Library Books & eReaders

Now firmly placed as a mainstream item, ebooks have grown in popularity enough for many libraries to have started making digital versions from their catalogue available for lending.

The only thing you’ll need, except your eReader and an appropriate library card, is an Adobe ID (see below).

Most libraries that do provide ebooks are using the Adobe DRM protection system, which also means that most dedicated eReaders (Sony, Kobo, etc) and several eReader apps (Bluefire, OverDrive) can be used to read these DRM protected library ebooks.

I’m going to write three very short tutorials on how to get your library ebook onto your eReader/App. One of these three options should give you enough information even if yours is not actually covered here. [Read more…]

New ORIZON eBook reader with WiFi from Bookeen

Today, Nicolas Gary from the French website www.actualitte.com contacted me about their exclusive first look at the next generation Bookeen eReader, the ORIZON. As the article is in French, Nicolas has kindly written a short overview in English.

Bookeen is introducing a new eBook Reader called ORIZON, supporting ePub files (with or without DRM) of course. It comes with a 6 inch touchscreen display, WiFi and Bluetooth (Have fun! This is the first Reader in France with a wireless connection!) What else? An accelerometer, so you can read in landscape or portrait mode.

Weight : 226g for 12.25 x 18.5 x 0.75 cm and we know a few specifications like the resolution, 167 dpi and 16 levels of grey.

Bookeen says there will also be a new version of the Boo Reader software.

And about the Opus…just few new colours…

If your French is up to scratch you can read the full exclusive over at actualitte.com.

When I was at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair, Michaël Dahan from Bookeen did mention there would be a new 6 inch reader this year. I was very impressed with the Bookeen Opus when I reviewed it in November and said to myself at the time that if they had a 6 inch version this would be my choice of eReader.

For the last few months I’ve been using the Sony Reader Touch Edition and although I think there are many amazing features, that dark shiny touch screen really does bug me. The shininess I could live with, but I really do hope the Orizon’s screen brightness doesn’t suffer from the addition of the touch screen like the Sony does.

At the moment there are a multitude of eReaders coming onto the market (all supporting EPUB it seems :- ) but I get the feeling the Bookeen might be one step ahead of most of them.

Frankfurt 2009 & the rise of Digital

I’ve had a crazy old time since I returned home from the Frankfurt Book Fair last week so this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write a little about my time there, and an interesting time it was.

I again had the pleasure of having lunch with IDPF Executive Director, Michael Smith. There was no real agenda, it was just a chance for us to have a good chin-wag about ePub, how things are moving for the format and such other things. This year the IDPF held three sessions but due to my day job duties in London I only managed to attend one of his sessions; missing what I’m sure was an extremely interesting ‘EPUB Update and Tweaks and Tricks for EPUB on Devices’ session presented by Keith Fahlgren from O’Reilly – I’m wholey dissapointed about that.

Still, I did manage to attend the ‘New and Updated eBook Reading Devices’ which was rather interesting.

For this session there were four speakers; Michaël Dahan (Bookeen), Neelan Choksi (Lexcycle Stanza), Willem Endhoven (iRex Technologies) and finally Richard Siegersma (ECO Reader). All the speakers had some interesting things to say but a couple of points stuck out.

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New Sony Readers for Pre-order at Waterstones UK

If you didn’t already know, I come from the UK, so you can imagine my delight when I saw that the two new Sony Readers (Pocket Edition & Touch Edition) are on pre-order over at Waterstones UK and W.H.Smith.co.uk. I fully expected that us Brits would have to wait another year before being able to buy them, but it seems that Sony have done the right thing!

For those of you who have not already heard, Sony are releasing three new eBook Readers. They are all e-paper devices that can read ePub books. The Pocket Edition has a 5″ screen. The Touch Edition is 6″ like the PRS-505, but with a touch screen. The Daily Edition, which was announced just today, has a 7″ tall touch screen and wireless connectivity via AT&T. At the moment the Daily Edition looks like it will only be released in the U.S.

The costs of the readers over at Waterstones is £179.99 for the Pocket Edition and £249.99 for the Touch Edition. Keeping in form with the PRS-505 prices, these are yet again much more expensive than our U.S. counterparts can get them for; $199 (~£120) and $299 (~£180) respectively.

Waterstones does not have the Daily Edition reader for pre-order and I wouldn’t hold much hope either that it will be released in the UK this year; Sony would still need to find a mobile provider who would allow them to piggy-back on their cell service. The general assumption is that Amazon have been trying to arrange this on their Kindle for quite sometime, without success.

New EPUB eBook Reader to be sold in Argos…Cool!

Although news on the release of the COOL-ER eBook reader isn’t new, what is interesting is that the makers have struck a deal to sell this in the Argos stores.

For those of you who are not from the UK, Argos are a household name — if a Brit hasn’t bought from Argos, you know their neighbour has!

The BookSeller.com article also states that the COOL-ER book store has 3/4 million titles (although not all in the ePub format).

I don’t have a one of these readers myself – I can’t justify spending £189 when I already have a Sony 505 – but as it uses the Adobe Digital Editions, any ePub books you download from epubBooks.com or buy from one of the many book stores around, should render the same as they do on the Sony Reader.

For me, the importance of this Argos/COOL-ER deal shows that eBooks (including the ePub variety) and the digital readers for viewing them are finally entering the mainstream.

Sony announce new PSP Digital Reader – EPUB Support?

This evening a friend of mine pointed me to the Sony annoucment of the PSP and the new PSP Go over on cnet news. Why did I find this interesting enough to write about? The article also mentioned that the PSP’s will be getting their own “Digital Reader”…!!! The article says,

The PSP will also be getting a Digital Reader in December with various comic book publishers onboard to offer content. Marvel will be providing Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four comics to start, with Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk all to follow. Compatibility with other Sony readers and more digital comics publishers will be announced soon.

The initial focus will be on comics, but that paragraph also mentions “compatibility with other Sony readers”. Is that a reference to the Sony Reader? The Guardian also makes mention to the Sony Digital Reader annoucement but again nothing beyond the comics angle.

This annoucement comes just days after Sony announced that they will be dropping their propriety BBeB format and their eBook store will start selling ePub books exclusively (Adobe DRM flavour) by the end of 2009. I can’t imagine that Sony will not open their PSP reader for use with the Sony store.

With over 50 million PSP’s already sold and many, many more once the new PSP Go is released, this could be a huge boost for both the Sony eBook store and the ePub eBook format!

Sony could be making those few hundred thousand Kindle’s seem positively niche.

There are currently 17 Adobe EPUB eBook Readers

I was just over at Bill McCoy’s blog (Adobe) reading his latest post about the current number of dedicated eBook readers which support the Adobe DRM’d EPUB format. Of course there are a number of other reading devices, such as the iPhone that can read non-DRM EPUB eBooks, but it is still surprising how many there actually are.

The Adobe Digital Edition Devices page has a little more details on each but here’s a very quick run down;

  • EZ Reader
  • EZ Reader Pocket Pro
  • Mentor
  • BeBook One
  • BeBook Mini
  • Cybook Gen3
  • Cybook Opus
  • Cool-er
  • Elonex eBook
  • Hanlin V5
  • Hanlin V3
  • iRex Digital Reader 1000S
  • NUUT2
  • Sony Reader PRS-300
  • Sony Reader PRS-505
  • Sony Reader PRS-600
  • Sony Reader PRS-700

Have you heard of all these?

Bill himself seems suprised, saying, “this is faster take-up than even this optimist had hoped for, given our launch less than six months ago of the enabling Adobe Reader Mobile 9 SDK that’s been integrated into all of these products.”

Whether you believe DRM is right or wrong, the positive side of this is that we are seeing more vendors supporting the one eBook format.

We are however still waiting to see if the Amazon Kindle’s will start supporting EPUB; will they use their own DRM – will they use any DRM at all. Let us also not forget Apple, what formats will they support on their upcoming tablet.

Google + Sony + Project Gutenberg = EPUB bliss!

This last week has proved to be quite a week for the EPUB eBook format with announcements from Google, Sony and Project Gutenberg on their support for the EPUB format.

Project Gutenberg EPUB Books

Over at Project Gutenberg, Marcello Perathoner has been working hard to convert all the Gutenberg titles into the EPUB format. At this time these versions should be considered experimental, but after trying several different titles, they are all more than readable.

The books are converted where possible from the HTML version in the Gutenberg archives and for those titles without a HTML version, Marcello uses the plain .txt book. The plain .txt files at Gutenberg are notoriously inconsistent in their layout so converting these accurately is extremely difficult — I know this myself only too well. Perhaps it’s time Project Gutenberg embraced a Master Format.

What makes this special from the other news (see below) is that all the Gutenberg books go through a proofreading process and so the accuracy is very high. This is why so many other eBook project are based on the Gutenberg archives.

Google and Sony partner to release 500,000 Public Domain EPUB Books

Over the last few years Google has been scanning bo0ks by the million, making them available on their book search, but this is the first time they have any of them available to an eBook reader. All the titles are in the public domain (pre-1923 titles only) and once added to the current Sony Reader catalogue, brings the total available titles to around 600,000, far surpassing Amazon Kindle’s 240,000 catalogue. Amazon still use their own propriety eBook format and do no currently allow EPUB files to be read natively – conversion is needed first – but as the Google EPUB books all come DRM free, there are many tools out there that will allow you access to these on a Kindle or other reading platform.

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Gulliver’s Travels EPUB eBook

Back in September I wrote about my epubBooks development; a project to convert the .TXT ebooks from Project Gutenberg into the IDPF’s EPUB format. After many months of hard work I’e finally finished the conversion tools and I’m now preparing development of the website itself, which will allow anyone to download my EPUB books, and all for free.

Although I’m happy with the current formatting in the EPUB files, I wanted to turn to you, the ebook community and ask for your feedback, in the hope that the improvements you submit will make these EPUB ebooks even better.

EPUB Book Features

  • Linked Footnotes – each footnote number is a link, click on this to see the footnote (I’ve actually made them all endnotes). Clicking on the notes number takes you back to the original page.
  • Images – Some titles will include images.
  • Nicely formatted titles, subtitles, etc.
  • Paragraph indents – Except on first paragraph of a chapter/section – as is usual in paper books
  • Block Indents – Small left/right indents on block quotes, letters of correspondence, songs, etc.

This is just a small selection for some of the formatting features I’ve implemented.

Please Note: As certain systems enforce their own stlying by defaults, various features will display differently. UPDATE (2011): This isn’t as prolific as it used to be.

Test the EPUB

The title I’m making available as a pre-release download is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – this has many features which show off my conversion. As this eBook contains images it is quite large, weighing in at over 5MB.

The test book has now been removed as you can find the final release here;

Gulliver’s Travels (Final)

All comments, on both the frontend formatting (indents, italics, etc) and the underlying code (OPF, NCX, HTML markup) is very much appreciated.

This ebook can be read using Adobe Digital Editions, Stanza (desktop and iPhone version), Sony Reader (PRS-505 and PRS-700), BeBook and the FBReader.

Enjoy!

epubBooks at Frankfurt Book Fair 2008

I was very lucky this year to be able to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair. As it was only going to be a one day affair for me I choose Thursday, the day of the Digital Lunch: Digital Publishing and the EPUB Standard’ seminar.

Before the session got under way I had a quick look around the ‘Digital Market Place’ Hall and came across the iRex Digital Reader stand where they were showing off their DR1000 model. Along with having a basic reader they also have two models with a Wacom touch screen and one of those with Wi-Fi. All models have a 10.2 inch display (1024×1280 pixels) – so no need to go zooming in on your PDF files now. This looks a great piece of equipment. After checking out the iRex stand I then made my way down to the IDPF session.

There were four speakers at the Digital Lunch, Michael Smith (IDPF Executive Director), Michael Vantusko (Overdrive – unfortunately Steve Potash could not make it), Fionnuala Duggan (Random House Digital Group UK) and Robert Nell (Sony Reader).

Mike Smith got things started with an outline of the IDPF and the ePub format. He discussed the amazing sales figures we’ve been seeing in the eBook world and the uptake of the ePub standard from publishers and conversion houses.

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