Tag Archives: e-readers

iPad beside a book

Find eBooks

If you’re new to digital books or have a shiny new digital book reader, you may be wondering where to find books. Some stores use DRM that may limit the book to a device, while others sell DRM-free books allowing you transfer the book to a new device. Below are some quick lists to help get you started.

eBook Stores

The iBookstore provides searching Project Gutenberg, but if you are shopping elsewhere you may find it easier to download an ePub using your PC then import the book using iTunes same as a song.

iPad reading software

iPhone / iPod Touch reading software

Android reading software

PC reading software

Digital Reading

Until recently, I considered myself a traditional reader especially with technical books. I preferred using the physical book, marking pages and quickly flipping through to find something. PDF documents on the PC are difficult to work with, and many eBooks on the PC aren’t much better with the ability to search as the only benefit. Searching usually just jumps through the document, but the iBooks search reveals a list of results showing surrounded context. Some of my technical books are full of sticky notes, many of which I’ve forgotten their purpose for being there and end up checking each one. Digital readers make bookmarking cleaner.

The iPad using iBooks and GoodReader has changed my opinion. The iBooks bookmarking tool is handy. I highlight as much text to give me enough information, a reminder that may be all I need in a pinch. If I need to read more, I can jump to the page. Devices like Kindle and iPad allow the reader to hold and carry the device like a book, even leaf through pages. Even better, I can now carry my 1,500 page technical book around without breaking my back. Another great bonus: some technical eBooks get updates downloaded straight to my reader. No need to visit the web for corrections.

The pages of my favorite book has turned yellow and the spine is falling apart. I read it too much. When I replace it, I will get the eBook.

Why iPad

For years we’ve all held to the belief that computing had to be made simpler for the ‘average person’. I find it difficult to come to any conclusion other than that we have totally failed in this effort.” -Speirs “Future Shock

Since the iPad announcement a number of posts, comments, and articles appeared bashing iPad. Some include colorful language in titles like, “epic fail.” While the iPad may not be what everyone expected (it’s exactly what I expected,) some of the anti-iPad reasoning seems to be about clinging to old methods.

The iPad is not an iPod Touch, but familiarity of the interface improves understanding. If you have never tried an iPhone or iPod Touch, please borrow one and give the following a try:

  • Photos: try swipe, pinch zoom, tilt
  • Stocks
  • USA Today app (free)
  • Stanza (free) or Kindle for iPhone app
  • Play a video

These new devices allow ‘computing’ to get out of the way of what users really want to do: interact with data.” -Eaton, comment on “Flash, iPad, Standards” at Zeldman.com.

Common complaints about iPad

  1. Only 1 connector and it’s USB.
  2. No camera (future possibility.)
  3. No Adobe Flash support.
  4. Limited storage/don’t like copying files.
  5. It’s just a big iPod Touch.
  6. Not eInk.
  7. Doesn’t replace laptop.
  8. Where’s the innovation? Old netbooks do that.
  9. Phone/Nintendo DS/organizer has touch. Big deal.
  10. No multitasking.

My Short Response to Common iPad Complaints

  1. Wireless and sync. Reducing connector dependency is the goal.
  2. Camera might be nice for video conference, but phones and PCs do this.
  3. Adobe Flash must improve or watch something else take its place.
  4. Sync and streaming. You don’t need to carry everything with you.
  5. Not quite. Wait to see future apps.
  6. eInk isn’t ready yet. Needs faster refresh and color.
  7. iPad is not a PC replacement.
  8. Innovation brings the user closer to the content. See the two quotes above.
  9. Try an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. See the difference?
  10. Unnecessary for casual use, and we’ll see it in the future.

Now let’s look at some of the complaints in detail.

No Adobe Flash

This is a strong argument since Flash is well entrenched on the web. How many iPhone users complain? Many don’t miss it preferring apps instead. Flash consumes resources and sometimes crashes browsers. If Adobe addresses these issues, we may see it on the iPad. We may also see another solution, HTML5, or specialized apps may take over.

Old Habits Die Hard

Read the quote at the top of the page. Give it careful consideration. Not convinced? Read the entire “Future Shock” by Speirs.

People take comfort in the familiar. Before computers, most people didn’t know why they would want it until they tried it. Old habits die hard. General hardware and software hasn’t changed much in decades. We learn about file systems and complex hierarchies in order to use computers.

Big File Storage: Demanding enough storage for a copy of everything on every device surfaces from the chore of copying our music and movies to devices. We must understand file systems and capacities, and most devices make it difficult to copy. So many make a habit to copy everything and leave it.

Netbooks and Notebooks: They work like our desktops. The lid makes it difficult to carry and use and sometimes the field doesn’t offer a nice table to set it on. Short battery life limits portability. Many want a tablet without giving up the familiar interface, file system, and connectors. Many of us want our portable computers to do everything a desktop does. Some of us don’t want change.

Personally, I want a portable computer to be truly portable. I do most of my work sitting at a desk.

Computers require extensive knowledge. Even some of the self-proclaimed computer experts manage to get their operating systems mangled or overburdened by poor applications. So much technical skills are required in order to design software that often the user experience gets pushed aside. We end up with clunky software that requires hunting through menus using an absurd number of mouse clicks. These become habits and users learn to accept it.

This must end.

The goal of a computer is to remove the complexity. We have been going backwards in some cases. Many older office software products were faster and easier. We need to give control back to the user. As a software designer, I make this my personal quest.


The iPad may not be the computer some consumers want, but that doesn’t make it a failure. It may seem underwhelming. Major changes shock consumers, and products with too much change sell poorly. The iPad fills the gap between a dedicated computing system and a phone. Apple carefully steps in the right direction by making progressive changes to products already entrenched in the market. The future will bring new devices and better computers.

Why iPad? It’s a step in the right direction.

Will you buy an iPad or wait to see what the future brings?

What others are saying:

The eBook Test provides a list in “Must-Read Pro-iPad Posts.”

The iPad isn’t what you think it is” at Mainly Thinking.

Why I See The iPad As An Epic Ereader Fail” at Indie Author.

Lamarche of iPhone Development says, “for many people, a regular computer is both overkill and frustrating.” in “Same Ol’ Same Ol’…

Chris Rawson on “Adobe speaks up about Flash on the iPad

PC World: “iPad Study: The More You Know, The Less You Want One

Ars Technica: “Survey tries quantifying iPad hype, suggests interest waning

MarketWatch: “Disney CEO: iPad ‘could be a game changer’

E-Readers: DOA

Dead on Arrival

The eBook is a digital copy of the physical book, same concept as in 1971 when Project Gutenberg was founded. Much has changed since 1971 including the Web where we may find many eBooks in formats included text, PDF, HTML, XML, ePub, Kindle, Open eBook, and more. PDF is great layout for print, but not as useful on the screen. Some modern eBooks contain hyperlinks, but otherwise remain the same as the original concept.

The eBook is trying hard to be like print.

Current eBook readers are lost in the past. Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Stanza, Zinio, and others are simple print replacements. They offer nothing functionally new and few of them do better than print. Some readers present books poorly lacking the nice format we are accustomed to in print.

Single function reading devices like Kindle come with big price tags at $250-$400, but Forrester Research shows that consumers want to pay under $100 for a single purpose reader. E Ink produces a paper-like display, but even after they add color, a quality view isn’t enough for the price.

Students hate lugging stacks of textbooks, but carrying multiple devices is not much of an improvement. And some publishers are trying to rent textbooks (eBook only lasts 180 days; see Mashable3 Reasons Students Aren’t Ready“) at print prices.

A few readers try to mimic print exactly. The Zinio reader uses a layout approach presenting magazines on screen where the reader gives the feel of the printed magazine including animated page flipping. Why does a digital version need to mimic print? Format for reading devices.

Future digital books will bring new concepts, new ways of telling stories. At basic level, an eBook must support connecting common items including linking related stories, jumping to author biography, finding similar books, going to and from an appendix. Hyperlinks accomplish this, but digital books need more. Imagine an instruction book including optional video clips. Vook is video embedded book, and this is only the start. Educational books may include sounds, connect students together, import new material, quiz the student, or provide alternate instruction. New ways of telling stories will go beyond the eBook.

New digital readers supporting other functions will push basic readers out of the market, and they are just around the corner. Even better, other functions allow storytellers to deliver new forms. What about consumers that just want to read a traditional story? New readers support that as well. And there’s always print.

Gizmodo shows a sample of Microsoft’s Courier, a dual screen device based on a traditional organizer. The video gives us a peek at the near future. These smaller devices will replace notebook computers as the business travel companion. Heavy work can wait for the office while those with mobile offices may prefer keeping their computers. By including other functions, the Courier may have a future in storytelling.

Apple may introduce a multifunction device like a larger iPod Touch aimed at reading. Applications allow future formats revealing new ideas to fit right in. Consumers want to see Apple’s attempt at doing e-reader right.

Future digital books will kill current readers. The old eBooks may survive as free content to support print books, future digital books, or other products.

Just as they gain popularity, eBook readers are dead on arrival.

What others say: