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  • John Bell

Tech Sense: eBooks and eReaders

Summer is here, and many of us will spend time on the beach or in the mountains relaxing and catching up on our reading. This month I will look at eBooks and eReaders.

Formats Over the years, there have been many file formats designed for eBooks. Currently the most common format is Portable Document Format (PDF). This format was originally developed by Adobe to ensure a document could be printed correctly from any system. The PDF format was eventually opened up and is currently an international standard. The original standard has been updated to allow the reflow of text. Text reflow is the process of dynamically reorganizing the text on a page to fit the size and shape of the display medium making the text readable on multiple devices. The ePUB format is the official standard of the International Digital Publishing Forum and can be used on many eReaders. ePUB is the most widely based eBook standard that is based on XML files as opposed to PDF files. ePUB provides support for audio book overlays allowing the audio to be synchronized with the current page in the book. Most eReaders handle ePUB directly, but the Kindle can't handle compressed (zipped) ePUB files and recommends they be tested before use. The Kindle Reader uses a proprietary Amazon standard based on the old and now defunct MOBI standard. While Kindle is based on MOBI, it does not support MOBI files or files created by Mobipocket.

eReaders eReaders are the hardware devices that can be used to read eBooks. An eReader can be a dedicated hardware device or software running on a computer, tablet, or phone. Most eReaders use eInk displays. These black and white displays use a very small amount of power allowing eReaders to remain charged for days or weeks instead of hours. Some eReaders provide a headphone jack and can play or stream music and can read the books to you. Books are downloaded to eReaders via Wi-Fi or in some case through a mobile network. The Amazon line of Kindle readers are the most popular with many saying the current Kindle Paperwhite is the best product on the market. Kindle gives access directly to purchase eBooks from Amazon or access book through Prime or a subscription plan. The Barnes and Noble Nook is probably the next most popular line of eReaders, but its market share is a fraction of the size of the Kindle. The Nook primarily uses the ePUB format but also supports PDF among others. Kobo is an independent manufacturer of eBook readers. The readers primarily support ePUB and PDF formats, but a conversion program can be used to read Kindle books.

Reader Software Software or Apps for reading eBooks is also available. Amazon makes its Kindle software available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Nook software is also available for these platforms. Calibre is an open source book reader and library manager that runs on most devices. If your book preference is the PDF format, there are many PDF readers for every platform. I currently prefer using the Foxit Reader, but the Adobe Acrobat Reader is very popular. Most modern web browsers will also directly display PDF files. I prefer reading my eBooks on my tablet. While my tablet needs to be recharged after 12 hours of use, I read a lot of material that is presented in color, and the tablet gives me a high-resolution color display. I have Kindle and Google Books apps on the tablet, and I have tried several others. I personally find the Kindle app to be better suited for how I read. I use it to read eBooks that are published as PDF. Amazon provides a tool that allows me to upload the books into the app, or I can use a file explorer to find the books stored on my device and read them that way.

Next Month Next month I plan to discuss getting free and inexpensive books online. Until then, enjoy reading.

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