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The Climate is Changing… Can eBooks help?

I love my traditional, paper, books as much as any other book lover does.  Holding a reading device while sitting in a confortable armchair doesn’t really equal sitting in the same chair with a nice, original, book in your hands…

But… Let’s get real about it… We’re in a changing world.  There are too many of us, placing too much strain on our environment.  Our climate is changing and it doesn’t seem to be for the better.  Can we really justify the continued use of paper books when they are not necessary?

Over the past four years I must have purchased somewhere around twenty paperback or hardcover books.  During the same period, I have certainly aquired more than one hundred and fifty eBooks and some ten audiobooks.  While the overall phisical experiece might be different, my enjoyment of the works themselves was not diminshed at all.  In this last month alone I read over ten eBooks and listned to six audiobooks.  

If you haven’t yet started to make the move to electronic, you should try it.   Do your little bit to help reduce climate change by reading in electronic books, using a low power device such as a Kindle, a Sony Reader or on your iPod or iPhone. 

Sony announces the third eBook Reader this month

Sony announced the third new model of eBook Reader, this month. This new model has a larger screen, in addition to a built-in 3G modem and seems to be a direct competitor to the larger Kindle DX model.

Sony’s products have an distinct advantage over the Kindle in the fact that they directly support Adobe Acrobat PDF files which can be directly loaded through memory cards or a USB connection.

Sony also announced that it will be possible to borrow books from local public libraries in the US, for reading in the eReaders, with the book automatically expiring at the end of a 21-day loan period.

While I still haven’t been able to experiment with these devices, Sony’s product line and related initiatives seem to indicate that the company is really committed to eBooks.

Random thoughts on Stanza eBook reader

Stanza seems to be a generally well regarded ebook reader for the iPhone and iPod Touch. As it is available for both Windows and OS X, it attracted my attention. First I downloaded it on my MacBook but it is so minimalistic that it just seemed incomplete to me. As if development had been abruptly halted before the product was ready.

As I ran into the snag that Baen sells some pre-release texts only in formats which are incompatible with the eReader software which I regularly used, I decided to give Stanza a chance again. I bought the books from Baen and started reading the first one of them. My opinion hasn’t changed much, though. Now, more than before, I have a feeling that the software isn’t really ready for mainstream usage, though it seemed promising. I say that it seemed so, in the past tense, because it seems that the company behind the software has been acquired by Amazon, which already has more than one initiative in this area.

In the next days I’m planning on trying out Stanza on my iPod to see if, on that platform, it lives up to my, maybe exaggerated, expectations.

New Sony Reader models are released

Sony has released two new models of its Reader device. One of the new models is smaller with a 5 inch screen and is considered to be pocket model. This smaller model will cost $199, making it one of the cheapest alternatives for reading ebooks.

Perhaps these new models can help Sony gain more traction in the market as it is currently in the shadow of Amazon’s Kindle. It would be interesting for Sony to gain more market share before Barnes and Noble starts offering a device of its own, next year.

I hope to be able to see these devices first hand soon, but won’t hold my breath waiting for it. Sony doesn’t seem to consider Brazil as a potential market for ebook Readers as I’ve never seen one for offered for sale down here. For now, I’ll continue to consider my iPod as the best device for reading ebooks.

eBooks, Books and space

I’m currently right in the middle of the process of setting up an apartment for my family to move to, within this month. As I have a sizable collection of books, the question of how and where to store them came boiling up as I realized that while I’m moving to a larger apartment, it’s got no bookcases.

This got me into thinking about my book reading and buying habits over the last few years. It seems that it wasn’t without reason that I decided to write about eBooks as the vast majority of the books I’ve read over the past four or five years where ebooks. The great exception here are the books I buy while traveling abroad, to read during the flights.


At home, it seems, I not only prefer to read on my iPod, but I difficulty reading a normal. I guess that the fact that I’m always very busy writing a post for one my blogs, an article or a book makes my family consider my book reading time as being a good chance to get some more interaction with dad. (Which I guess is totally valid reasoning.)

While ebooks don’t require bookcases and therefore aren’t really troubling me for this imminent move, their portability is still quite a bit of a nuisance. I’ve got a large number of titles in Mobipocket format, but Mobipocket is dragging its feet on support for the platforms I now use: iPod/iPhone and OS X. Sure, I can get around the OS X through the use of the Windows version within a Virtual Machine, but not such work around is available for my iPod.

On the other hand, the regular books are very much on my mind now. I have the habit of giving away my non-fiction books, but I totally refuse to part with the fiction ones. I guess, the next time I go looking for an apartment I should consider the need to have a library. 🙂

Reading on a notebook…

Have you ever read a full book on your notebook? I’ve read many. A notebook certainly isn’t the best device for reading an eBook but will certainly do in a pinch.

For many years I’d used a Palm IIIc or a Dell Axim X3 for reading eBooks. I was quite happy with these devices as book readers, apart from the fact that even with minimum brightness they sometimes still seemed too bright in a dark room. They, unfortunately, were getting old and began in one way or another to fail.

I was looking into getting an iPhone, or an iPod Touch, but hadn’t made my mind to do so yet when both devices died on me. As both iPhones and iPods cost several times more in Brazil then they do in the US, or most any any other country, I wasn’t ready to just go out and buy one. This left me in the position of not having a device for reading my eBooks and the notebook started to seem more and more attractive as a reader.

Thankfully I have a confortable armchair at home, where I do most of my reading and with the help of a nice “lap-table” my notebook turned out to be a pretty decent book reader, though a lot less “confortable” than just holding a lightweight device with one hand. While I would not recommend that anyone exchange a Kindle, SonyReader or an iPhone/iPod for a notebook for reading books, the experience isn’t really that bad.

Apart from the fact that I have no more room for storing books in my apartment, eBooks have always been the first choice for me because you can download them immediately instead of waiting for them to be delivered and because there are no shipping costs involved.

If you find yourself in a similar situation you should try reading on the notebook and you might be surprised that it isn’t as bad as you think. Frankly, I expected the experience to be a lot worse and a lot more wearing on the eyes.

Being able to read books on my notebook turned out to be a great way to bridge the time between the death of my old Palm and Axim and when I got an iPod Touch to replace them.

The Audiobook alternative

There are still a lot of people that haven’t yet tried listening to a book, instead of reading it. I was in pretty much that situation, up to a bit over a year ago. I had had very little contact with audio books, up until then. In fact, the only person I knew that was a regular consumer of audio books what a friend that has a slight vision impairment that makes it hard for him to read at night.

It was by chance that I actually “read” my first audio book. I had been reading several books in a collection and when I got to the last one, it wasn’t available as an ebook and I really wasn’t looking forward to waiting around for the book to be delivered from Amazon. I looked a bit around and found the audio book version for emmidiate download. That decided it for me. I could keep on reading my story without any delay.

I can’t say that I prefer to listen to books then to read them, but I found new ways to be entertained by books, with the help of a few audio books and my iPod. I now listen to books when I go to work and come back home. When I go to the supermarket, when I’m travelling and whenever I have lunch by my self. I found that listening to a good book, makes me consider the time spent in all these activities as much more pleasant and productive.

Reading on the iPhone and iPod and the future of books

One of the first things I did after I got an iPod Touch was to install eReader on it. Actually, it might have been the first application I installed, though I can’t be totally sure.

I have been reading books electronically for a long time as I have always been a big believer that this is the inevitable future of books. I’ve read a lot of books on my PocketPC and on notebooks and now that I’ve got some on the iPod I feel we are getting closer to what I used to envision for this technology back in 1997.

Back then I set out to create both an ebook reading and a creation software. I was certain that the future was all about buying books on the Internet and immediatelly downloading them to your reading device. As these devices were not immediatelly available I was writing a PC version of what I though the device should do. It was a lot of fun, even though it didn’t really go anywhere as we were not able to raise capital to really startup the busines.

Still, this early experience, and the fact that I just “believed” that this was the future, made me follow advances in this area closely and made an early adopter out of me. Through these years I’ve always maintained that what was really needed was a device that was light and thin, but that still had a big enough screen to be confortable to hold and read.

The Kindle DX is a step in the right direction, as far as screen sizes go, but it is also a step in the wrong direction in respect to price and functionality. If I am going to carry a device of tha size around and pay that much for it, I expect it to do a lot more than allow me to read.

The iPhone and the iPod Touch are a step in the right direction in regards to the functionality of the device and even in regards to price, but still have a small screen. Now, if Apple only released a Kindle sized device with the capabilities of the iPod Touch we would be just about where we need to be get the masses to really take to reading electronic editions.

Amazon introduces a BIG Kindle

Amazon introduced this week the Kindle DX. The new product is essentially a much larger version of the Kindle 2 with the capability of displaying native PDF files. You can expect that without the need to make the document fit on the smaller screen of the Kindle and still be readable the reading experience will be much better.

Early pictures show great looking images of newspapers and we can expect that textbooks will be much more at home in this new device. In fact it seems that Amazon is specifically targetting newspapers and textbooks with this new device. This strategy makes a lot of sense to me, as these publications don’t really fit well on a small screen.

The price of this new device, on the other hand, is a bit puzzling. At $489.00 the Kindle DX is too expensive to become a mass market phenomenon. I can only image that it is the e-ink display that makes the device so expensive as you can get great netbooks a lot cheaper.

Sony is making available free ebooks

An article on Ars Technica called to my attention that Sony is making available books which have been scanned into PDF by Google, on its online store. These books have already been available directly from Google, but it seems that they get special formatting for the Sony Reader if downloaded from the store.

Most of these books are texts from before 1920 and while some might be considered classics, others are just old and outdated. While we should welcome the preservation and availablity of all literary work, it is not clear if this will have any significant impact on the perceived value of the Sony Reader.

The new model Reader recently released by Sony as a “primium” product and not as a replacement for the model already on the market offers a screen with half the shades of grey available on the new Kindle 2 (8 opposed to 16), while boasting a significantly higher price at $499,00.