Friday, 12 March 2010

Read an eBook week: eBook readers

As this week is Read an eBook Week, I thought it might be apt for me to provide some information about how to read the eBooks that we here at the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre are making available online.

We make all of our 1000+ titles available as eBooks using the ePub format, and occasionally as PDFs of the page images (for example, the NZETC version of Ursula Bethell's poems, From a Garden in the Antipodes, is available both as facsimile PDF and ePub).

From our point of view, the advantage to the reader of reading our texts as eBooks include:
  • the ability to read the book offline
  • the ability to read the book on their dedicated eBook reader, thus allowing for a better reading experience than that offered by a PC screen.
  • the ability to share NZETC eBooks with friends and family, as most of our eBooks are licensed under a license allowing for almost unrestricted re-use (the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike)
Dedicated eBook readers
Many of the newer eBook reading devices use a technology called eInk, which offers the benefit of being easy to use for long periods of time, and allowing for devices which can go weeks between charges.

In terms of the New Zealand market, there are still relatively few eInk readers available, though they are starting to appear. If trends overseas are anything to go by, we will be soon be spoilt for choice regarding dedicated eInk readers (for example, the MobileRead site lists the specifications for more than 40 eInk readers.

If you are intending to buy an eInk device, there are a number of online resources offering reviews and commentary about different models, such as the UK-based site, ebookreadersreview.co.uk.

As well as eInk devices, there are also a number of other dedicated eBook reading devices out there that use LCD displays, and the trend is towards a different type of LCD display that promises to offer better readability than a PC screen (i.e. less fatigue after long periods of reading) and better battery life.

Reading eBooks on your iPhone / iPod Touch
If you don't have access to a dedicated eBook reader, then the Apple iPhone or iPod Touch is likely to be your next best bet at the moment in New Zealand.

There are a number of software eBook readers that are available for this platform and many are beginning to support reading both on and off the iPhone / iPod Touch, including the following notable apps:
  • Ibis Reader
    Ibis Reader is a new kid on the block, and allows you to access your eBook online via a web browser, but also use the iPhone / iPod Touch app to have offline access to the eBook. The Ibis Reader is one of the first of a new breed of reader which will allow you to have your eBooks available in the Internet cloud, but also downloadable, and will keep your reading location and bookmarks synchronised.
  • Stanza
    Stanza is best known for its iPhone app, though it also provides a desktop reader, so you have the option of reading on your PC / Mac or on your iPhone. The desktop version also features options to convert eBooks to other formats, include the Amazon Kindle format.
Reading eBooks in your web browser
If the idea of reading NZETC eBooks in your web-browser sounds a bit redundant (after all, why not simply visit the NZETC web page for the text in question), then consider that it provides the ability to download the eBook while online, and then read them later, when not connected to the Internet.

If you use the Firefox web browser, you can use the ePub Reader add-on which will display the ePub in a browser window.

Reading eBooks online
If you really want to read the ePub eBook online, Threepress have created a great web-based application called Bookworm, which will allow you to upload your eBook to their server, and then always have the ability to read it when online.

Other interesting eBook readers
  • FBReader
    An open-source desktop and mobile reader that supports many formats, including ePub, fb2, plucker, Mobipocket, oeb, OpenReader, ztxt, rtf, pdf, djvu, odt, iSilo, and many others.
    Unfortunately, although supporting platforms such as Google Android, FBReader isn't available for the Apple iPhone.
  • GoodReader
    A great application for reading large PDFs on the Apple iPhone, though it currently doesn't support ePub eBooks.
  • Mobipocket
    An good desktop-based eBook reader  (PC only).