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Dear Jane: What format should I buy?

Welcome to Dear Jane, a weekly column based upon reader mailbag questions on anything relating to ebooks. No question is too simple or too mundane. We are all learning together. Send your questions to jane @ dearauthor.com with “Dear Jane” in the subject matter.

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Dear Jane:

Unless I am missing something, it does not appear that I can buy ebooks from the eHarlequin bookstore for my ipod Touch. Instead I have to wait a full month for the books to show up on Fictionwise. Any chance Harlequin is developing an App? Or can I use one of the formats already available?

Phyl

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Dear Phyl:

Thanks for writing.   This is essentially a “what format can I buy” question. I’ve made up this handy chart for you to follow based on the device you plan to read on.  Harlequin sells its digital books in four different formats:

  • MS Lit also known as MS Reader
  • Adobe Epub
  • Adobe PDF
  • Mobipocket

There are two additional formats that are sold at other retail locations:

  • eReader
  • Kindle

txtr appTo address your answer specifically, the quick answer is yes. Buy Adobe ePub and download the Txtr App.   The long answer is this:

The only app that allows you to read books bought at the Harlequin store (thus allowing you to take advantage of their one month early release program), is the Txtr App by German developers.   Txtr App isn’t the easiest App to use and it isn’t the nicest to look at, but it does allow you to read secured Adobe ePub files on your iPhone, iTouch, and yes, even your iPad.

Let’s assume you have purchased your books from eHarlequin.com and you have downloaded them using Adobe Digital Editions.   You will find those downloaded files in the following folders:

  • On Windows: My Documents/My Digital Editions
  • On Mac: Documents/Digital Editions

First step is to sign up for Txtr.   You then have to upload your books to the Txtr service.   You can do this by using   the upload feature. I was not able to get the synchronizer to work.

Txtr upload

Once your books are uploaded, you can go to your iThing and install the Txtr App.   You will need to sign in with your Txtr username and password that you created in Step 1.   In the upper right hand corner, you will see this button “Enable DRM”

txtrapp-1

Click the button and enter your Adobe ID.   Go to the “Inbox” and you should see the Adobe ePub files you uploaded.

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

31 Comments

  1. Lori
    May 23, 2010 @ 06:49:08

    As a complete noob with my reader, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your willingness to walk us through some of these issues. How about a how to strip DRM for dummies?

  2. Phyl
    May 23, 2010 @ 07:23:06

    I want to thank Jane again for answering this question. She sent the answer to me privately 2 weeks ago when I first asked her, so I got to be one of the first kids on the block to read Carla Kelly’s Marrying the Royal Marine (it was worth it).

    As Jane said to me, Txtr is not an elegant solution. It was not difficult to install or upload my book. It just took several steps. I’d say that the reading experience is perfectly comfortable for anyone used to reading on their iPhone or iTouch. You’re just lacking the features that you may be used to with an App like Stanza or Kindle. However, I would only use this for Harlequin books like Kelly’s that I am impatient to read the moment they’re released. Otherwise, I’ll wait for their general release.

    And maybe that Overdrive App will be available soon and make all of this moot. Thanks again Jane. So very much appreciated!!

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  4. Lisa J
    May 23, 2010 @ 08:04:21

    I’m with Lori. I wish I could figure out how to strip the DRM. I’ve tries, but apparently I’m an idiot and just don’t get it.

    Thanks for all the e-book info.

  5. Mireya
    May 23, 2010 @ 08:16:37

    @Lori: Stripping DRM is technically illegal as far as I understand it. I believe that is why you are not bound to see detailed walkthroughs here. As it is, I am surprised that the owners here were even willing to post about certain things i.e., Python, in such detailed fashion (and I am thankful for that, btw).

  6. Samantha Wesley
    May 23, 2010 @ 09:41:39

    Couldn’t you buy on your PC then put in Dropbox and read in Good Reader? Or am I crazy? New to all this “i” business, but it seems like, on the iPad, that’d work like a breeze.

  7. Samantha Wesley
    May 23, 2010 @ 09:50:03

    Or, if you aren’t a drop box fan, like me, I am pretty sure GoodReader has a desktop App that you can use to put books on your iwhatever.

  8. Sunita
    May 23, 2010 @ 10:15:42

    @Samantha Wesley: GoodReader doesn’t read DRM’d pdf files.

    For non-DRM pdf files, you can install them w/out dropbox if you have your computer and iThing connected via wifi, but you need to do it through a browser window. There’s no desktop app.

  9. TKF
    May 23, 2010 @ 10:27:38

    I’ll just voice the giant yawp for us all: ARGH!!! Could they please just let me buy and read their damn books?

  10. Sunita
    May 23, 2010 @ 10:39:29

    @Lisa J: You’re not an idiot. Removing DRM varies in difficulty depending on your computer operating system and the type of files you buy. There’s no single way of removing DRM from all types of file formats. If you want to remove DRM to read a book across different ereader platforms, you might consider buying it in a format that is relatively easy to decrypt (and that best preserves the original formatting) and then convert it to your preferred file format.

    You can also learn a lot by reading about other people’s experiences with DRM removal. You can find useful threads at blogs whose contributors have developed the programs. Mobileread’s forums have a number of threads on DRM, but they usually don’t post links or detailed descriptions (Amazon has already gone after them once).

  11. Califraxis
    May 23, 2010 @ 11:18:30

    DRM sucks, but the good news is almost every format can be stripped. It *is* illegal, but since I don’t share files, I don’t feel bad.

    If you’re interested in finding out more, follow the Dark Reverser and check out some of the comment trails on his/her site. (Google it.)

    The posts periodically get taken down, but search the comments thread & you’ll get a bunch of people willing to help out others strip DRM. Every issue that has come up for me has been solved by one of the comment threads on the Dark Reverser site. At this point, I can strip every file format I’ve seen, including Amazon’s proprietary Topaz.

  12. Ridley
    May 23, 2010 @ 11:29:17

    Since we’re talking formats and DRM cleaning, has anyone else had trouble downloading secure MS Reader files with Windows 7 recently?

    I downloaded a few dozen earlier this year, but now I can’t get it to work and Fictionwise swears it’s not their fault.

  13. Melissa
    May 23, 2010 @ 11:53:05

    @Ridley:

    I’ve downloaded pdb (what they call their ‘secure e-reader’), pdf, and epub with no problem on Windows 7. If MS Reader is different file type than these, I haven’t tried it.

  14. Keishon
    May 23, 2010 @ 11:55:03

    @Ridley: I think it has something to do with the activation of the MS reader maybe? I hate using that format just because it is dependent on the activation of the latest version of MS Reader. Sorry that my comment added no value to you but I would think it would have to to with MS Reader.

  15. Karenmc
    May 23, 2010 @ 14:03:53

    Thanks so much for all the information. I read on my ipod Touch, and have half a dozen ereading apps. Still, I sometimes get stuck figuring out which format to buy and which app to use.

  16. JessW
    May 23, 2010 @ 14:16:33

    Jane, thanks again for such detailed explanations and instructions.

    Ridley, I think MS Reader is not supported by Windows 7. You can check on the MS Reader site re: compatible operating systems.

  17. Mary Beth
    May 23, 2010 @ 14:38:16

    THANK YOU! I was just venting that I still couldn’t read my eHarlequin books on my iPod. I don’t want to buy another reader. I don’t want to carry anything else with me. This is a little limited. I can’t change text size or turn to landscape to read, but at least I have my books with me when I leave the house AND I don’t have to be a computer hog to read my eHarlequin purchases. Thanks again!

  18. Lorraine from CA
    May 23, 2010 @ 15:44:37

    @Ridley I also had problems with MS Reader and Windows 7. Try running the program with a previous version of Windows:

    Control Panel > Programs > Run programs made for previous versions of Windows >
    Browse and select MS Reader, I chose to run the program with Windows XP,service pack 2

    I can open non-secure Lit files, but I can’t open my old DRM’d files because I had to use a new MSN passport id to activate MS REader and now my old secure files don’t recognize me.Luckily all is not lost because my laptop still has my old MS Reader activation and I can still read my old books on it. DRM is so stupid.

    Good Luck with your Lit files.

    Lorraine

  19. Jane
    May 23, 2010 @ 17:51:20

    @Mary Beth Txtr is not the greatest app in the world, but it is useable and I guess at this point, that’s welcome.

  20. brooksse
    May 23, 2010 @ 18:08:17

    @Ridley:

    I don’t have Windows 7, but I did have trouble downloading .lit files from FW once. Said I needed to activate MSReader, even though MSReader was already activated.

    My problem turned out to be ActiveX settings. I added lightningsource to my trusted sites, temporarily set all ActiveX settings for trusted sites to enabled, and could then download the .lit files from FW. I reverted the ActiveX settings back to what they were previously and have not had any problems downloading .lit files from FW since then.

  21. ShellBell
    May 23, 2010 @ 19:52:52

    I use Stanza for my eReader and non-DRM ePub books and the txtr app for my DRM ePubs books on my iPhone – have only had an iPhone for a couple of months and the txtr app was one of the first I downloaded. Txtr definitely not the prettiest app, and very little functionality (font size increase pretty much it) but I’d rather be able to read my DRM ePub books on my iPhone than not. When loading my books through txtr I can at least edit the title and author so that the books are listed in my preferred order on my iPhone, and I just use Digital Editions on my desktop.
    If I buy any eBooks from Kobobooks.com (they sell ePub format only), then I can either download the eBooks directly to the Kobo app on my iPhone, or download to my desktop and then use txtr to load onto the txtr app on my iPhone.

  22. Natasha R
    May 24, 2010 @ 07:41:37

    That is a very nifty chart! Thanks for compiling it!

    A small note. I was able to read a MS lit format book on a mac using the stanza desktop application. Might be useful info for some :)

  23. ehoyden
    May 24, 2010 @ 08:45:20

    @Ridley:
    Try this. Get the MS Reader activation link and Reactivate the software with Administrator Privileges.

    Go to Program>IE Explorer, right click and Run as Administrator. Paste the Activation link in address bar, enter, and reactivate product.

  24. BevQB
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:42:16

    Jane, I think I remember you saying once that you buy LIT format because it is relatively easy to strip/convert to other formats.

    Just curious why that wasn’t your answer to “Which format should I buy?”, particularly since Txtr doesn’t seem to be the best choice either. Do ePub conversions look better than reformatted LIT conversions?

    This actually has some significance for me because, now that Microsoft Courier has gone to vaporware heaven, I’m going to have to do some serious thinking about what device I’m going to end up buying.

  25. Ridley
    May 24, 2010 @ 13:26:30

    @ehoyden:

    Yeah, I did that back in January when I first got this ‘puter. Everything worked fine until a month a go.

    Now when I try to download books off my shelf at FW, nothing happens. I don’t get that ActiveX prompt at all.

    I tried to go and re-activate my MS Reader and that won’t work either. Since Microsoft has pretty much abandoned Reader, I’m thinking a recent security update to W7 might have killed it.

    I’ll miss that gravy train.

  26. ehoyden
    May 24, 2010 @ 16:59:35

    @Ridley: That sucks. Did you try Lorraine’s idea? Running it under a older OS version might work. I don’t use MSReader and didn’t know they dropped it.

    Does converting lit to another format lose something in translation? I’m getting ready to convert some pdb to epub. Dreading all the hassle, so I’ve been putting it off.

  27. CD
    May 24, 2010 @ 18:25:39

    I have Windows 7 on my new laptop and I managed to get MS Reader to work, so I don’t think it’s the operating system as much as the crapness of MS Reader. I remember with my last laptop that the activation just failed one day for no apparent reason and I had to completely reinstall it which meant that I could no longer read the DRM files I had previously downloaded. It wasn’t a huge issue for me as I had already stripped the DRM anyway but would have been incredibly annoying if that hadn’t been the case.

    On stripping DRM, as mentioned already, go to Mobileread. Yes, they are not allowed to post the links to where to find the software but you can usually find helpful comments on what to do, and you can just google the software anyway – for epubs and pdfs, the software is called “ineptepub” and “ineptpdf”; for Mobipocket, it’s called “mobidedrm”.

    As for whether of not stripping DRM for your own use is illegal in the US, I’m sure Jane will be the best person to comment. My understanding is that it’s a grey area at best. If you’re not in the US, it may not even be an issue. Whichever it is, ethically speaking, I can’t see that there can be any question that you are entitled to read a book that you’ve legally purchased in whatever format you want, and be able to keep it as long as you like.

  28. Ridley
    May 24, 2010 @ 18:56:39

    @ehoyden:

    I don’t use MS Reader, I just buy .lit books because they’re easy to clean the DRM off of then convert into .epub.

  29. lilitu93
    May 25, 2010 @ 15:33:35

    @Mary Beth You can change the font size in Txtr. Tap in the middle of the screen, and it will go through their limited selection of font sizes. You can also rotate it – AFAIK, you can’t turn rotating off, which is really annoying as I often lean on my side in bed and read.

    I just downloaded Txtr the other day to read some Adobe DRM books, and I have to say it’s the worst reader I’ve used in a while. Hopefully they’ll improve the interface – I’m so annoyed it bumps me out of my book whenever I leave the app, for instance – but it’s not a bad reader. And as Fictionwise seems to be dying and has tightened up some of their geographical restricitons loopholes, a lot of the books I want are only available with Adobe DRM. So at least now I can read them in something that looks OK, even if it’s not that great.

  30. ShellBell
    May 25, 2010 @ 16:25:47

    @Lilitu93 re txtr app rotating – this one of the reasons why I keep the Kobobooks.com app on my iPhone for my Kobo ePub pirchases as you can lock the rotating function on one setting. Txtr definitely needs improving on it’s limited functionality.

  31. lilitu93
    May 25, 2010 @ 17:02:05

    @ShellBell I’ll check out Kobobooks.com. I think they do have some books available in the UK, but I don’t like being tied into one retailer, especially with inconsistently applied geographical restrictions (i.e., one site says I can buy it, and the other doesn’t).

    As I’ve got a huge TBR, I’m kind of holding off on buying many books now, except to clear out my micropay rebates at Fictionwise. I’m waiting until the market’s settled a bit and some of the international issues are sorted. But there will still be some books I have to get when they come out, so I am definitely looking around more than I used to for alternatives.

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