About eBooks, eReaders, and Reading Apps
What You Need to Know about reading eBooks.
- Intended to be read through in whole -
by support staff
Basic eBook "Types"
There are two basic types of eBooks, "Fixed" and "Flowing." The common fixed format is the standard .pdf file while the flowing formats are much more diverse.
The fixed .pdf format is typically used where the publisher (or reader) wants to retain an exact layout of the book. This is well suited for technical manuals, etc, where the layout is complex. The drawback to the .pdf format is that the layout is fixed… the user cannot change the appearance. The page is simply sized larger or smaller depending upon the device it used on. A pdf may work well on a computer screen, or even a larger sized tablet, but it will be too small to read on a smart-phone or smaller tablet such as the Kindle Touch or iPad mini.
The "flowing" type eBook is typically used for most commercial books. The advantage to the "flowing" eBook is that the reader can change type size, font, color, spacing, and other attributes as he or she desires. For example, the user can make the text larger and the book will simply "reflow" using the larger size. There are many other advantages too. Your day reading can be done with black text on white background while you can set a "night option" to read white text on black background. My favorite reading setup on my iPad is an "off white" text on dark blue background using a sans-serif font such as Arial or Helvetica. Not all apps offer these options so the selection of your reading app is very important. Some are excellent, some are very, very bad!
The "big Retailers" (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc) typically offer "flowing" books. As the eBook industry grows, the "flowing" formats are allowing for more and more complex layouts. Soon, the pdf format (as an eBook format) will be rarely used.
"Flowing" eBook Formats
Just as there are different formats in the "text editor" world (.doc files for Word, .txt for plain text, .rtf for rich text, etc) there are different formats in the eBook world. Typical eBook types are ePub and .mobi (.prc). Retailers (Amazon, B&N, Apple, etc) will take these "base" formats, wrap their own code around it (copy protections, etc) and end up with their own proprietary format. In summary, the most popular "base" formats in use today are .ePub and .mobi though there are others.
Dedicated eBook Readers vs. Tablets with Apps (Kindle vs. iPad)
Dedicated eBook Readers such as the Kindle Touch and Paperwhite, Nook (Barnes & Noble), Kobo Reader, Sony Reader, etc have the advantage of being cheaper than tablets as well as smaller and lighter. The dedicated eBook reader has the dis-advantage of operating only as the manufacturer desires. It is essentially a "doorway" to their online stores. When reading a book you are limited to the current software provided on the device.
The Tablet (such as the Apple iPad and other tablet PC's) is higher in cost but you are not only getting a book reader, you are getting a computer! With a tablet you have many more options for your eBook reading app including many 3rd party developers.
For reading eBooks, my iPad currently has the following apps: iBooks, Kindle for iPad, Bluefire Reader, Marvin, Ouiivo, eReader, Nook, Play Books (Google), Kobo Reader, ShuBook, MegReader, plus others. To read and annotate pdf's I have iAnnotate and GoodReader. To manage loaned library books I have Overdrive and I have several Bible Study apps some of which contain many eBooks which are "synced" to the Bible. Try doing all that with a Kindle or a Nook! You might have to double or triple your outlay to buy a tablet, but you get so much more than that in benefits.
Retailers, Devices, and Apps
Make no mistake. Apple's iBooks app and Amazon's Kindle (device and apps) are made to sell you books from their bookstore. That is what they are designed for. Barnes and Noble with their Nook eReader likewise.
iBooks will download books from the iBookstore (iTunes) and the Kindle will download books from Amazon and the Nook will download books from B&N. Each of these services stores your purchased books on their servers (the "cloud") and you download the book to your device(s) "as needed". The file is in "their" proprietary format and you can only do with it what they allow. For example, Apple iBooks are readable ONLY with their iBooks app and Amazon intends their books to be read only with their devices and apps. I hope you are beginning to see that the selection of your device and app and retailer is very important! More importantly, it is vitally important that you understand all of your options on obtaining, converting, and handling your eBooks. Read on!
What about "other" sources?
So we have the Apple store, the Kindle store, Barnes and Noble, etc. But what do you do if you download one of our free Way of LIfe eBooks? What if you have downloaded a free public domain ebook from another site, such as Google Play, Project Gutenberg, or someone other than the "big guys?" What if you have purchased an eBook from an "indie" (Independent Publisher.) How do I get those books to my reader? That leads us to….
Suppose you want to download a free Way of Life eBook. Even though you did not buy it from one of the major retailers, you can still add the eBook to your (their) reader device. This is called "side-loading" because you are not downloading a purchased book from the retailer. You are "loading" the book from the "side" (typically using your desktop or laptop computer.)
The vast majority of devices and apps allow for this. For example, if you have an iPad you can load an .epub file to any number of reading apps using iTunes or file transfer utilities. You can also load a .mobi file to the "Kindle for iPad" app, also using iTunes. Alternately, if you have an Amazon Kindle account, you can upload the .mobi version of the book to your Kindle account (i.e.: the Amazon "cloud") and the eBook will then be accessible to any Kindle device or app. You can also use this method to convert pdf's to flowing text. See more HERE.
Search out Books!
Some of your best sources for books will NOT be the traditional big retailers. Services like Google Books (Google Play), Project Gutenberg, and others offer many FREE books that are in the Public Domain. There are many, many, excellent works available. One example is "An appeal to the public for religious liberty.." by Isaac Backus, written in 1773. (search books.google.com for Isaac Backus). Note that the technical quality of these books is not always "top notch" as the files come from "quick scans" of entire libraries. But if you search, you'll find some real gems!
Be in Control! - Calibre
With unlimited supplies of eBooks from unlimited sources, how do you "control" your books? You can end up reading Apple books with iBooks, Amazon books with Kindle (device and/or app), and free ebooks on various 3rd party apps. How do you stay in control?
Ideally you find your "favorite" system (device and app) and you convert and use all your books within that system. To do this you'll need eBook management software. It's called "Calibre." It is free and available for Mac and Windows. It "stores" all your eBooks and lists them by name, author, keyword, etc. It can even send the eBook to your device (Kindle, iPad, etc), though it may be best to side load the book manually if you are using a tablet and 3rd party apps. Calibre also converts eBooks from one format to another (such as .mobi to ePub).
Calibre does so much and has so many features it may seem "too much" for you. The good thing about Calibre is that you can just use the "basic" functions if you choose. Don't overlook it, especially if you start to collect lot's of books.
If you choose not to use Calibre you'll want to come up with a "thoughtful" way of obtaining, storing, and reading your books or you'll soon be "over-run" with eBooks. If you read on a Kindle, iPad, or whatever, you'll probably want to download and keep all your eBooks in a single place on your desktop or laptop computer. You can then read them on your computer and/or load them to your devices.
eBook apps - What to Look for in your Reader software.
The great thing about eReading on tablets (or even your smartphone) is that there are many apps available to choose from. Some are good, some are very limited. There is no one "perfect" app and you must choose what works best for you.
Some things to look for:
- Color options: Can you change the color of the background and type? (I like white text on dark blue background.)
- Font options: How many fonts (type styles) can you choose from? (Some fonts on some readers won't show bold or italics!) My favorite is Arial.
- Layout options: Can you change text indents, justification, line spacing, paragraph spacing, etc? (BlueFire Reader gives you a quick option to use your custom settings or "use publishers" default settings.)
- Categories: Can books be placed into "categories" for easy organization.
- Notes and markers: How easy it is to make notes and set makers within the book.
- Is the app cross-platform for use on other devices (including desktop or laptop)?
- OPDS: Does the app provide for OPDS?
- Dictionary: Does the app have a built-in dictionary?
- Book Sources: Can you search online for books and download them?
The above list is ordered by what I personally like to see in a reading app. If an app can't' do the top five things I immediately dismiss it. This includes Apples own "iBooks" which is very limited. Though "Kindle for iPad" is also limited I am "forced" to us it if I want to quickly buy a book from Amazon and I don't have the time or means to "convert" it immediately (so I can read it with my favorite app).
To be continued…….
THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS BY THE WAY OF LIFE STAFF
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