eReaders software,files and formats

I have often wondered why it can be so confusing to read a book through an e reader or any other reading format. All we want to do is read a book, magazines and soon newspapers so why is it so confusing with regards to which format and file type to use.

Below are the bare basic that you should understand before you purchase an eReader and also we must try to remember that just because you are reading form a screen it does not mean that you are eReading.

To understand this subject it should be broken down in two area software and hardware (hardware will be posted soon)

So let take a look at the software first.

Which software?

That depends on the format, or file type, in which the e-book is presented. So in that sense the choice may be fixed, but you may also have additional software options available to enhance your reading experience.

A limitation with e-books at present is that in many cases the reader – either human or electronic – cannot simply convert file formats to other file formats. Therefore if an e-book is not offered in a format type that you have e-reader software already installed for, you may not be able to read it at all. Or you may need to obtain extra software first. Most e-reader software is available free however, and even the kinds you have to buy are usually not expensive.

It is important, though, that you be well aware of software issues before you purchase any e-books, or even try to read free ones. The information below will help you understand these issues. In addition, links are provided so you can obtain a variety of (mostly free) e-reader software.

Format Issues?         
The existence of different file formats has both good and bad features. Examples of the good are that particular formats may have various advantages suitable to particular types or styles of books (e.g. novels, textbooks or illustrated children’s books). As well, their rivalry stimulates the development of better software overall.

However, as frequently happens with new technology, the issue has also become a problem, as a result of intense competing commercial pressures. The biggest difficulty is caused by the failure of the players in the field to agree on common underlying standards, or to arrange for the inter-convertibility of formats for books that are commercially available (in so far as this could be possible).

There are several scenarios that might eventually resolve these difficulties. For example all or most e-books could be offered in multiple formats (many e-booksellers offer at least two or three at present). Alternatively, everyone could agree to use one particular format (the emergence of the ePub format may be a step in this direction). Or again, just one format – or a very few formats – could emerge as dominant in the marketplace. Or lastly, a technical & commercial mechanism could be established to facilitate the easy inter-convertibility of various formats through a trusted intermediary. The new Epub format mentioned above offers a potential platform for such a mechanism.

While some major corporations are still hoping that that their own product will win out over all others, there are also at present trends in e-publishing towards the first and fourth solutions. Viewed historically, e-books are still in their infancy, so it is too early to predict with any confidence what the final outcome will be.

HTML or plain text

If an e-book is offered in HTML, or plain text, you will be able to read it immediately with your web browser on your personal desktop or laptop computer. There is also extra software available to read it outside your browser (but still on your computer) in a more book-like experience, with additional features that a printed book can never offer. Examples are the ability to change the font size or style, or even the background texture, hyperlinks in the text (so you can jump straight to selected locations in the text or even on the Web), the ability to search the text in various ways, and an inbuilt dictionary.

You can also read HTML book files on various handheld devices that are equipped with modified web browsers, or various other e-reader software. Or you may be able to add such software to them. Check the information that comes with your device.

Adobe PDF, Microsoft Reader or eReader (Palm) formats

If an e-book is offered in a format other than HTML or plain text , such as Adobe PDF, Microsoft Reader or eReader (Palm) formats, you must first download & install particular (free) software on your computer or handheld device in order to read the book.

In some cases, computer users will already have at least one of these installed on their PC. Most commonly this will be some version of the Adobe Reader for .pdf files. Meanwhile, many handheld devices do come with some variety of e-reader software pre-installed, or supplied available for installation.

Just because you have a particular operating system on your device, this does not mean that all e-books that seem to come from an “opposing” system cannot be read. For example you can read eReader (Palm) format e-books on a Windows or Mac PC, or on a (Windows) Pocket PC. Similarly you can read PDF format e-books on a Palm, PocketPC or Symbian OS device. However, in such cases you must first install the appropriate e-reader software to make this possible.

What if there is e-reader software already installed on my device?

Some devices have proprietary e-reader software already installed, or reserved to the buyer for individual installation. You need to know the implications of this, as explained below:

 a) Where the software is the only one the device will allow – for example with the Kindle devices – the only books you will be able to read on the device are those that are offered in that format. So there you need to be careful, as if the books you want aren’t offered, or the companies that support the e-reader stops offering books in that format, the device may not be of so much use to you.

b) Sometimes a device may have its own proprietary format reader installed, but also allow you to install another type of e-reader software. For example the Franklin eBookman has its own Franklin Reader with a limited variety of books available, but you can also install Mobipocket Reader on it, which allows you to read a much larger variety of books.

c) Some handhelds may not come with any particular e-reader software, but may allow you to install one (or more) of your own choice. Or they may include one of the more popular ones, but allow you to uninstall it and add another instead.

As you can see from above it can get a bit confusing with regards to all the different types of files and formats, but help it on its way as mentioned in the above section with the introduction of Epub it’s got to be the way forward to help this area with regards to a regulation reading platform.

My last comment is very a simple one I wish that they could just leave the software designers to design the software applications but also leave the designers to design the hardware i.e. what we physically hold in our hands to read the item. Because at times it seems that they want to re design the whole wheel and not just an eReader.


About martin smith

A degree in Engineering Management ,who is just trying to make life a bit easier, for anyone who wishes to read these articles. View all posts by martin smith

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