Archive for November, 2007

eBooks: Promise and Reality

Just uploaded a recording of a presentation I did yesterday on eBooks. Here’s the description:

eBooks: Promise and Reality

eBooks have been around for several years and every couple of years the technology is hyped as being ready for mass consumption. We’ll take a look at the current eBook landscape. I’ll demo several hardware solutions, including the Sony PRS-500 Reader System and alternative devices like cell phones and the PlayStation Portable. I’ll demonstrate how to use BookDesigner to convert among formats and other software tools. We’ll talk about sources for eBooks like the Gutenberg Project. We’ll also take a look at newly announced technology, including Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader, Adobe’s new Digital Editions format, and color eInk devices that were shown at SIGGRAPH this summer.

View the Presentation

(Adobe Presenter Flash format)

More on the Sync and eBooks

So I’ve been fooling around more with the Samsung Sync and eBook reading and I’ve discovered a few new bits that might be helpful to anyone who would like to use the device for reading eBooks. I’m preparing for a presentation on eBooks that I’ll be giving on Wednesday, so I’m doing some experimentation with various hardware and software tools. Read more »

Amazon Releases the Kindle eBook Reader

The much anticipated Amazon Kindle is finally here. I have to say I was a bit skeptical about the device from early images and leaks of information on the web on various gadget sites. Looking at the videos of the Kindle in action, I think the form factor is better than I expected. And given that EVDO network access for the device is free, $400 does not seem as much as it did when I was thinking about monthly fees initially. But for $400 I’d still take an ASUS Eee PC any day.

There are two serious flaws with the Kindle that I think will really hurt the industry as a whole. First, the eBook format that is natively supported is a proprietary format based on mobiPocket. By not using a format that is readable on other hardware, they will be stifling growth of the market as a whole. Secondly, it looks like the only way to get your own files onto the device is by emailing them to an address provided for you from Amazon at a cost of $.10 per email. The jury is still out on whether you will be able to use the SD card and a PC to transfer files to avoid this fee. As a very astute observer in the discussion of the device on Amazon’s site points out, the device seems less an eBook reader and more a microtransaction system for Amazon sales.

The eBook market is still in its early growth stages, and unfortunately, I think the end result of Amazon’s choices may well stunt that growth significantly. We shall see.

Using the Samsung Sync for eBook Reading

I received an interesting comment on my post about getting video onto my Samsung Sync mobile phone this morning. In the comment, Matt asks if I’ve ever tried to use the Sync to read eBooks. I hadn’t. But being an eBook user and fan, I took it as a challenge. Matt had already tried copying a text file over using Bluetooth and opened it using the Picsel file viewer. The results are unsatisfactory – clunky zoom and the need to pan all over the place to read because the text does not wrap. I suspect the text is being treated as if it is an image and this makes it impossible for the software to understand the document’s text flow. Matt had been on the right track after this initial attempt. He says he tried to open the browser and could not find any way to use the file:// protocol to call up the file in the web browser.

Here’s how I solved these problems and was able to read text comfortably on the Sync:

I took a Word document (it could have been any text format) and saved the file from Word as HTML Filtered. The “Filtered” option in Word 2007 strips out all the nasty Microsoft specific code that might not render properly in the Sync’s browser. I then copied the file to my MicroSD card and popped it into the phone. I navigated to the file using the “My Stuff” file browser and opened the file. Because it was an HTML file it opened directly in the phone’s browser. This result had two consequences that were an improvement over the Picsel file viewer. First, the text was sized properly for reading on the small screen, and second, the text properly flowed vertically and wrapped nicely so that no side-to-side scrolling was necessary. In addition, the browser allows you to resize the text on the page; there are three text size settings: normal, smaller, and larger. I found the normal sized text to be very much readable on my phone, and scrolling down for more text was not too bad.

Thanks again to Matt for asking this interesting question. I still find it really cool that we have these fantastic computers that we carry around everywhere with us and that fit in the palm of our hands. I feel like I’m in a Star Trek episode sometimes when I think about the ubiquity of this kind of technology.