Get Your Reading On: eBook Readers

In our last post (Get Your Reading On: eBooks), we looked at exactly what electronic books are and some of the advantages to using eBooks. We only touched on how to read electronic books by mentioning the MobiPocket Reader for PC and mobile devices. We mentioned some hardware electronic book readers but didn’t really go into too much detail. This post is going to change that. Today, we will look at electronic book readers, both software and hardware based.

Kinds of eBook Readers

As I mentioned earlier, there are two kinds of electronic book readers hardware readers and software readers. A hardware based eBook reader would be something like Sony’s Reader or the Amazon Kindle. These are physical devices that you can hold in your hand that allow you to read an electronic book, anywhere you can take the device. Software readers, like Microsoft’s Reader or MobiPocket’s Reader can be installed on your computer or mobile device (like a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device) and allow you to read eBooks without having to purchase yet another device to carry around.

Software Readers

We will start our look at electronic book readers by looking at software based readers. These are the easiest to grab since neither of the two we will look at will cost you any money. Let us begin with MobiPocket’s Reader program.

MobiPocket Reader

The MobiPocket Reader is one of the most popular free electronic book applications out there today. Several eBook websites sell MobiPocket Reader compatible files, including MobiPocket themselves. The great thing about the MobiPocket Reader is that it is available for a wide range of portable devices including BlackBerrys, Palm devices, and Windows Mobile. There is also a PC version that you can install on your desktop that will let you sync your eBooks as well as RSS feeds to your mobile version of MobiPocket Reader. You can also use the MobiPocket Reader to access your favorite electronic bookstore and purchase new titles to read. This is especially helpful if you finish all your books while on the move and need a new book to read.

The downside to MobiPocket Reader is getting the books to look “pretty” and have pretty names if you just drop PDF files and TXT files into the PC application. You need to use MobiPocket Creator to get files that you have created into the friendly, pretty looking MobiPocket format. The people who designed the MobiPocket Reader went with a more straightforward approach when designing and laying out how a person would use the application. This is great for most people, but for those that like to dig around and hack at things, it can get a little annoying.

Microsoft Reader

Yes, even Microsoft has not left itself out of the electronic book game and does in fact have its own Microsoft Reader application. Reader, by Microsoft is about as straight forward with no-frills as you can get when it comes to a desktop electronic book reader. The application does have a Windows Mobile counterpart so that you can sync books between your PC and your mobile device. However, Microsoft being the company that it always has been sells books in its own proprietary format (.LIT). Granted most eBook vendors do this, some try to have their files work with as many readers as possible. Microsoft electronic books work only with Microsoft Reader. However, the program does exist and it is free so that is why I mentioned here. However, I prefer the MobiPocket Reader for myself.

Hardware Readers

Hardware electronic book readers are devices that have a single purpose of allowing you to read an eBook. Think of them as iPods for books. You can store multiple books and some even let you access RSS feeds for reading your favorite blogs on the go.

Amazon Kindle

The Amazon Kindle was released to a firestorm of blogging promotions. There was not a technology blog on the internet that did not have an opinion on the electronic reader put out by Amazon. Amazon set out to make an eBook reader that would allow its users to read books, purchase (and download) new books, and even get instant up-to-date access on some of their favorite online news sources. Amazon has a fairly decent first generation product in the Kindle, so good that since its release it has been on consistent backorder.

The cool thing about the Kindle is the fact that when you buy it, you get a device with a mobile internet connection. While that connection is limited to buying books and grabbing news articles from newspapers and RSS feeds, that connection does exist. To top things off, when you buy a Kindle, you do not have to pay for that connection. The connection is included. Currently though, the Kindle will only read electronic books purchased from Amazon’s own website and they are DRM-ed (contain Digital Rights Management) so you can’t transfer them to other Kindles or share them with your friends. Some have argued that this hurts the very concept of reading, how you read a good book and then loan it to your friend because you think they will enjoy it. However, a part of me understands why Amazon would do this.

The Kindle currently sets you back around $400, but with an constant internet connection, the price isn’t too far-fetched. And since Amazon can’t seem to keep the thing in stock should tell you they have a hot product.

Sony Reader

Sony’s Reader is very similar to the Kindle in many respects. The both offer eInk screens (the display technology used). They both offer ways to read the news and RSS feeds. And most importantly they both store a decent amount of electronic books for your reading pleasure.

The main differences between the devices are: the price and the internet connection. In Sony’s case, it is the lack of internet connection. The Sony Reader will set you back $300 but with your purchase from the Sony Store, you will score 100 free “eBook Classic Titles” to start you on your new eBook collection. However, the Reader’s ability to read RSS feeds and newspaper articles is limited in how often you connect the device to your computer. Also keep in mind that the books purchased from the Sony Connect store contain DRM technology so again, no sharing. You can put a title on up to five devices (one has to be a PC), however.

If you do not need a constant connection to RSS and news and you don’t mind a Sony product, the Sony Reader is a good compromise.

Other Readers

If you would like to see a list of other eBook readers, then I recommend looking at this list on Wikipedia.


As I hope you can see now, there are many ways to read an electronic book. You can do it on your computer, cell phone, and even buy a eBook reading device. When we come back, we conclude our “Get Your Reading On” series with a look at some online social networking (think MySpace or Facebook) that center around reading.

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