
Nov. 12th, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
Thank you for the inside look at epub, and for all your other comments, too. Knowing the epub basics tells me that we'll have many of the same issues we had in converting the content for our website. But there are several pieces of that I already know how to solve and with batch processing, too. That's a win.
Nov. 12th, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
Liz Castro has the absolute best blog on epub, Pigs, Gourds and Wikis and a great book (available as an ebook) on epub.
Nov. 12th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
Grin. I was reading that blog just this afternoon, and reading reviews of the book, too. She's doing two webinars in the near future, too.

Thanks for the confirmation on both the blog and the book.
Nov. 11th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
For cheap and readily available, I'd suggest the Nook. The $139 nook reads epub format natively, and the only difference between it and its more expensive sibling is that the more expensive one has 3G in addition to the wifi of the cheaper one. (The NookColor mentioned above is a newer version, not yet out; the Nook is available from pretty much any Barnes&Noble, as well as online.)

I don't really know which ebook readers most tech-savvy or scientific readers use, but I think the Nook is the most accessible of the dedicated readers that do epub. I'll also echo the suggestions above about reader apps on the iPhone and Android. I suspect that users on those platforms do make up a large portion of the people who use epub documents, but they are going to be different experiences from those who use dedicated epub readers (smaller screen real estate is the main thing, plus different methods of switching pages (button presses on dedicated readers vs. screen swipes or screen taps on iPhone/Android)).
Nov. 11th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I also want to take a look at the iPod Touch. It has the advantages of the iPhone without any monthly expenses to use it. Well, apart from the documents I buy. :-)
Nov. 12th, 2010 02:52 am (UTC)
Next time I see you, play with mine. As an e-reader, it's rather frustratingly small. On the other hand, it does so many things marginally well that I don't expect perfection from any one thing.
Nov. 12th, 2010 12:37 pm (UTC)
Good to know. Thanks.
Nov. 11th, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
Geeky bits:

Kindle doesn't do epub, Jeff Bezos says implementing epub would harm Amazon's ability to innovate.

Nook is an Android OS system. Open source geeks like it. The little color display at the bottom for control interface and such is kind of cool. Battery life (because the color display is tiny and the main display is ePaper) is great.

Charlie Stross likes the Sony Reader, and wrote a blog entry a few months ago about how the interface is really nice. Battery life is great, the display is ePaper.

The iPad is a great reader, and the touch screen is definitely different than the button interface on dedicated readers. There are some quirks in the iBook software, but you have the option to load other reader software (I've got Kindle and Nook, but I use neither of them). Battery life isn't nearly as fabu as ePaper devices, but the iPad is color. It's an iOS device, so you can run a bunch of different apps besides readers on it. On the down-side, it's iOS, so you're in Apple's walled garden.
Nov. 12th, 2010 03:10 am (UTC)
Robert Sawyer...
Ustta write a lot about the different ebook formats. I think he's going to be at a convention you might be at... On the flip side, I think he is more interested in books on 'em than magazines...
Nov. 12th, 2010 12:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Robert Sawyer...
Thanks to your comment, I've now added asking Rob about ebook formats next weekend. Merci!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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