How I got interested
I became interested in Ebooks some years ago, before
the advent of the modern Ebook reader. I had an electronic
organiser, an Ericsson MC218 - a clone of the Psion 5 - and discovered
the .tcr format which allowed me to compress text files and read them
on the PDA. The experience was not ideal as the screen size
was quite small and the device was not readily suited for use in the
hand. It did, however, give me some idea of the possibilities.
Fast forward a few years - I had retired and technology had moved on
somewhat. E-Ink had made an appearance and was being used in
new Ebook readers with much extended battery life. It was
time to take the plunge so I bought a "BeBook", a Hanlin V3 device made
by a Chinese company but marketed by a Belgian firm.
Bebook came with a vast collection of books, however they were all in
PDF format and as I have since realised this was just about the worst
format for demonstrating the capabilities of the reader as it locked-in
the user effectively to a pre-determined typeface and size. All the
books had been sourced from the excellent Project Gutenberg
which transcribes out-of-copyright material and preserves it for
Formats and Software
At that time the most popular Ebook format appeared to be the Mobipocket
(.prc) format and I converted some original books from PDF to PRC using
Mobipocket Creator although
the results were far from ideal.
my interest fuelled I started to look at the various formats Ebooks
could use and decided that for what I wanted a format known as "Fiction
Book 2" or FB2 seemed ideal. The format owes its origin to the
Russian Ebook community and is an XML format so can be easily edited
using a simple text editor. The Russian community had also
developed a set of tools for creating the books using OpenOffice.org
and using these I can easily convert the simple text files used by
Project Gutenberg to Ebook format complete with Tables of Contents,
tables, and footnotes that appear at the bottom of the page to which
they refer, something no other format seems to offer.
I was very happy to discover that the BeBook is one of the few readers
that a project called OpenInkpot
had focussed on. Because the BeBook is essentially a Linux
computer it is possible to totally replace its software by an Open
Source alternative which is more stable than the manufacturers
original. The OpenInkpot version allows the choice of two
different "brands" of reading software each of which has its advantages
depending on the book you are reading. OpenInkpot, having Russian
origins, supports my favourite FB2 format.
many consumer electronics, Ebooks have suffered from the inevitable war
between competing companies for the domination of the market.
This has been fought out mainly between Amazon who make the
Kindle that much of the Press believes is the only Ebook reader and the
companies that use Adobe Digital Editions for their Ebooks. Both
these use Digital Rights Management to protect the books they sell - of
itself a reasonable approach, however there are licencing restrictions
associated with the reader software that mean that you cannot have an
Ereader which will allow the use of both types of format. My own
reading tastes mean that I don't need to have to make a choice as
classic books and most of the reading matter I prefer are out of
copyright and can be obtained in non-DRM protected form.
Some Ebook repositories
I have mentioned previously the grandaddy of them all Project Gutenberg but there are a few more sources
of legal unencumbered books that will provide a lifetime's reading for
most folk. Check out the Download page for books I have produced.
is a forum where people can get help and exchange news relating to
Ebooks, Readers, and software. There is also a section where
members have effectively re-published books that are out of copyright.
These are not the automatically generated formats shifts that
can be found on many other sites based on raw Project Gutenberg texts,
but are typically freshly scanned and individually formatted books
which have been proofed and converted by hand into the main formats so
that they can be read on most readers.
The Internet Archive
is a major source of old books, however they are mainly scanned images,
usually with very raw Optical Charachter Recognition performed on them
to allow searching and indexing. The text layers are seldom
adequate without further editing to form the basis for Ebooks to read
on a small handheld reader.