Get Your Reading On: eBooks

Ok so let us review real quick,

  • Gone over books in email & RSS… check
  • Gone over audiobooks and the places that sell them… check

So now it’s all about electronic books. Electronic books are also known as “ebooks” (yea it’s that whole e is short for electronic, thing). But what is an ebook? Is it something you hold in your hand, or is it a text file that you can read on your computer? Is it both? Well it is or rather it can be all of these things. There are sites that allow you to purchase and download ebooks, we’ll get into those in a second, but let us define exactly what an ebook is. 

What is an eBook?

Simply, an ebook is an electronic version of a book.

To further explain, an ebook, is a file that contains the contents of a book in a computer file. An ebook can come in several formats including (but not limited to) text, HTML, LIT, PRC, and even Microsoft Word’s format. While many purchased ebooks are going to be in a proprietary format specific to that vendor (or reader), there are places to download free ebooks. These can either be in the vendor’s proprietary format, or they can be in an open format that would allow you to read the book using a web browser or one’s favorite text editor.

Why Download & Read eBooks?

A 300 page book in hardcover can take up a lot of space. Heck, even a 300-400 page paperback has its own thickness to it. These things can take up space. You have to purchase shelves to keep them on, or put them in boxes to be forgotten about until you move or have a garage sale. Books take up space. As much as we enjoy them, enjoy holding them, we eventually grow tired of having stacks of the all over our house. Electronic books solve this problem in a big way. You don’t have to worry about finding storage space for books that you bought and will never have time to read, and you don’t have to worry about what to do with the books you have already read.

Another reason electronic books help is that you can store a large number of them in a relatively small amount of disk space. For example, Neil Gaiman’s book, American Gods is 641 pages in trade format (according to Amazon.com). My ebook file for the same book is 641 kilobytes (or a little over half a megabyte in space). Of course, American Gods is a slightly longer book. My digital copy of William Gibson’s Virtual Light is only around 340 kilobytes. Basically in about 10 megabytes of space I can store on average around 15-18 books depending on their length and how they were processed. That’s a lot of books in fairly small amount of disk space. This makes carrying a large number of books with you fairly easy when you consider flash media is getting into the 8-12 gigabytes at the consumer levels.

Where Do You Find eBooks

There are several online stores dedicated to selling electronic books. Amazon is among them, but their books currently only work with their Kindle Reader. The sites that I want to look at today are mobipocket.com, and gutenberg.org.

MobiPocket.com

MobiPocket is two-fold solution. What I mean is they not only sell ebooks, but they have a free ebook reader that works on several platforms. They offer a robust selection of books that are both free and cost money. If you were to look at their front page there is not a book priced over twenty dollars. All of their books can be read on their MobiPocket Reader application for both the PC and several mobile devices.

There are several other websites out there that sell ebooks in MobiPocket’s format. Since the MobiPocket Reader works on computers as well as several mobile devices, it makes sense. So, if you do not want to grab books from this website, you can try sites like eBooks.com or Fictionwise.

Gutenberg.org

Gutenber.org offers free electronic books for books that have fallen out of copyright within the United States. This means that you can grab a lot of classic books in electronic format for free. They offer the titles in HTML, text, and Plucker formats. A free repository of ebooks is good to have because you never know when you might need to grab something for a quick on-the-go read. Gutenberg.org offers over 20,000 free books. That’s a lot of books. So if you want to give electronic books a whirl but don’t want to drop cash to do it, grab yourself MobiPocket Reader and the HTML or text files from Gutenberg.org and you’ll be well on your way to seeing what ebooks are all about.

Conclusion

Next week, we’ll pick up where we left off and take a look at electronic book readers. We’ll look at both the hardware and software available and help you decide what direction you need to go for your reading pleasure. So check back next week as we finish up this series about getting your read on by looking at eBook readers and some social networks set around books and reading.

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