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Ebook Primer




Marilynn Byerly


You don't have to be a techie or a geek to be able to read ebooks, you don't have to sit at your computer to read them if you don't want to, and you don't have to spend a fortune to buy a reader either.


You already own a reader if you have a color iPod, a PDA, some gaming systems, or a cellphone with a decent screen. All you need to do is add software to read books.


Below is some general information with suggestions for finding the more specific details.


If you find this too daunting, you can find more personalized help all over the web. One of the best places to find information on a one-to-one basis is the various bulletin boards like RT's board and listservs like Yahoogroups where readers congregate. Ask a question, and someone will always help you with the specifics.


Software for reading ebooks on your computer:


If you're interested in ebooks but are uncertain what format you'd be most comfortable with, check out some of the freebie books and software available. When you find a format you like, then you can start buying books.


Good sources of information are


Hard Shell's General resources and information

and FictionWise's FAQs.


Here's a simple list of software:


Your computer's browser (Netscape, Internet Explorer, Safari, Foxfire, or the AOL browser) reads HTML, text, and RTF. (PC and Mac)


MSReader (PC only)--found at most online bookstores including FictionWise.


Adobe Acrobat Reader (PC and Mac)--already installed in your computer or downloaded from Adobe


Ebook readers:


Fictionwise, the ebook reseller site, bought out most of the leftover Gemstar ebook readers, and you can buy one from them. Here's a link: If you don't see any info about the reader on the home page, look for a link to their ebookwise sister site.


These days, I always recommend that people get a PDA (a Palm, for example) if they want an ebook reader. The very cheapest PDA is free. Find a friend or relative who uses them and ask them if they have an old one that still works that they can let you have. I imagine most do.

If you are technologically challenged, ask them to help you load a few ebook reader programs on it while they are removing all their "private" information. Most will be happy to do that. And ask them to show you how to connect it to your computer so you can transfer books.


If you can't get one like that, go to some place like Office Depot and throw yourself on the mercy of their resident technogeek for help. Tell them your computer version of Windows or Mac OS and your kind of computer. Also tell them what kind of connections to the computer you have: serial, parallel port, USB, etc., so they can set up you up correctly. (Bring your computer manual with you if you haven't a clue about connections.) Don't let them add a bunch of bells and whistles you don't need.


If you can afford a color one, I'm told that color screens make the easiest reading.


To find information on the kinds of software you will need, go to Fictionwise and read their help section on ebook formats. I believe it's in their FAQs. You can get free reader software there for any format of ebook you want to read.


Hard Shell Word Factory also has an excellent FAQ section with information and links.


With added software, you can read books on the color iPod, and you can also convert some books with text-to-speech software so that you can hear a book read by a computer voice with your iPod. The iTunes store is now experimenting with selling ebooks and audiobooks to iPod users.


A good place to find software for reading with your iPod is VersionTracker. Some of the software is free.


I have information on using text-to-speech with ebooks and computers available at the EPIC site. It's not absolutely up-to-date, but the general information will get you started.


Other technology which can read ebooks are cellphones with screens--this is one of the most popular means of reading ebooks now, and some of the game systems now can be used to read books as well.




HTML ebooks are the best choice to buy if you wish to print it out. Some PDF ebooks also can be printed out, but limit your formatting options.


If your ebook purchase allows you to change the format of the novel, print out the novel like book galleys. It will save you loads of money in paper. To print galley style, choose landscape printing (that prints the paper longwise instead of shortwise as in a letter). Format the novel with two columns per page. Single space and use the smallest font size you're comfortable with. If your printer does a decent job in economy print, use that to save on ink.


Some printers allow you to print two pages per sheet of paper without any formatting change. This is a very simple option to save paper.


Copyright 2005

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