Stanza is probably the most popular reader on the iPhone now (I don’t have any data to back this claim up–just an informal observation, disagree if you must), and this is likely because, within the limitations of the iPhone as a reader, it does most everything right–there a few things it doesn’t do at all, but that’s better than doing them wrong . The library works intuitively. Choose to add a book and the app instantly connects you to just about any web accessible book depository you want (with many more pre-populated options than eReader) from freebies like manybooks.net and Munseys to paid sites like fictionwise. Once you download a book directly to your device, it presorts by a few categories and the books are easy to select with a scroll menu. Even better (and more attractive) is if you turn the iPhone to landscape, the scroll menu automatically changes to a coverflow view a la iTunes.
The coverflow looks nice and works well.
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Not long ago, I wrote about OverDrive Media Console for Macs, and how Sony Reader users still couldn’t borrow library ebooks on their Macs.
I’ve since borrowed a Mac to see if I could circumvent the eBook Library system: no such luck.
It was possible to install Digital Editions on the Mac, and downloading library ebooks was easy. The trouble came when I plugged in my Reader: Adobe simply couldn’t recognize it. I guess Digital Editions needs eBook Library to introduce the Reader to it, and eBook Library won’t work on Macs.
Yet another shame, and another thing that will have to change before the Great eReader Adoption can begin. Mobipocket ereaders like the BeBook work fine on Macs, and you can still get almost all the same library books in Mobi as you can in PDF. Just don’t buy a Sony.
The good news is that Calibre works on Macs, and talks to the Reader with no trouble. You can even transfer the (non-DRM) books already on your Reader onto different hard drives with Calibre. So you can at least use non-DRM ebooks with the Reader on a Mac. Small consolation.
I haven’t had my Reader for long, but thanks to a talent for obsessiveness, I’ve managed to flesh out a pretty efficient system for finding ebooks for it.
The PRS-700 can read BBeB (.lrf – Sony), PDF, EPUB, .txt, .rtf, and .doc (as long as you have Word installed). That means that certain websites and ebook providers are better than others, simply for the fact that they offer more compatible files. For instance, I appreciate Fictionwise‘s attempt to provide DRM-free, “MultiFormat” ebooks, but every book I’ve gone to their site looking for was in their “Secure” section, and often they didn’t have it in a Sony-compatible format. So I generally have to stay away for now.
(Note: Even though this guide frontloads finding books for free, I’m not against paying for them. I am, however, against paying as much (or more) for an ebook as I would for an ink and paper version, and I’m especially against paying for a DRMed book that might not survive a backup intact. So, until publishers catch on and start rewarding ebook readers instead of punishing us, I try to give them as little money as possible.)
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I'll forgive you, Calibre, even if it is your fault
I really like Calibre, the open-source elibrary and ereader manager. I wrote a post not long ago extolling Calibre’s virtues as my new go-to ereader software after I gave up on Sony’s official program.
One of the things I liked was being able to edit the metadata of books, such as the author’s name that shows up in my Reader’s library. It’s a great feature for when you get a book from Gutenberg or elsewhere, you convert it to a different format and your name becomes the author’s. Or the file title itself is in weird_annoyin_forma3212. This is also easy to do and intuitive (you just double-click on the title or author that you want to change).
The problem is that it doesn’t appear to be permanent. A few times since I renamed my problem books, they’ve spontaneously regrown their old names, which is weird.
I have yet to replicate the problem in a control setting, and so I can’t pin down the culprit (I really want to blame you, Sony eBook Library, but I can’t just yet).
More news as I figure it out.
Like a brick of lavender vomit
eBook Library is not just the clunkiest, ugliest, and worst ereader management software I’ve used, it’s the worst that I can imagine. eBook Library came bundled with my PRS-700; it’s Sony’s standard ereader software, and also the primary link to Sony’s eBook Store, which also sucks.
What follows is not for the weak of heart. It’s a tale of woe, and there is much gnashing of teeth. (And I’m a Reader fan.) But if you’d like to hear about a software catastrophe of historic proportions, come along.
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