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10 Tips for Your New eBook Reader

Photo by Serge Melki

Photo by Serge Melki

So you’ve got your new ebook reader. Now what? Here are ten tips I use with my eReaders, some lessons learned through painful experience:

1. Get a case or a screen protector. ($30 – $60) I admit I’m a clumsy person. I’ve dropped every electronic item in my possession at one point or another. I dropped my iPhone in my garage. I dropped the nookColor getting into my car. I’ve dropped the Kindle 2 (the end was smushed in).

The one thing that has saved me was having a case and/or screen protector. In the case of the nookColor, the screen protector saved my screen as the pebbles marked up the screen protector. I just pulled that damaged protector off and slapped a new one on. The case saved my iPhone. I figure that spending $20 on a case or a screen protector is better than spending 10x that to get a new device once my clumsiness has ruined it.

2. Download Calibre. (Free) http://calibre-ebook.com/ This is an amazingly powerful tool that will help you keep track of your books. I don’t know about you but there is nothing more frustrating than realizing you have bought the same book more than once. If you buy at one retailer, sometimes the retailer tells you that you have already purchased that book, but not all retailers. With ebooks it is even worse because you can’t return it**, give it away or resell it.

At its most simple level, Calibre helps to keep track of your purchases but it can also keep a list of your to be read books, your to be purchased books, what you thought of your books, and so forth. It is a really powerful tool and I’ll be talking more about it in the coming months. For now, you can take a look at some of the articles already published at Dear Author.

** Kindle has a policy that allows you 7 days to return a mistaken purchase.

3. Backup. (Free) Dropbox (referral link), mozy, Mobileme, Sugarsync. These cloud based syncing services are your friends. There are any number of reasons to backup your ebooks. First, because sometimes you will buy books that cannot be redownloaded. Second, because sometimes the retailers will decide you shouldn’t have that book anymore (this rarely happens, but just in case). Sometimes you might accidentally delete a file that you didn’t mean to delete. Backups are for all those
occasions and for all other occasions you don’t anticipate.

These backup services are great because they are free up to a certain storage amount (usually 2 GB which is equal to a couple thousand books) and because they allow you to access the backup anywhere you have web access. If you go on a trip and didn’t bring your computer, hop onto a browser and download that sucker.

What I also like about the sync services is that these work without your interaction. Designate a certain folder as the location for your digital books and everytime a book is downloaded, the service will make a copy for you automatically.

For the more experienced (or more adventurous) you can use a cloud based service to create an always accessible catalog of your digital books.

4. Take advantage of the freebies. (Free) I used to just download the free books that interested me but now I download nearly every free book because I don’t have to put the freebies on my device and I don’t know when I’ll want to read something different. Plus, once Ned got his Kindle and we were account sharing, I began to realize that I needed to start downloading the other genres. Remember that you can always delete them later.

5. Don’t forget the samples. (Free) Ebooks can be expensive given that they aren’t discounted (for the most part) because you can’t share many of them, can’t resell them and can’t trade them. One way to reduce the chances you take buying ebooks (and ending up with a dud) is to use the sample feature. True, some of the samples are worthless, but some publishers will give you a chapter so that you can test out for yourself whether the author’s voice will work for you. Samples are free and pretty easy to use.

6. Check out your libraries (but only if you ARE NOT a Kindle user). (Free) More and more libraries are getting into the digital lending business. Lending is generally powered by one company called Overdrive. Overdrive offers ePub and PDF. In the past they had offered Mobi. ePub format works with most generic eReaders like Aluretek and Libratek as well as the more commonly known Readers like the nook, kobo, and Sony Readers.

For the most part, ePub works with nearly every reader EXCEPT for the Kindle.

7. You can share but only with really trusted people. (Free) This is sharing ebooks beyond the limited loaning. Last week, we covered digital lending allowed by nook and Kindle. However, if you want to share your entire library with a few other people who you don’t mind sharing your credit card with, you can engage in account sharing.

Basically, this means that other people’s devices (like a spouse or child or a trusted friend) are hooked to your account. There is a limit to how many “devices” (versus computers or computing like entities that run “apps”) that can be hooked to one account.

8. Get another charger. ($5+) Most of your ebook readers are charged with a USB cord. These USB cords can be generic and cost as little as $5. Having an extra charger around can prevent you from being without a book. Because surely there is nothing worse than being blocked access to your library of books because your device ran out of juice, right?   My favorite place to buy stuff like this is ebay, just make sure you buy from a reputable seller.

  • Kindle power cords
  • eInk Nook power cords
  • **Note, the Nookcolor requires a special USB cord to charge so make sure that any power cord/USB cord you buy for the nookcolor is specifically made for it.

Update: Angela James reports that a micro USB works fine with the NookColor.   This is the official statement from the moderator at BN’s nook forums so it looks like a micro USB will work but only if you aren’t using your Nook at the same time.   It will also take longer:

The NOOKcolor comes with a wall adapter charger designed for fast charging that will charge your NOOKcolor to 80% in 2 hours, and fully charge your NOOKcolor in 4-5 hours. If you operate your NOOKcolor while charging, then the charging process will take longer (depending on activity).
When connected to a PC or Mac via a USB cable, NOOKcolor can charge but at a much slower rate and only if the device is not in use. Otherwise using the device will actually consume more power that it receives from the USB cable.

NOTE: We do not recommend using any other wall adapter charger including the original NOOK charger.
NOOKcolor has a custom connector that is compatible with usb connectivity.

While the NOOKcolor connector may appear the same as a microUSB connector,  the connector is slightly longer supporting a second set of pins dedicated for charging at a higher rate for a higher capacity battery (when compared to Nook and other mobile devices). As a result the NOOKcolor connector will NOT work in other typical microUSB ports.

However you can use a microUSB connector on the NOOKcolor to sync data from a PC/MAC, but not for  the fast charging provided by your dedicated NOOKcolor cable.

One more thing – the NOOKcolor cable should ONLY be used with the provided NOOKcolor AC adaptor.

9. Get to know the words “public domain”. (Free) Books are subject to what is called copyright protection. For books that were published before 1923, copyright term has expired and those books are considered public domain. There is also a number of books published post 1923 for which copyrights were never renewed and are also part of the public domain. (Chart here).

Books in the public domain belong, in a general sense, to the public. Organizations like Project Gutenberg or MobileRead have taken to digitizing these texts and making them freeling available for download. My mother recently got a Kindle (okay, we gave her one for Christmas) and emailed me excitedly that a series of books that I had read as girl and that she had read as a girl were digitized: The Five Little Peppers.

Guess what bedtime reading will be for my tot in the upcoming months?

10. Learn what and how DRM affects you. (and where you can get non DRM’ed books) (Free) DRM is short for Digital Rights Management. It is a software key that publishers place on books to prevent readers from sharing the digital book with others. This software key prevents you from buying a book at Barnes and Noble and reading it on your Kindle. It prevents you from converting from a Kindle reader to a nook reader. DRM may prevent you from bequeathing your legally obtained library of books to your family. Essentially, DRM stands in the way of free and clear ownership of a legally purchased book. Instead, you are essentially granted a license to view that book until such time as you lose access to it either because the company you purchased it from goes out of business, stops providing ebooks, or decides not to offer certain books anymore (all of these things have happened at one time from major vendors including Barnes & Noble and Amazon).

The good news is that there are publishers out there that don’t put this software key on their books. Usually these are smaller publishers but it doesn’t mean that the quality isn’t there. These books are called DRM free or multiformat.

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

41 Comments

  1. Tweets that mention 10 Tips for Your New eBook Reader | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 05:42:21

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Vassiliki Veros. Vassiliki Veros said: RT @dearauthor: NewPost: 10 Tips for Your New eBook Reader http://bit.ly/eQOFaR [...]

  2. library addict
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 06:46:17

    Thanks for the tips list, Jane.

    I debated over which reader to get for well over a year. All of your digital reading posts during that time helped me decide and prepare for my Sony.

    I especially want to thank you for introducing me to Calibre. I downloaded it soon after your original post, so had it for quite a while before getting a dedicated reader. I think anyone who reads digitally can make use of at least part of the program's wide range of features.

    And thanks for your step-by-step how-to posts. I admit, sometimes the tech talk at MobileRead makes my eyes glaze over. I found your PDF conversion post very helpful.

    I have back-ups on USB and DVD-Rom, but I need to look into drop box and the like.

  3. Antonia
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 07:20:22

    This post came just at the right time since I’ve just received an e-book reader for Christmas. My biggest issue, however, is finding a compatible plug charger. E-book readers aren’t that popular where I’m from so I have to use my laptop. :(

  4. Jayne
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 07:46:53

    Jane, what is your favorite backup service? Is any one of them better than the rest? Or have specific features that would make them better in certain cases?

  5. Angela James
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 08:18:55

    **Note, the Nookcolor requires a special USB cord to charge so make sure that any power cord/USB cord you buy for the nookcolor is specifically made for it.

    I don’t think this is quite accurate. The Nook color only requires the “special cord” if you want to utilize the quick-charging capabilities. Otherwise, any micro USB cord will work to charge it normally.

  6. Angela James
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 08:27:57

    @Jayne:

    I’m not Jane (clearly) but I just did a survey of this on Twitter earlier this week to make sure I had the most current info for a workshop I give. By far, the most popular service named was Dropbox (Jane can provide a referral link for anyone interested in signing up, I’ll bet), followed by SugarSync.

    And though Dropbox seems to be the most popular (I haven’t delved into why yet) I would note that as far as the free accounts go, SugarSync gives you more initial space and allows you to get more maximum free space via referrals than Dropbox does.

    Sugarsync: 5 GB free immediately, earn up to 14 total GB free with referrals.

    Dropbox: 2 GB free immediately, earn up to 8 total GB free with referrals.

    SugarSync has an interesting comparison chart on their site (though I’d note there’d be obvious bias to make themselves look good, it’s still a nice resource) https://www.sugarsync.com/sync_comparison.html

    Personally, I use Dropbox and have been very happy with it (especially because of the abilities for use in conjunction with Calibre), but I have downloaded SugarSync for use so I can get a sense of its use.

  7. Jane
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 08:49:01

    @angelajames. My understanding is that a
    Micro USB provides only a trickle charge to the nookcolor and thus it would be difficult to get a full charge out of a standard micro USB.

  8. Angela James
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 08:53:06

    I don’t know, I admit that I haven’t tested it fully or done a comparison, since I don’t use the Nook color a lot, but because I had so many cords from other devices, I just plugged it into my computer via a random cord and it charged fine. That’s just my anecdotal experience, though!

  9. Jane
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 08:53:30

    @Jayne: I prefer dropbox because when I started looking into backup services, the feature set was the most robust at the time. I am a premium dropbox user.

    Having said that sugar sync looks great, particularly with it’s ability to selectively sync any folder and share any folder. I’ll have to check it out and report back.

  10. Jane
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 08:57:25

    @Angela James: Here is the response that one of the admins gave over at the BN nook boards:
    Re: Nook/NookColor USB Cables
    Options
    November

    The NOOKcolor comes with a wall adapter charger designed for fast charging that will charge your NOOKcolor to 80% in 2 hours, and fully charge your NOOKcolor in 4-5 hours. If you operate your NOOKcolor while charging, then the charging process will take longer (depending on activity).
     When connected to a PC or Mac via a USB cable, NOOKcolor can charge but at a much slower rate and only if the device is not in use. Otherwise using the device will actually consume more power that it receives from the USB cable. 
     NOTE: We do not recommend using any other wall adapter charger including the original NOOK charger.
    NOOKcolor has a custom connector that is compatible with usb connectivity.

    While the NOOKcolor connector may appear the same as a microUSB connector, the connector is slightly longer supporting a second set of pins dedicated for charging at a higher rate for a higher capacity battery (when compared to Nook and other mobile devices). As a result the NOOKcolor connector will NOT work in other typical microUSB ports.

    However you can use a microUSB connector on the NOOKcolor to sync data from a PC/MAC, but not for the fast charging provided by your dedicated NOOKcolor cable.

    One more thing – the NOOKcolor cable should ONLY be used with the provided NOOKcolor AC adaptor. 

  11. jayhjay
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 09:21:09

    I am looking into setting up a dropbox or similar account. I use Calibre so I’d like something that works with that. Jane, I read your article on cloud computing but I am a bit confused. Will this MOVE my calibre files into Dropbox, or will it make COPY? For some reason I get wary about the idea of my whole library being saved at an outside source beyond my control. But I love the idea of having access to it from other places and a safety net of saved books. Can you clarify this for me? Thanks!

  12. Estara
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 09:23:22

    Jane, do you know why Samhain have started publishing DRM-ed books? I bought Meg Benjamin’s newest Konigsburg novel two days ago and all the sellers that Inkmesh shows http://inkmesh.com/ebooks/brand-new-me-meg-benjamin-ebook/?qs=Brand+New+Me
    as well as Books on Board sell the book with DRM only.

    Have I missed an announcement somewhere?

  13. Jane
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 09:31:16

    @jayhjay: It makes a copy so you have a copy on your harddrive and a copy on the dropbox server.

  14. Jane
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 09:33:26

    @Estara: I don’t know. Let me email and see what kind of response I get.

  15. Jayne
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 09:42:08

    @jayhjay: I’m wary too. So it’s good to know there are extra copies of the files.

  16. Jayne
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 09:43:34

    @Angela James: Thanks Angela! I like the idea of being able to use it with Calibre as well.

  17. Estara
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 09:52:38

    @Jane: Thanks a lot!

  18. Adam
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 11:37:01

    You guys really should have added a link to ApprenticeAlf’s blog where step by step instructions are listed for removing DRM so you can read your books anywhere. It’s basically a site for “Removing DRM for Dummies”. For example, there is an applescript (simply download, unzip, and drop the drm file onto it and you are done) for the Mac that removes DRM and requires almost NO input from the user which is amazing for my elderly parents to use without worrying what format of ebook they buy and where they want to read it. Take a look here:

    https://apprenticealf.wordpress.com/

  19. jayhjay
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 12:18:05

    @Jane: Thanks Jane! Quick followup – will books still show up on my PC in the Calibre folder like they do now, or will they save copy appear in a Dropbox folder (or somewhere else)? JJ

  20. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 12:27:58

    For the most part, ePub works with nearly every reader EXCEPT for the Kindle.

    *sigh* And the BlackBerry. I have to admit I’m shocked and disappointed nobody’s come up with an EPUB reading app for BB yet.

    If I could I would.

  21. MaryK
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 12:37:29

    In your Calibre posts can you talk about how to get an easy to navigate Calibre catalog onto an iThing? I haven’t figured that out yet. (It’s been several versions again that I tried it.) My iThing is a wifi only iTouch, because I’m cheap that way, so I need the catalog to live on the iTouch not in the Cloud.

  22. Jane
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 14:11:38

    @MaryK You would have to sideload the books onto the iTouch because the catalog would only be available when you were connected to the internet (so when you were on the wifi)

  23. Jane
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 14:14:33

    @jayhjay You would need to move your Calibre library. You can do this one of two ways. You can move your calibre library by doing a copy and paste into the My Dropbox folder or you can have Calibre move it for you.

    If you do the latter, simply open upon Calibre and click on the library button. There are three options and the last one is “move current library to new location”. If you do the first one (move the library manually), you would click on the library button in Calibre and navigate to your new location. Hope that helps.

  24. FD
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 14:45:29

    @Moriah Jovan: *sigh* And the BlackBerry. I have to admit I'm shocked and disappointed nobody's come up with an EPUB reading app for BB yet.

    Oh man, yes this. :(

  25. MaryK
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 16:22:32

    @Jane: I should have said list rather than catalog. I have the books loaded on a Sony, but I want to carry a list of titles around on my iTouch to refer to when I’m shopping. Or is that still the answer?

  26. Jane
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 16:35:16

    @MaryK If you scroll toward the end of this post, it tells you how to use Calibre to create a catalog of your ebooks in ePub format. So you can have this “list” with you as a book. Otherwise, you might want to look into these catalog apps for the iThing.

  27. MaryK
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 16:37:35

    Take advantage of the freebies.

    Definitely! Anna and the French Kiss was briefly available for free on Amazon, and I almost didn’t get it because I’d never heard of it and don’t normally read contemp YA. Then everybody started raving about it and I was sooo glad I’d gotten it.

  28. Shannon H
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 22:28:20

    Antonia — I found that I could plug a USB charger into any wall outlet adapter and that it would work. I charged my kindle using my cell phone and iPod adapter at once point when I misplaced the converter plug.

  29. Tae
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 02:09:02

    for a charger I have an Apple USB wall charger for EVERYTHING! It converts between 120-220 since I purchased it in the US and I live in Korea. I charge my iPad, iPod shuffle, Sony 505PRS, Nintendo DS and anything else that uses a USB cable to charge. It’s the best investment I ever made, and now I have a second one since the iPad came with one too.

  30. Ella Drake
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 06:41:53

    @Estara: Perhaps Jane will get a different answer when she checks, but my understanding is that Samhain sells DRM-free books but some stores require DRM. If you buy from one of those stores, the books will have DRM.

    If you want a non-DRM ebook from Samhain, you can buy directly from Samhain, AllRomance, and I believe Books On Board doesn’t require DRM.

  31. RachelT
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 10:57:52

    Thank you so much for this post – I always look out on a Sunday to see what new stuff I am going to learn.

    I have been wondering what to do about my Calibre library for a little while as I was perilously near the maximum of my free 2GB storage in Dropbox, and really didn’t want to pay monthly to store my books. However, the post, very helpful comments, in particular Angela’s description of SugarSynch storage, have rescued me. I signed up yesterday for a free SugarSynch account with 5 GB storage and moved my library (2600 books) painlessly from Dropbox to Sugar Synch. Everything still works beautifully, including the ability to download wirelessly onto my iphone from my Calibre library. I didn’t have to do a thing – Calibre did it all.

    I think the SugarSynch looks more flexible than Dropbox and am looking forward to exploring it further.

  32. JenM
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 15:37:16

    Meg Benjamin has written a new Konigsburg, TX book??? Squeee…off to Amazon right now to one-click. I love this series.

  33. Estara
    Jan 11, 2011 @ 13:38:12

    @Ella Drake: Thanks for another point of view, but I followed the inkmesh results to the single different sellers and they all sold it with drm – I have bought all the previous Konigsburg books by Meg Benjamin drm-free at Books on Board, so something must have changed.

    I asked the author on her blog, she said she hadn’t asked for drm on her current book, either.

    @JenM:Yes, isn’t it great ^^! I subscribe to her on GoodReads.com otherwise I wouldn’t have realised it either ^^. The Tolefson family are only side characters now that all the boys are married off.

  34. Catherine
    Jan 12, 2011 @ 07:20:58

    Thank you so much for posting this! I am going to go through all that you had to say in detail tonight, but I just have to say if you have a Kindle, DO NOT buy Amazon’s unlit cover!! I went through two Kindles before I realized there was a cover defect that was causing a short in my reader. Ridiculous, but at least Amazon’s customer service is amazing.

    Anyway, I love my Kindle. I highly recommend an e-reader to anyone thinking about it!!

  35. natzii
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 09:35:33

    Thanks fortips ,
    Or have specific features that would make them better in certain cases? before getting a dedicated reader. I think anyone who reads digitally can make use of at least part of the program's wide range of features. very helpful comments, in particular Angela's description of SugarSynch storage, thank

  36. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity from the land of ice and snow
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 02:03:43

    [...] Dear Author has ten tips for new ebook reader owners. [...]

  37. Jane
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 20:19:04

    @Estara After some investigation, this is the answer:

    If the ebookstores pick up the e-reader files from Ingram, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc, they lock the files themselves. We send out the files to all of our main distributers unlocked, but some distributors choose to lock them. Smaller vendors like Samhain direct, All Romance eBooks, etc, get the files directly from us and choose not to lock the files down.

    You can always buy the files directly from us DRM free and buying the book gets you all available formats DRM free, not just one.

  38. Julia
    Apr 07, 2011 @ 13:19:57

    Thanks for an informative article. I have both the Kindle Reader and the nook Reader on my PC and on my Android phone, so several of your tips apply. I’d looked at Project Gutenberg before, but trying to read online was awkward at best. After reading this article I checked out an old family favorite by Sarah Orne Jewett at PG, downloaded the ePub version (with images!), and linked it to my nook Reader. :-)

  39. Gareth Powell
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 20:49:45

    This does not seem to fit in any of the tips given. I use Caliber and think it ace.
    I also have two Kindles. They are held in false leather plastic cases with a small pocket in the front cover. I got my techie mate to cut down two Kindle connectors each to about five inches long. They fit in the envelope in the cover. When charging the Kindle it rests on the top of my computer. Works like a dream and I am never short of a connector.
    On another matter has anyone come up with a maximum figure of books to list in Caliber?
    In Kindle I think you hit a wall at about 1,250 but would be delighted to find out I was wrong.
    On Caliber I am purely guessing at 1,000 titles but I guess that depends on the computer you use.
    Anyone who has data on this would be a great help.
    And, yes, I think Caliber is one of the great programs. Quite, quite remarkable.

    Gareth

  40. D Johnston
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 07:57:19

    I have well over 2000 books in my Calibre library. I keep my library on an external hard drive and have also saved it to a dvd just for safe keeping. Love my Kobo touch! Librarything is a good site to get free books from new authors and sometimes established authors through their Early Reviewers and Members Giveaway. I’ve discovered some new favourites and yes, also read some duds but mostly, the books have been good.

  41. Melissa Stevens
    Feb 25, 2012 @ 12:40:42

    Just a quick update on a couple things, as of last September (2011) Kindle can now borrow library books.

    As for Calibre capacity, I have yet to find a maximum, I have nearly 6500 books in mine.

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