Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

A Romance Buyer’s Guide to eBook Readers

IpAqTara Marie pointed out that my blog posts on Sunday rarely make any sense. I thought it might be helpful to write up a buyer’s guide for the Romance Reader in what I hope is plain, non tech language. The short answer is as follows:

  • If you want a backlight, are concerned about cost and can run a fairly simple computer program (i.e, you can drop and drag with your mouse), get the eBookwise device. There are devices for sale on eBay. My neighbor bought one there and she has never had a problem. Or you can buy them from eBookwise for about $10.00 more.
  • If you are concerned about the LCD flicker and are afraid a computer like screen may bother your eyes and can live without an integrated light, get an e-ink device like the new Baen Bar (registration required).
  • If you want more versatility, a color screen, a backlight and can install a program without much assistance, get a PDA, preferably one with the biggest screen size you can afford. This is what the DearAuthor girls use.

Now, to the long answer or why I recommend the above three devices.

Fictionwise EReaderFirst, a Romance reader wants to read all the books available at e-publishers like Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, Liquid Silver, Triskelion, and Whiskey Creek Press and so on. These books are available in many formats. My preferred formats would be either “html” or “lit.”

Second, a Romance reader wants to read all of the books released by NY publishers. These books are called “secure” because they have a lock on them like iTunes songs have. iTunes can only be listened to from your computer or an iPOD. Similarly, these secure books can only be read using the right kind of software or the right device. For example, a book bought from the eBookwise store can only be read on the buyer’s eBookwise or computer. A book bought from eReader.com can only be read on the buyer’s computer or handheld device that runs its reading software program.

In order for the Romance reader to be able to meet both needs (the epublished and the NY published books), she will need either a device that can run a number of reading software programs (only a PDA can do that) or she will need a conversion program such as Convertlit GUI or Amberlit.

If the reader buys the eBookwise, she can buy her NY published books from eBookwise.com. To read the epublished books, she can take the html file and convert it using either the online converter (Free!) or by using a $14 conversion software program.

Sony ReaderIf the reader buys the Sony e-ink device, she can buy her NY published books from the Sony store. To read the epublished books, she can take the html file and copy the contents to Microsoft Word and save as an RTF file.

If the reader buys an e-ink device like the one that Baen Bar is going to be selling, she will need a conversion program such as Converlit GUI to take her “secure” MS Lit files and make them html files. To read the epublished books, the html file just needs to be copied to the reading device.

If the reader buys a PDA, she can buy her NY published books virtually anywhere and can use a number of software programs such as Mobipocket, eReader, or MS Lit. She can read the epublished books using one of the above programs or buy installing still one more program such as gowerpoint’s ubook reader.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do posts about conversion with step by step photos.

As a side note, I was going to blog about the Baen Bar ebook reader, but there are alot of details that are up in the air. I am waiting until the Baen folks get an evaluation copy and clear up some questions.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

29 Comments

  1. Tara Marie
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 06:34:36

    This one’s for me–LOL.

    Jane, I’m sure your Sunday posts make tremendous sense to those who are remotely computer literate. I myself fly by the seat of my pants, and have enough knowledge to change my blog look once in a while, but that’s about it.

    So I’ve now figured it out, I need an ebookwise w/backlight and a converter program. I’d love the IPAQ, but it’s probably overkill for my needs. Besides my husband would wonder what planet I was from spending $650 on a gadget to read books–LOL.

    I also have to get over the Christmas guilt. The eBookMan was a gift from the in-laws and I feel bad getting rid of it less then a month after getting it.

  2. Danielle
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 08:03:20

    Thank you Jane for another update. I had helped when I broke down and finally purchased an eReader. My friend decided that since I am a computer dummy, we both decided that eBookwise was the best choice for me.

    Yesterday I purchased a palmOne Tungsten E – I did this so I could purchase books from other web sites. I do hope that downloading books onto the palm is as easy as doing it on the eReader.

  3. kardis
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 09:42:59

    Jane, thank you for this post! I’ve been wanting to get a reader for some time now but I am too lazy, I mean busy, to have done much research on what I should get. Now I feel like I know where to start. Thanks!

  4. Kimber An
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 10:10:36

    Thanks for the information. I think I would have to try out a friend’s for a while before I invested the money, however. I have a sneaking suspician it would be irritating to my senses and maybe I should stick with paper books.

  5. Sarah McCarty
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 10:37:19

    I’ve been researching for years. I still haven’t found anything better than my ebookwise, at three times the price. I use it for reading and editing, and recently when at the surgeons off, my surgeon, who uses a PDA, spent half my appointment checking mine out and is now buying one. All it needs to be the perfect device is inexpensive handwriting recognition.

  6. Karen Scott
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 11:37:37

    Fantastic, a Sunday post that I understand, whoopee! (g)

  7. Shannon
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 17:06:19

    I’d love the IPAQ, but it’s probably overkill for my needs. Besides my husband would wonder what planet I was from spending $650 on a gadget to read books-LOL.

    I love my iPaq, and it was…$120 or so at Staples a couple years back. It’s an RZ1700 series, the wee baby runt of the iPaq family. No wireless net or Bluetooth (whatever that is). But I can read ebooks—I prefer Mobipocket on it—and I also have my calendar and Word for writing during unexpected waits and delays away from home. Excel, photos…the eternally evil Solitaire. Backlit and all that.

    I’m considering upgrading to a bigger, badder iPaq, but really only for a foldable keyboard. Otherwise, it was a pretty good deal, giving me e-reading and Word in one device. Watching for almost-obsolete models isn’t a bad idea.

  8. Lars
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 19:44:54

    Jane, which one do you use and which one would you recommend? Sorry if its been published before and I just haven’t seen it.

  9. Jane
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 19:50:09

    I have the IPAQ 4700. It runs around $350-$400 on the secondary market and is no longer produced by Hewlett Packard (HP). I’ve had it for . . . 3 years now and has really been a wonderful device. I remember having a problem with it early on which required me sending it into HP for repair, but I can’t recall what it is now.

    Jayne also uses this device. It has a beautiful 4″ VGA screen and does not have the flickering that a laptop screen has. The drawback is that I can only read about a book and a half on it before the battery goes kaput so I did buy an extra device that charges the IPAQ with 4 AA batteries.

    I bought the Sony Reader and still own it. It’s screen appearance is superior but I’ve not found a good bedtime solution. It has no integrated light and the booklights I’ve tried produce a glare on the screen that requires constant manuevering. The times that I have used the Sony Reader in bed, I’ve had the best results with a lamp.

    Frankly, for the cost, the eBookwise is really hard to beat. It’s backlit. Doesn’t have a flickering problem like the laptop. It’s screen is 6″. It’s not the greatest screen and it is a bit hard to read in the sunlight but overall, it’s pretty nice device.

  10. shuzluva
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 21:19:10

    Jane, thank you! I have been having an ongoing conversation with Bam about buying a reader and haven’t a clue as to what to purchase. I have a question, though: Does the eBookwise device read Adobe PDF files? And if not, will you include a section on converting PDFs to .rtfs? Thanks again.

  11. Jane
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 21:46:26

    I will include a section on converting PDF, LIT and HTML files.

  12. LinM
    Jan 21, 2007 @ 23:18:38

    Tara Marie pointed out that my blog posts on Sunday rarely make any sense.
    Yikes, I love the Sunday post including this one. I have to thank DA and other romance sites for opening up the ebook world – posts like this one helped me make a list of my own hardware, software, and ergonomic requirements. I use a palmTX: fits in my purse/pocket, well-supported, backlit, screen is large enough for me; “keyboard” input is possible.

  13. Bev (BB)
    Jan 22, 2007 @ 11:33:07

    What I like the best about the Ebookwise device is that it is a dedicated reader that let’s me get away from the computer. Now if you’re someone who needs to have computer functions with you, say when you’re on the road, then maybe a reading device tacked onto those would be a great thing in a pocket sized device but I like that the Ebookwise is just like holding a book. And once you get used to it, it really does feel a lot like a mass market paperback in your hands in terms of balance. It’s really well designed that way.

    Does anyone know how the larger version compares/compared to the feel of bigger books? Do they even still have those around for sale? Now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing them on the Ebookwise site but then I wasn’t looking for them.

  14. Miki
    Jan 22, 2007 @ 21:51:12

    Hey, Jane!

    Don’t forget – ETI (the makers of the eBookwise reader) do have a free software program for converting books. It’s not quite as fast as the $14 version, but I’ve made much fewer problems converting books with it.

    It can be found at:
    http://www.ebooktechnologies.com/support_publisher_download.htm

    One other thing, for those thinking about buying a dedicated ebook reader, but not frantic about it…

    …I saw a rumor on Mobile Tech (and some ebook discussion newsgroups) that eBookwise is in some kind of negotiation to upgrade their ebook reader. I’m not sure if it’s with ETI for the ETI-1 (size of a sheet of typing paper) or a different company (possibly e-Ink). The poster has been cryptic, stating non-disclosure agreements.

    But it might be worth waiting a little while, for those with limited funds who want to buy a device without regret!

    Of course, geeks like me…if I have a computing device that’s over three years old, I’ve forgotten I owned it! :)

  15. Danielle
    Jan 22, 2007 @ 22:16:42

    Mikki,

    Will my eReader that I purchased from them be outdate? Or do you think we will be able to download the upgrades. (I hope that’s what you saying)

    Thanks in advance.

  16. Kisakookoo
    Jan 23, 2007 @ 12:41:05

    Hi! Why I can’t fill my info in profile? Can somebody help me?
    My login is Kisakookoo!

  17. evilauntieperil
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 05:58:57

    Thanks so much for this – online sites like this one have really opened my eyes to the ebook thing, and from being warily curious, I’m moving to a point where I suspect that this is the year I’ll take the plunge. I just really wish that there was a way to try before I buy – I’ve never managed to find one (except for the PDA) in any of the shops I’ve visited, and usually enquiries get blank stares.

    I have one (probably really stupid) question. Does anyone know if there are issues with inter-region compatibility? For example if I bought or used a device in the UK/Europe or the US, would there be restrictions with using it to download from certain sites or publishers based on my/their region?

  18. Jane
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 08:13:34

    EAP – the Sony can only be purchased in the US and you can only purchase from the Sony Connect ebook store if you have a US CC. You can get around that by having someone buy you a gift card and using the gift card, but hello, what a hassle.

    I know that ebookwise is usuable in the UK. Rosario uses an ebookwise. I think it’s a matter of getting a power adapter, but I could be incorrect.

  19. Jayne
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 11:35:11

    I know Lynne Connolly (UK) has posted at other sites about using her Palm to read ebooks. I’m not sure where she purchases them from. Doesn’t Karen Scott (UK) read ebooks? I also remember Lynne mentioning that she bought her Palm used on (I think) ebay.

    I vaguely remember someone mentioning trouble buying ebooks from some of the epublishers if they didn’t live in the US. I asked about that once on one of our other posts and no one ever responded so I might have just been briefly out of my mind. Happens more and more often now. ;)

  20. Miki
    Jan 24, 2007 @ 20:32:13

    Will my eReader that I purchased from them be outdate? Or do you think we will be able to download the upgrades. (I hope that’s what you saying)

    Thanks in advance.

    Everything I’ve heard has been rumors and hints of secrets – nothing official. But Fictionwise still sells books in Rocketbook/Gemstar, Franklin eBookman, and Hiebook, and I don’t think any of those have been for sale for quite some time. So I’d suspect that they’ll continue to support the eBookwise (ETI-2) machine, even if they decide to sell a newer model.

    Does anyone know if there are issues with inter-region compatibility? For example if I bought or used a device in the UK/Europe or the US, would there be restrictions with using it to download from certain sites or publishers based on my/their region?

    Like the Ja(y)nes’ comments to your question, I know people outside of the country that hae eBookwise readers. The bigger problem was actually getting their hands on the machines themselves! eBookwise does not sell the reader internationally, so you have to get someone to ship it to you or order it for you and you can come over and pick it up. (Hey, I know someone who was coming to the US anyway, so she had a friend order the machine and she just took it back with her!)

  21. evilauntieperil
    Jan 26, 2007 @ 13:24:08

    Thanks for the information, Ja(y)nes and Miki. It’s definitely helped clear up some grey areas… Now to go and bug KarenS.

  22. Chris Hopper
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 23:42:09

    I am looking for an e-book reader that’s reasonalble in price and will read pdf books what do you recomend? I already have an e-bookwise and am looking for something like that I review books and so have been getting books that are locked in the pdf format and can’t be converted

  23. Jane
    Feb 15, 2007 @ 09:11:29

    Chris

    If your PDFs are not encrypted, you can use either Adobe Acrobat to save the PDF as an RTF or HTML or download Amber PDF conversion software.

    If the PDFs are encrypted, then you would have to use a PDA to read encrypted PDFs.

  24. Michael Bernardi
    Feb 21, 2007 @ 15:07:34

    I ordered my ebookwise ebook around christmas time last year. As I was visiting friends in the new year, I got it delivered to their address. With the addition of a 240/110volt transformer I have a perfect ebook reader with over 14 hours reading time per 2 hour charge. It would be nice to have more options allowing convertion, (there isn’t much software support) though the ebookwise website makes it very simple.

    Prior to this point I’ve been using various versions of the palm (m100, m105, Tungsten E, and recently the Tungsten TX the clarity of the various readers varies, but there is the option to view acrobat, mobipocket, plucker, palm eReader.

    The down side of the palm is the battery life isn’t as long.

  25. Lars
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 03:55:00

    Hi! I have just ordered my first ebookwise and it will get to me…soon (I live in Australia and it is going through a few loops before getting here). I just wanted to know, will I be able to convert eReader books into ebookwise compatible formats? I have seen a couple of specials on their site and would like to take advantage of it if it can be converted… thanks!

  26. Jane
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 08:13:33

    [quote comment="24738"]will I be able to convert eReader books into ebookwise compatible formats?[/quote]

    No. I don’t know of any way to convert eReader books into ebookwise format.

  27. Robert Mitchell
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 16:43:46

    >As a side note, I was going to blog about the Baen Bar ebook reader, but >there are alot of details that are up in the air. I am waiting until the Baen >folks get an evaluation copy and clear up some questions.
    ***
    Jane, and the folk who read this blog, greetings. I’m one of the Board members of the NAEBllc. We are the group trying to get an e-book reader to market and we can be found on Baen’s Bar. We are a group of *Barflies* that were not satisfied with the price or availability of e-book readers and set out to change the situation. That was about a year ago and now, lots of work later, we have begun to make some progress.

    It looks like we will finally have some evaluation units in April 2007 from a company called Bookeen. Once we have these we will be doing a lot more reporting on what’s happening. Right now we’re just waiting and trying to find out who is interested, so we’ve set up a site to register at. This does not obligate you to purchase anything, it simply gives us an idea of our market. We will get a price reduction for volume, which is passed on, so we are trying to get at least 1000 sign-ups. Hopefully I’ll get this right. Go to http://naebllc.com/phpBB/ for information on us and what we are doing or check us out on Baen’s Bar at the E-Book Reader conference.

    I’m the non-tech member of the board so I’m not the best person to ask questions of a technical nature of but I will be available to anyone who wants to know what we are and what we are trying to accomplish here.

    I’d like to say thank you to Jane for checking us out and letting us know about her, and her readers, interest. We hope that what we finally come up with will benefit the entire reading community.

  28. Paula Cardoso
    Apr 15, 2007 @ 04:49:46

    Hi ,
    At Amber you can have for free ” Amber LIT converter ” ( converts LIT files to anything you want ) and it’s very easy .
    Now , what i really wanted to know is to convert PDF to HTML , at Amber they do have it but it’s not for free .

  29. George Thomas
    Apr 27, 2007 @ 07:44:44

    I have been researching e-book devices for a long time. I really like the
    ETI-1 color version. But it is not for sale. Is there any way that one could buy one of these outside of their company?

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