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Dear Authors 2007 Christmas Buying Guide for Ebook Readers: The...

I’ve used both dedicated eReading Devices and Multi-function devices and if I had a dedicated eReading device that had a backlight, I would use that one probably exclusively. Dedicated eReaders are those devices whose primary function is to serve as an ebook reader. Most dedicated devices also have an mp3 player, but for the most part, the dedicated device is meant for just one thing: reading.

There are dedicated e-readers in every price range with the least expensive being the eBookwise and the most expensive being the Iliad.



First up is the $100 device. The most cost effective ereading device on the market is the eBookwise. The eBookwise can be purchased via the eBookwise store (a division of Fictionwise) starting at $109.95. eBookwise also sells two bundled packages: an ereader with a 64 MB Smartmedia card and an ereader with a 128 MB Smartmedia card.

According to eBookwise, the typical number of ebooks per device is as follows:

Approximate number of typical eBooks that can be held on the eBookwise-1150 with various memory options:
No Card : (Internal 8MB only) 10 $109.95
64 MB Card: 100 $139.95
128 MB Card: 200 $179.95

The pros for the eBookwise are the cost, the size (slightly larger than a paperback), touchscreen, modem, and the integrated backlight. Samhain executive editor, Angela James, and blogger/reviewer, Holly, has an eBookwise. The modem allows you to hook up to a phone line and purchase books from the eBookwise store.

The cons are that to enjoy the use of the eBookwise, you really need a memory card and a conversion program that will allow you to convert html, Microsoft Word docs, plain text, and rich text format into the proprietary IMP format that the eBookwise recognizes. There are three conversion programs which work essentially the same: eBookwise Librarian $14.95), GEB eBook Librarian ($15), and eBook Publisher (free but requires technical knowledge). You can do one by one file conversion online for free as well.

Additional cons for the eBookwise is that the LCD screen is not easily readable out of doors; has one of the smallest screen sizes of a dedicated reader at 5.5" diagonal; does not read PDFs without conversion, limited options in terms of font and font size, and the Smartmedia card is expensive, low in memory, and is not easily available in local stores.

Sony Reader and Bookeen Cybook


The next jump is to the $300-$400 range for the Bookeen’s Cybook and the Sony Reader. These are two e-ink readers. I have the first generation Sony Reader and so my comments for that device are based on personal knowledge. The comments/comparisons I’ve included for Bookeen’s Cybook are based on reviews at MobileRead. The Sony Reader and Bookeen’s Cybook share many of the same technological functions. The only major difference is the housing and the software.

Generally, both devices contain a 6" diagonal eink screen (SVGA 800×600 4 grey scales). Eink is a superior ereading experience because of its paperlike quality. In the outdoors and with bright light, the eink really shines. Particularly amazing is the length of battery life. Because these e-ink readers use battery power only when the page is turned, it can last for days. My Sony Reader lasted three weeks with me reading at least an hour each day with some days having two or three hour usage. I even went on vacation with my Sony Reader and left the charger at home due to the longevity of the battery.

Both devices have an SD memory slot. SD cards are widely available and come in a variety of memory capabilities. At, a 2GB SD card costs $19.99 from Circuit City. A 2GB SD card will fit over 2500 books.

The major differences between the Cybook and the Reader are in software and the formats each device will read.

Sony ($299) Bookeen ($350)
Proprietary BBeB Mobipocket
Adobe Yes, but unencrypted only Yes, but unencrypted only
TXT Yes Yes
RTF, DOC Yes. RTF without conversion Doc with conversion done by included software No, but support coming
HTML No Yes (supports internal hyperlinks)
PalmDoc No Yes, but unencrypted only (no eReader books)
JPG Yes Yes
GIF Yes Yes
PNG Yes Yes
MP3 Yes, but unencrypted only Yes, but unencrypted only
AAC (iTunes) Yes, but unencrypted only No
Memory Expansion
SD Yes Yes
Sony Memory Stick Yes No

I have no idea which device would be a better purchase. On the one hand, Sony’s device is sold in the US and easier to get serviced if something goes wrong (i.e., you don’t have to ship it overseas). On the other, Mobipocket is more widely used format but that can be circumvented by using a conversion program to convert books in the LIT format to html. I read one user’s opinion that the Sony Reader had a heftier feel to it. If the Bookeen device feels cheap that would make a difference to me. For Mac users, the Sony is recognized as a USB mass storage device meaning that if you plug it into your USB port, your MAC will think it is just another storage device and you would be able to drag and drop files onto the Reader. With the Reader being $50 cheaper, I would probably buy that over the Cybook Bookeen.

MobileRead has a specific review of the pros and cons of the Sony Reader and the NAEB has one of Bookeen’s Cybook.



It’s ugly and we don’t know much about it. Moving on . . .

iRex Iliad.

The iRex Iliad is a very expensive eink device at $699.00. The reason for the increased price is three fold. First, the screen size is bigger. It is 8.1" diagonal with 16 levels of grayscale (versus the 6" 4 levels of grayscale of the two previous eink devices). Second, the device has a touch screen that allows for editing of documents. Third, it has built-in wi fi and an optional Ethernet connection for direct access to the internet.

The device recognizes the following formats: Mobipocket, PDF (without encryption), HTML, TXT, JPG, BMP, and PNG. While it can connect to the internet via wi fi, it lacks an official browser. Email services like yahoo and gmail are not accessible and many sites do not render well.

Because it allows for editing and has wi fi accessibility, the battery lasts much less than that of the previous two devices. The iRex website suggests a 12 hour maximum. Using the touchpad for annotation, reading, and accessing the internet nets about 5 hours according to one MobileRead user.

MobileRead has a more fullsome review with several thumbnail images of the iRex Iliad in action.

The Recommendation

The Sony Reader for PC users and the Bookeen for Mac users but only because Bookeen supports the Mobipocket format. The problem with DRM is that it prevents consumers from actually buying the best device for their dollar. At $299, there doesn’t appear to be a sufficient reason to spend $50 more to buy a device from France that will have to be serviced in France if there are any problems. A PC user can avail herself of the Lit books (using a lit conversion program) that is available at nearly every ebook store but a MAC user cannot.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Sarah McCarty
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 05:42:43

    And *sigh* I find you have summed up what I already surmised. Even at three times the price (I got my ebookwise when they first started selling for $75) there is nothing better out there than the ebookwise that I already own. After all this development and hype, they did not make a better mousetrap.

    As for eink- I do like the way it looks, but the black flash when it changes pages I don’t like. (Strobe lights irritate me too) and this has that same quality as I’m a very fast reader. Do you think they’ll ever get rid of that visual effect of refreshing the page?

  2. Angela James
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 08:35:38

    While there are things I wish were different about the Ebookwise (I wish it used a more popular book format like PDF), I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone wanting an inexpensive dedicated reader.

    The main thing for me still remains that I want a backlight because the large portion of my ebook reading takes place in low-light areas (mainly in bed with my husband asleep next to me). I’ve said this before, but booklights don’t offer quite the same convenience as an integrated backlight, for me.

  3. Sandra Schwab
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 08:57:59

    Now I know what I’m going to buy for myself this Christmas: a Bookeen! :) Well, okay, I still need to think this through some more because 350 Euros is a hefty sum (I still don’t understand their rationale not to take the exchange rates into account; 350 Euros is a lot more than 350 $!). I’ve been thinking about getting an ebook reader for quite some time now, but Fictionwise doesn’t ship to Europe, I’d need a power converter, and there are some indications that making a purchase at Fictionwise from outside North America might present a problem. And as shipping is also a problem with the SonyReader, the Bookeen would be the perfect, if somewhat expensive solution! Wheee! And if I think of all the Harlequin novels I could buy on Mobipocket … Double wheee!

    So Jane, here’s a big hug and a sloppy kiss for blogging about the Bookeen! *mmmwah*

  4. Chantal
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 11:09:42

    I have no problem reading from my ebookwise outdoors. Even with sunglasses on. I just adjust the contrast and then there are no problems.

  5. Teddypig
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 11:47:18

    I still say between the limitations of the DRM being used by most mainstream publishers and the limitations of these readers it is still best to go eBookwise for the support alone.

    Unless Sony does something remarkable and they open it up somehow for use with other DRMs which they have not so far.

    I am sticking with a cheap used small $300.00 iBook laptop and all the backlight and color screen I want.

  6. Jill Myles
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 12:40:23

    So none of these are backlit? Or did I read that wrong?


    Husband has been wanting an ebook reader for forever, but I don’t want to throw down $300+ on something that’s not backlit.

  7. Angela James
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 12:48:30

    The Ebookwise has a backlight. Anything that uses e-ink technology (like the Sony) does not, something about the two not co-existing well in one unit. Jane might have a better explanation for that.

  8. Madam Butterfly
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 13:16:58

    I’ve just been looking into buying and e-reader and was looking at the Ebookwise. I don’t like that they are using old technology smart media cards, however I don’t want to spend a lot of money for the Sony.

    Can someone tell me if you can transfer a book back to a computer after it’s been on the Ebookwise? Or does it work that you just copy a book you’ve downloaded on your computer to ebookwise and then you can delete it from the ebookwise when you need more space, while keeping it on your computer? I figure 64 mb will be fine if I could swap out books all the time.

  9. Angela James
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 13:23:57

    With any ebook reader, not just the Ebookwise, if you’ve got an ebook on your computer, it stays there. When you put it on your ereader, you’re just sending a copy to the reader and/or media card. The original always stays on your computer. So once you’re done reading, you just delete it from your reader and put more books on. I have a 64mb card, and I haven’t counted (I can if anyone is interested) but I always have plenty of books on my Ebookwise to choose from. My only problem comes when I want to add submissions/synopsis in addition to my library, but I think that’s a problem that’s probably unique to me, lol.

    And for my public service announcement for the day: Make sure you’re backing up your computer, including your ebooks. Computer crashes can happen to anyone, anytime!

  10. Jane
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 13:26:46

    Teddy – I am not sure what you mean. The DRM that limits the Sony Reader limits the eBookwise. I just think that the clarity of the eink screen v. the eBookwise makes a big difference, particularly when you think about the memory options. Those Smart Media cards are hard to find and very expensive to SD cards. My neighbor has an eBookwise and she prefers to use my Sony Reader when we are at a park.

    Jill – the eink technology prevents backlighting. My understanding is that eink technology works like a magna doodle board. The screen is comprised of little balls that are half white and half black. When the screen refreshes, the technology tells the device which balls should be black and which should be white. The little balls are bonded to circuitry which prevents a backlight. There is technology that is being developed to integrate a front light.

    Some of the guys at MobileRead have tried to get LightWedge interested in making a light for these e ink devices because LW has a patent on its technology but apparently LW hasn’t been interested.

    Sarah – When I first saw the eink device, I was aghast at the refresh. After about 20 pages into using the device, it never even registered anymore.

    I’ve sent my Sony to Jayne so that she can see what she thinks and maybe she’ll give us a little comparison between the iPAQ 4700 and the Sony Reader.

  11. Meriam
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 13:48:03

    I’m confused! I’ve been buying e-books increasingly this past year (on my laptop) and whilst I think it would make sense to invest in a reader, I’m can’t work out which is best for me.

    I would have preferred a back-lit reader but Ebookwise only sell to the US or Canada and I’m in the UK. Likewise, I quite like the sound of the Sony reader (good sell, Jane), but I have a Macbook. Does this mean we’re incompatible? Why is the Bookeen better for Mac users?

    I did a quick internet search and found quite a positive article on the Iliad in The Guardian. As Marr puts it, bibliomaniac meets book-killer. It’s not very technical (“I can say it weighs about the same as a medium-sized banana”)but it is funny.

    Is the Iliad much better than Bookeen? Is it £200 better?!

    Lastly, is there anything coming out soon, or on the horizon, that would knock these current options out of the park? Should I wait?

    All these questions! Sorry, I’m very new to the idea and it sounds great, but I’m totally uninformed.

  12. Jane
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 13:51:35

    Meriam – The Bookeen allows you to read Mobipocket books which can be read on a MAC. The Sony only allows you to read BBeB books which cannot be read on a MAC.

    There is a DRM stripping program for MS Lit books, but again, that requires a PC so either you have to run an emulator program on the MAC or get the Bookeen.

    As for whether the Iliad is £200 better, I suppose if you have a need to edit/annotate your books and that is wildly important to you.

  13. Holly
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:04:17

    You’re mistaken about the quality of reading outside in the sun with the eBookwise. You can adjust the contrast of the backlight to make it easer to read in direct light, so that’s really a non-issue.

    As for needing to convert files, I find that’s the biggest drawback for me. I hate that a lot of the cheaper eBook sellers (such as Books On Board) don’t offer html, doc or other compatible formats for my reader. But converting PDF and MS Reader files isn’t that difficult with the free converters you can find online. It’s just a bit more time consuming.

    I will say that having the “personal content server” available through has been very convenient. You can upload .html, .doc and several other formats directly through their site.

    I did look at the Sony recently, but I really don’t want to spend $300 for something that isn’t backlit and isn’t as user friendly. I think for now I’ll stick with my eBookwise. :)

    Oh, and I have counted my eBooks at full capacity, and it’s somewhere right around 100 (depending on the size of the book). 100 books on one device isn’t something to scoff at (with the 64mb smartcard).

  14. Holly
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:06:33

    Oh, and Meriam, I bought my eBookwise on eBay and got it for about $10 less than through their site direct. You might want to consider that for yourself (although, I have no idea how difficult it is to convert/buy eBooks in other countries, so it might not solve your problem).

  15. Teddypig
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:09:18

    The DRM that limits the Sony Reader limits the eBookwise.

    The usefulness of the eBook reader you decide to buy is dependent on the mainstream publisher providing the eBook in the DRM format the eBook reader can use.

    I meant that eBookwise seems to have support from more sources and multiple conversion tools and simply they have been doing it longer.

  16. Meriam
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:15:14

    I have no idea how I managed to get that smiley, winky thing to appear in my last post, but I didn’t mean to!

    Jane, thanks. I have another question and I promise it will be my last. I was under the impression that, as a mac user, I couldn’t buy from mobipocket. I’ve just gone back to the website and it says “Mobipocket Reader is not supported on Mac or Linux systems, but you can install Mobipocket Reader on your PDA/smartphone via a Mac or Linux by downloading an individual installation package for your device:”

    Again, forgive the really basic question … what does this mean in relation to what you’ve told me?

    (Thanks Holly! I’ll do some research…)

  17. April
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:15:24

    Count me among those who love the eBookwise. I have the 128MB package, and I’ve bought the $15 EBW Librarian. I’ve only had the reader three months, but it’s already paid for itself three times over. When I’ve finished reading a book, I usually delete it off the reader, while it’s still on my computer and flash drives, so space is never an issue for me. I don’t need to carry around more than 200 books at a time.

    I have my brightness and contrast set very low because I love reading in the dark, so I get 25 hours of reading time — that’s more than three weeks if I read an hour a day.

  18. Jane
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:18:01

    I guess I should clarify that there are easy tools to convert books into the BBeb format and, more importantly, they are free. I use the software libprs500 developed by kovidgoyal.

    the libprs500 software is easier to use that the ebookwise conversion programs because you can drag and drop onto the library program any non drm’ed lit, html, rtf, txt files and press “convert” and it bulk converts all the files for you.

    I’ve used both the eBookwise and the Sony (software programs and reading device) and the Sony eink technology is just superior, even with the contrast.

    Certainly the price for the eBookwise is better but I like the eink technology. Obviously everyone has their own personal preferences and not one is more valid.

  19. Angela James
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:18:43

    For those who don’t care about warranty, there was (is?) an Ebay seller who sells the Ebookwise (new) and will ship overseas. It’s my understanding that somehow voids the warranty, though. Or something like that.

  20. Angela James
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:24:27

    Sorry for the duplicate of Holly’s post, I had this message all typed and realized I didn’t hit submit. Then when I read the follow-up comments I realized I’d duplicated what she said.

    As for needing to convert files, I find that's the biggest drawback for me. I hate that a lot of the cheaper eBook sellers (such as Books On Board) don't offer html, doc or other compatible formats for my reader. But converting PDF and MS Reader files isn't that difficult with the free converters you can find online. It's just a bit more time consuming.

    Ditto. I think I’ve complained to Jane about this a few times. The Ebookwise would be my perfect reader if not for the need to convert.

    I have used my iPAQ in the past, which is nice since I can use just about every format, but the screen is just too small for me. I need something more book size. Clearly, I have very specific things I want in an ebook reader.

  21. Jane
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:25:02

    Meriam – I’m sorry. You are correct. Mobipocket cannot be used on the MAC desktop. I’m kind of stumped, then, what you can do if you are a MAC user. Anyone want to jump in?

    The Sony Reader is recognized by the MAC but you can’t run the software directly on it preventing you from purchasing any DRM’ed books (which means any books by the major publishers).

    I guess your best bet would be a) to buy an emulator program or b) a multi function device like the Palm T/X.

  22. Meriam
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:25:34

    Okay, if nothing else, I think I’ve worked out why that annoying emoticon keeps appearing.

  23. Meriam
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:39:05

    Sorry, Jane. Keep missing your posts.

    I guess your best bet would be a) to buy an emulator program or b) a multi function device like the Palm T/X.

    Wha…?! it’s hilarious and alarming how much of this just flies over my head. I have much to learn. Speaking of multi-function devices, how about the iphone? I remember reading here that with some judicious hacking, it could be used as a reader.

  24. Jennifer McKenzie
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:39:30

    Wow. I’m still stumped. I primarily use pdf books and I’d be clueless on converting them. The ebookwise looks affordable, but the extra stuff I’d need puts it out of my price range.
    I’m still trying to decide what to do. I want a reader, but I think the technology has to advance more before I’ll shell out the cash.

  25. Jane
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 14:48:08

    An emulator program is one that allows you to run windows programs on your MAC. According to the Apple site, “VMware Fusion or Parallels Desktop for Mac” can allow you to run windows programs.

    The real problem is that of DRM’ed books. I’m not sure what you understand about that, Meriam, but the books that are published by Harlequin, Berkley, and the NY publishers all have a software “lock” on them. It’s called DRM. This DRM prevents you from reading a book you buy on any device that you choose.

    There is a program for LIT files that will strip it of the DRM and allow you to convert it into a format readable by almost any device. The problem is that LIT is a Microsoft Windows program and so is the conversion program.

    So, yes, an iPhone (which is what I am currently using to read ebooks) can be used but you have to be able to convert LIT files into HTML files. HTML files are ones that can be read by an internet browser. Does that help? Please let us know if anything is unclear, though.

  26. Meriam
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 15:36:45

    Does that help? Please let us know if anything is unclear, though.

    It does, actually. I’ve also been goinng through some of your earlier articles on the topic and it’s all coming together. However, I think I’m going to sit still and see if there are any other mac users out there who’ve overcome this problem. Otherwise, I suppose I could use my sister’s laptop (pc user) to manage my reading device. Crude, but what the hell.

  27. Robin
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 15:41:44

    I am a Mac user and it’s true that you cannot read Mobipocket on the Mac. However, I can download Mobipocket books to my Mac (with a bit of software from Mobipocket) and then transfer them to my Treo to read them. It’s a bit of a pain (and the chief reason I buy my Harlequin books from Books on Board or Fictionwise — WHY doesn’t eHarlequin have eReader?????), but at least it’s an option (and with the Palm, the books automatically transfer whenever I sync my Treo with my Mac).

    As for the winking smiley, it’s the result of using a single or double quotation mark with a right parenthesis ‘) — if you put a space between the quotation mark and the right ) you won’t end up with the smiley.

  28. Sarah McCarty
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 15:54:17


    I’m a mac User. I have the pre-intel duo mac. The ebookwise store and device is compatible with a Mac for those books you buy through their store. (They have a large selection) For books I buy elsewhere, I run the ebookwise software on windows XP using virtual PC 6.

    I’m nto entirely sure how the duo Mac’s work, but my vauge understanding is that you can run windows on them if you have bootcamp (which on the newer models comes standard). For those that don’t want to open up their machines to viruses by running windows, Parallels seems to be the program of choice and it works with the Sony Connect software (virtual PC does not). I don’t know if the ebookwise librarian works with it. Likely but I don’t know.

    Pre intel macs are so stable I’ve been fearful of upgrading. Figured I’d let them work the kinks out for a few years before I looked so I’m only reporting what I understand form what I’ve read and may not have the duo stuff 100 percent.

  29. Meriam
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 16:05:56

    So would it be possible to buy a book from mobipocket (using that software you mentioned) and then transfer it onto the Bookeen Cybook? Or am I missing a crucial point?

    On the mobipocket free software page, there is mention of a cybook device but it’s linked to no software as yet – perhaps it is being developed?

    The more I look at these beautiful readers, the more I want one!

    Winking smiley – thanks. It was very disconcerting at first.

  30. Robin
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 16:30:50

    Meriam, since Mobi provides no link to a software download, my guess is they haven’t made it yet. But the fact that they have it on the list could mean one is in development. You might try emailing either Mobipocket support or Bookeen to find out. Then you would need some kind of virtual PC software to read the Mobipocket books on your Mac. I don’t think Lit (or the conversion program) is Mac compatible, but Jane would know better about the whole Lit conversion thing.

    I can read ebooks on my Mac via eReader and Adobe and html. So if you get a reader that supports any Mac-friendly software, you are fine to read on both. I like eReader better than Mobipocket, anyway — at least in my Palm and Mac environments. Have you thought about getting a multifunction device like the iPhone or a Palm of some kind?

  31. JasmineF
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 16:56:25

    Hi guys,

    I’ve been following Jane’s reviews on the e-book devices with great interest because I’m a Mac user who has ordered a Cybook 3 from Bookeen (waiting not so patiently for it to arrive!)

    The one thing that bothered me was that as a Mac user I would only be able to read Mobipocket on the Cybook – but there is a way around this. As Jane has mentioned, all you need is VMware Fusion, which will run Windows XP on your Mac.

    Meriam, you will be able to download a Mobipocket book to your Mac and then transfer it to the Cybook – you don’t need the Mobipocket software to do this.

    If you wish to be able to read your Mobipocket ebooks on your Mac aswell, then just use VMware Fusion on the Mac. Download the Mobipocket software to this and you can now read on both the Mac and the Cybook. Perfect!

    I’ve just downloaded Sarah McCarty’s ‘Caine’s Reckoning’ in Mobipocket from BooksOnBoard and am reading it (via VMware Fusion) on my Mac, in Mobipocket Reader 6.0.

    All I need to do now is figure out how to convert the 200+ ebooks I already have in Adobe Reader 7 and E-reader so that I can read them on the Cybook!


  32. Meriam
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 18:45:55

    Fantastic! This is going to be an early and entirely undeserved christmas present for me. Thank you, everyone, for your help and advice.

  33. Sarah McCarty
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 18:57:12

    Jasmine-The cybook reads Html and PDf. Can’t you either just convert non secure pdf to Html and drag and drop into the cybook or else resize the PDF to (I think it’s A4) and read directly. I’m not sure what ereader is so I’m no help there.

  34. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 19:07:39

    I want that cybook. am drooling over it.

  35. Brenna
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 21:10:16

    Jane – I finally decided on a Sony PRS 505 2 weeks ago though I am a Macintosh user at home and in the office and I’m loving it. Transferring data from my Mac mini to the Sony is a breeze. Of course, I cannot use the eConnect software that comes with it but I don’t mind. With the Mac, you just drag them to the books folder and if you want to delete them, just click and trash. I’ve transferred some of my music from my iTunes library in there too. I don’t need any backlight even when I am reading in bed at night. What I like about it is the battery life because I hate recharging constantly. I am always reading – whether I am in the ferry, bus, tram or subway. I have a lot of unsecured ebooks, in either .doc, pdf, and html format and I convert them all into rtf format. For html, I just copy and paste them into word and save them as RTF. For my pdf’s, I have an Adobe Acrobat Professional so I just save them into an rtf format though I do the copy paste thing from time to time. I’m still interested in the Palm T/X and I might probably get that one for Christmas.

  36. Devon
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 22:16:21

    Thanks so much for doing this series! I have been pondering buying a device for what seems like forever, and now it looks like its going to be Christmas for me.

    I still feel a bit confused by all the need for converting, but since I need an economical option, the ebookwise may work.

    I feel kinda dumb,but let me see if I am getting this right: if I buy in html or rtf, I can use free software to convert to their format? I currently read ebooks (usually from epubs) in .lit on my laptop. I can’t convert from .lit Hmmm…

    I’m looking forward to the next installment. I’ve been eyeing the Palm T/X,but again I am confuzzled by proprietary formats and such.

  37. Angela James
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 22:28:30

    I feel kinda dumb,but let me see if I am getting this right: if I buy in html or rtf, I can use free software to convert to their format? I currently read ebooks (usually from epubs) in .lit on my laptop. I can't convert from .lit Hmmm…

    Since I’m still awake, I’ll answer this. There is free software you can use, but it’s really worth it to pay the $15 for the Librarian software. It makes your life about 100x easier when using the Ebookwise. Once you have that software, it will convert the html/rtf/doc/txt files for you and from there, put them on a “bookshelf” where you can then upload them to your Ebookwise. It’s really very simple. Seriously, spend the $15 if you get an Ebookwise.

    As for LIT, this is the format I generally purchase if HTML isn’t available. There’s a free conversion program (ABC AmberLit) you can use to convert it from LIT to RTF (or any variety of formats, if you so desire). From there, you just use your Librarian program and put it on your Ebookwise. For what it’s worth, the same company that produces the AmberLit software also makes programs to convert PDF and PDB (palm) files. Basically, there’s not too many files that you can’t convert to something else.

    I choose to use LIT format because if it’s a “secure” LIT, there’s a program available to unsecure it.

    If any of that information helps at all ;)

  38. Teddypig
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 02:06:44

    LOL! Um guys I actually have a free way to get mobipocket on your Mac all legal like.

    It’s actually hilarious. Go to this site and register as a developer. Once on the register page go to the Garnet OSâ„¢ Development Tools and the link that says Emulator and the link that says Platform ROMs.

    You will need all this…
    Emulator 3.5
    Garnet OS Emulator Skins 1.9
    Garnet OS Emulator HostFS
    Palm OS 4.1.2

    Anyway, I turned this thing on and pointed to the Rom and ended up with this Palm V on my Mac. Right there on the screen so all I had to do was go over to the Mobipocket site and grab the three manual Palm install files from this page.

    The crazy thing works!

  39. Teddypig
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 02:15:04

    Oh and to install mobipoket just drag any prc or pdb files onto the Palm V image.

  40. igorsk
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 10:51:18

    Please fix the Sony/Bookeen comparison table. Sony does support both GIF and PNG, and RTF files do not need conversion (only DOCs do). BTW, Sony can also play unencrypted AAC files (aka .m4a, e.g. iTunes Plus tracks).

  41. Jane
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 10:54:17

    You know, I thought the Sony Reader did support the other image formats but on the Sony website, it only said GIF

  42. seth
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 11:47:30

    I own an ebookwise, which my wife and I love, plus various palms, a pocketpc based gps (which can run pocketpc book stuff), and a nokia n800 (runs fbreader, plus various pdf readers).

    Given the price drop on the n800 (~$200), I’d spend the money on that instead of any of these dedicated readers, with the caveat that the ebookwise is head and shoulders, the best bang, and more ergonomic, for the buck. I’ll second the ebay buying – the only one who sells New units there is the mother of the guys who run fiction/ebookwise, and she undercuts them by a few bucks over the retail price.

    I do wish the author of the GEB/Ebookwise Librarian program would update it, fix a few bugs, and add new conversions (like the new epub format, and lits)…

  43. Angel
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 11:58:34

    For those with a Mac and looking to use software like Parallels or VMWare to run Windows, don’t you need also need to factor in the cost of the Windows software (XP or Vista)? I used to run Parallels and remember needing to have the Windows operating system. You might want to consider that as an additional cost.

    Currently I’m leaning towards the eBookwise for Xmas. I used the Sony Reader in the store and the refresh really bothered me. Plus, I’m a huge fan of Fictionwise and have bought a ton of books from them in Mobipocket.

  44. Joy
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:54:58

    I have a couple of questions about the Sony reader and ebooks and you guys sound like you know what your talking about. I’m confused by all the talk of conversion and encrypted pdf files. I’ve bought most of my ebooks from elloras cave, samhain and new concepts in Adobe/pdf format. How do I know if they are encrypted or not? I like how they currently look in pdf format and am not really happy with how they look when I save them as another type of file/format. Can I use the Sony to read my ebooks AND will they still look the same as they do on my PC?

  45. Jane
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 13:59:05

    Joy – an encrypted ebook is one that requires “activiation” and if you haven’t needed to do that yet, your ebook isn’t likely encrypted. It’s such a horrible process that you tend to remember it.

    In any event, almost every epublisher sells “unencrypted” books. You can read PDFs on the Sony but unless the PDF is “reflowable” (and I don’t think the ones from EC or Samhain are), then it will be very hard to read.

    It is best to use a conversion program like AmberPDF to convert the PDF to an html or RTF file. That usually preserves the original look of the book, but not always.

  46. Holly
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:06:35

    There's a free conversion program (ABC AmberLit)

    Is that free? I thought it was only free as a trial and only converted half the book unless you paid for the full version? I use CovertLit instead. So far I haven’t had any problems with it.

    Something I’ve been curious about for ages now…Since Fictionwise is the parent company of eBookwise..why don’t they offer a compatible eBook format on their site (for all books, not just a select handful)? Is it just me, or does that not make a whole lot of sense?

  47. Jane
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:10:37

    Holly – I use converlit too. I think its way simpler, although it only outputs into html files and not the other formats. I think the deal with Fictionwise has to do with cost. I.e., it costs money to DRM a book.

  48. Joy
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:16:20

    Jane – how can I tell whether an ebook in pdf format is “reflowable”? Is there some kind of annotation or something in the properties of the file?
    And thanks for the answer, I’m pretty sure you just saved me $300.

  49. Angela James
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:20:02

    Holly, AmberLIT and most of the other converters from them are free but AmberPDF does cost money for the full version. There may be others that they charge for, but I use the free palm and LIT converters, and I paid for the PDF converter.

  50. Holly
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:28:30

    and I paid for the PDF converter.

    So did I. It seemed like the thing to do at the time.

    I guess I mixed up the AmberPDF and the AmberLit. Either way I prefer the Convertlit.

    That makes sense about the cost, but it’s always struck me as odd that Fictionwise doesn’t offer a dedicated reader format.

  51. Jane
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:43:58

    If you resize the Adobe window and the text reflows to fit inside the window (so you don’t have to scroll to read the rest of the document) then it’s reflowable. My guess is that most of them are not.

  52. Jane
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:45:08

    Holly – does the eBookwise store have the same discounts as the Fictionwise store? If not, it might just be another way for Fictionwise to make $$.

  53. JasmineF
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:02:47

    Sarah – unfortunately most of my pdf’s are secure, so I don’t think converting them is going to be possible! Ereader are pdb files (used to be PalmDoc I think??), but I’ll have to stop buying in this format as it doesn’t look like the Cybook will be supporting that format anytime soon. By the way – just finished Caine’s Reckoning and loved it. Now impatiently waiting on the next Hell’s Eight installment!

    Teddypig – followed your download instructions and it worked perfectly. I prefer using the Mobipocket reader via VMware Fusion, but for anyone who doesn’t want to buy that (about $60 I think) then this is a great solution for Mac users.

    Just got email confirmation that my Cybook has been shipped. Should arrive Thursday, but hubby has now informed me that as it’s my Christmas present I can’t have it until then! How the hell am I supposed to wait??? So near, yet so far!

  54. Brenna
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:29:15

    I tried following Teddypig’s suggestion and got myself registered, but after that I seem to be lost. I have a login and password but I can’t seem to find the Garnet OS Development Tools and the link. I’m not a geek about these things so it’s very confusing.

  55. Brenna
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:52:28

    LOL, it seems that I’ve spoken too soon. I went back to the site again (12 hours later) and logged in and this time, I was able to access the Garnet OS download files. Maybe I did it too soon after I registered. Anyway, I got everything that Teddypig says I need to download. Now I have to do the next step and do the installation part.

    Thanks for the suggestion, Teddypig.

  56. gordon ebook
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:57:35

    I have the ebookwise model and I love it. It doesn’t have all the features of the newer models but it is fun to use and cheap. There are also tons of inexpensive books available.

    Ebook Gordon

  57. Larissa
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 20:45:47

    Do any of these thingies work in australia? Cos I think I killed my ebookwise before I even got to use it :(

  58. Miki
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 23:58:19

    [D]oes the eBookwise store have the same discounts as the Fictionwise store? If not, it might just be another way for Fictionwise to make $$.

    The last time I paid attention, eBookwise offered its books at the “Buywise Club member” discount – so the prices there are better if you’re not interesting in paying for the Club membership.

    Fictionwise does offer the eBookwise format for multi-format books, but not the encrypted books. I suspect they figure if you’re going to buy the DRM’d book, it’d be easier to do it directly from the eBookwise site.

    It’s always interesting to read these comments – I find I’ve had more problem with the $15 converter program than with the free one from ETI. Oh, sure, I’ve used the $15 converter for “throw-away” books that I know I won’t want to keep. But I’m anal retentive enough that I like to tweak how my books look by copying the text into an RTF document first (e.g., left-justified, no curly quotes, no paragraph indents, page breaks at each chapter). Twice, I’ve had special characters “hidden” in the HTML cause a book to stop converting with the $15 converter.

    Plus, since I’d be converting the books to RTF anyway for my Sony Reader, RTF just works best as my “base” file format anyway. :)

    And – just an FYI for those considering using the free AmberLIT converter – it deletes the files special formatting (like italics). It may also (I might be mixing it up with the PDF converter) put a paragraph return at the end of every line, which is majorly annoying!

  59. Osienna
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 18:39:45

    Here’s a huge tip for anyone in the market for a dedicated ebook reader: ask yourself, what type of books do I intend to read with this device?

    If the answer is mostly PDF then you have no better option than the Iliad. Yes, it’s expensive but worth every penny as you won’t be messing around with file conversions and the like. Plus, it’s an open platform so there’ll be plenty of community support if the vendor is proving to be real slack with providing fixes and enhancements.

    Otherwise, the remaining options will boil down to what format you wish to support from the various devices and publishers. This will be restricted to mostly fiction and non-technical type publications (without conversion).

    Like the author of this article, I have spent many research hours looking for the perfect device: from pocket PCs to tablets and e-ink readers. It doesn’t exist yet and there are sacrifices to be made with any decision. I settled on the Iliad and have no regrets.

  60. Dennis McCunney
    Nov 11, 2007 @ 09:57:59

    I have to agree with Osienna about ebook types. There isn’t a standard format for ebooks that everyone supports, so depending upon what you read you may need to maintain multiple viewers, and recall which book is in which format.

    My preferred ebook reader is a Tapwave Zodiac 2, a Palm OS device. The screen is smaller, at 3.25″ x 2.25″ in 320×480 resolution, but either native or through trivial conversion I can handle eReader, MobiPocket. PDF, HTML, plain text, and RTF formats. More important, I can do a vast number of things besides read ebooks with it. (And at $235 on eBay, it was cheaper than most of your picks). The Zodiac has a backlit screen, but it can be turned off entirely for reading out of doors.

    I prefer to get content in HTML and convert it to Plucker format. Plucker is a free, open source offline HTML viewer for Palm devices, and there’s a viewer for Windows Mobile devices that handles Plucker docs as well.

    I avoid PDF files unless it’s the only format a book is in: I have a very good PDF viewer for Palm devices, but it can’t automatically reflow text to fit on the screen, so viewing can be problematic.

    And I don’t buy DRMed titles. DRM is far more trouble than it’s worth. I want to download electronic content once, and read it on whatever device I happen to have available. The lack of a standard format and DRM get in the way of that.

    There’s more stuff in freely available, non-DRMed editions I want to read than I have time for, so I’m not exactly missing out on anything by not buying DRMed books.

    Also, PalmDoc and eReader are not the same thing.

    The PalmDoc file is a plain text file, compressed with a form of RLE compression to save space in memory. Doc readers decompress it on the fly as they display it. It was originated by Aportis for the Aportis Doc reader. Aportis is long gone, but the format was reverse engineered and it the closest thing to a default standard for text files on a Palm device.

    eReader was originally the Peanut Press Reader, created to display ebooks in the format created by Peanut Press, an early ebook publisher. Palm bought Peanut Press and made it the Palm Digital Media division, and called the reader PalmReader. Palm later sold the Digital Media division to Motricity, who renamed it eReader. eReader format is a markup language that can handle images, fonts, and hyperlinks. PalmReader/eReader can display both PalmDoc and eReader format titles. There is a newer format similar to PalmDoc called zTXT which is gaining popularity. zTXT documents are also plain text, but using a higher compression method for better space saving. Viewers that display them use a Palm port of Zlib, which provides gzip compatible compression, to decompress the files for display.

  61. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy
    Nov 16, 2007 @ 06:30:27

    Ciao Ja(y)nes, I recently got to hold and look through the Bookeen beta. It was very nice and light -it didn’t feel cheap to me but maybe the fact that it is thin might make you think so. I don’t know. I was definitely interested in it!

    The price point in Euro I heard is going to be 339, so if that price point remains in USD, you’ll be getting a deal.

    My friend took some pics of the Bookeen as we were looking at it – in Flickr under “bookeen” as a tag, David.Orban’s photos.

  62. Gooma
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 11:44:17

    Beware! I just got my cybook gen3 and it absolutely sucks in terms of ergonomics. The controls at the bottom right are abysmal! They hurt the thumb (or whatever fingers you use) like crazy when you press buttons. Over time, I am certain that RSIs and other problems will result for cybook users. I am looking to sell my cybook on ebay.

    The cybook is though incredibly light, with fast page turn rates. If only the button layout didn’t suck, the cybook would be the killer reader device.

  63. Kathleen Rowland
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 14:32:41

    I read the instructions for my new EBOOKWISE reader with the 64 MB card and purchased the librarian/personal content server for something like $15. I also “ran it” from the ebookwise “how to” site. How does one with an ebook (HTML) sitting on a PC (Windows) upload to EBOOKWISE– assume it is plugged into the USB port on my (Windows) PC. The all familiar “SAVE AS” command doesn’t find the ebook port. Also, what is a flash drive? By the way, I’ve read all the helpful comments from “Dear Authors 2007 Christmas Buying Ebook readers– thank you so much. -Kathleen

  64. Jane
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 14:37:02

    Kathleen- if you are in the librarian program, you should be able to “right click” while selecting a book and have the option of “exporting” to the ebookwise.

    A flash drive is an external memory device which can be a USB device or to work with the ebookwise, it is called a SmartMedia card.

  65. Angela James
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 14:37:53


    With the Ebookwise Librarian open, go to the right side and click “create new”.You then browse to the html book, select it, make sure you have the title and author as you want them to appear and click okay.

    Once that’s done, keeping librarian open, you then turn on your ebookwise, select online bookshelf and select the book you created.

    As a side note, if you’re running Windows Vista, when you open Librarian, you have to do so by right clicking on the icon and selecting “run as administrator”.

    Hope that helps!

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