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Archive for April 2011

How to manage your e-book library without a Kindle

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I’ve given up on the Kindle until Amazon comes up with something better that doesn’t feel like a Casio Digital Diary. In the meantime, here’s how I’m managing my e-book library across devices and formats.

I primarily use ePub for reading e-books on devices because it offers decent formatting and font sizes for comfortable reading on smaller screens.

Calibre provides a great way to convert e-books from just about any format (including PDF) to ePub, and does a pretty good job of maintaining the formatting. Page breaks might not always be preserved, but at least chapter headings are obvious and paragraphs are properly formatted. Calibre also has pretty good library management features and I generally delete the source format once I’ve converted to ePub to keep things lightweight.

Both iBooks and Stanza provide a great reading experience on the iPhone (which is my primary e-book reading device now). Despite the small screen, they both handle font sizes well and do a good job of maintaining readability.

But I prefer Stanza because it’s faster, allows screen rotation locking, and most of all – allows you to load e-books into your device library over the air (via the same wi-fi network).

The Calibre-Stanza pair comes into its own when you turn on the content server in Calibre (click the “Connect/Share” icon and select “Start content server”), and then in Stanza, tap “Get books”, look under the “Shared” tab, and tap “Books on calibre (on your computer)”. This lets you access and download books from your Calibre library directly into Stanza on your device via wi-fi. You just need both your computer and your device to be on the same wi-fi network.

That’s way less troublesome than dragging books into iTunes and syncing your iPhone (which can take a while if you’ve got lots of apps) just to transfer a few books, and you also don’t end up with duplicate books on iTunes and Calibre.

Unfortunately for Android users, Stanza isn’t available on Android, but here are a few possible alternatives.


Written by tokyotribe

April 23, 2011 at 7:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Thoughts on the Kindle

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My first impression was, “This doesn’t feel like the future. This feels like the past.”

The E-ink is incredibly clear and renders pages that are great for reading – when it eventually renders, but the screen itself feels like an old piece of Casio Digital Diary LCD technology. And having the screen switch to black (or reverse colours, i.e white text on a black page) momentarily every time you refresh (or turn) the page is just as tiring to read over a long period of time as the bright LED smartphone and tablet screens.

Screen refresh time is an issue not just for page turning (which leaves you staring at a black page for a fraction of a second, before your eyes have to adjust back to white again), but also for text entry, which is slow, with letters forming as pixelated outlines before they are filled in with ink. This makes text entry quite a strain on the eyes too. But not so big an issue since you don’t use the Kindle to enter text much.

My biggest gripe is with the clunky interface, with the home, menu, cursor, Aa and Sym keys. It’s just terrible, not because many users expect a far more intuitive and touch-based interface these days, but because the menu and page scrolling (when viewing a magnified PDF) systems are worse than the interfaces found on early feature phones.

Quite a disappointment, and I walked away without buying one. Guess I’ll be waiting for a Kindle Touch or a smaller, paperback-sized iPad.

Written by tokyotribe

April 23, 2011 at 12:56 am

Posted in Tech