Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A little bit about e-readers

Since I've announced my book's release, family and friends have been curious...what exactly is an electronic book? How do you read it?

This post is here to enlighten those who are new to the idea of e-books and how much fun and how convenient they can be.

An electronic book is just what it sounds like, a book that looks exactly like a print book, only you don't hold it in your hands or have it shipped to your house from some Amazon warehouse. When you purchase an electronic book, you are given a file to download to your computer (or your reading device--more on that later). There are many different file formats, but one universal format is PDF. The electronic book would include the cover art and the copyright page and any other additional info besides the book itself...just like any print book.

If you purchase a PDF version of an electronic book, you can read it right on your computer or you might be able to convert it into the proper format for your e-reader.

There are a number of different e-readers. I'm not going to list them all here, however. Just a few. The price for an e-reader starts at a little over $200 and goes up from there. Many of them use what is called 'eInk' technology. This technology is nothing like reading off a computer screen. It is not backlit. You can read from an eInk reader in full sunlight. And it's very easy on the eyes...in fact, it's almost like reading from a real printed page.

Amazon Kindle

The Kindle reader has been in the news as of late because Oprah decided to give them away to her audience a few weeks ago. Kindle is sold only through Amazon. Amazon has its own Kindle bookstore where you can wirelessly download books to your device (and newspapers/magazines) from just about anywhere. They have their own proprietary file format for the Kindle, but you can pay 10 cents per file to have other files converted into Kindle format...so if you purchased electronic books in the past in PDF form, you could convert them cheaply into a readable format for your Kindle. A big advantage of the Kindle is the wireless downloading. One of the disadvantages is cost. The Kindle costs about $350 and is currently on backorder until February, I think.

Sony Reader

This is another popular eReader that has been around for a few years. It's made by Sony. The price for this one is $299. It comes in a variety of colors, and has the same cool features as the Kindle with the exception of the wireless downloading. They also have an offer right now where you can download 100 books for free with the purchase of your Reader. Pretty good deal.

Stanza on the iPhone

This last one is not an official 'eReader' per se, but I've heard so much about it in the last couple of months, I wanted to add it here. There are a bunch of free 'apps' you can download to your iPhone that are available through iTunes. Stanza is an eReader application, and since it was uploaded to the Apple site, there have been more than a MILLION downloads in 2008! Also, I read that book sales for Stanza have now surpassed those for Amazon's Kindle. Wow! So if you have an iPhone or the iPod Touch, you may want to try that.

A few other advantages to using an eReader:

1) You can enlarge the text. So, if you need reading glasses, you won't have to wear them using an eReader. Just increase the font size and off you go. No need to buy one of those "large-print" versions.

2) You can carry a lot more books on your eReader than you can in your suitcase or briefcase. If you do a lot of business traveling, wouldn't it be nice to download a bunch of books and take them with you wherever you go?

3) Empty off those bookshelves. No more dusty paperbacks littering your bookshelf. No need to donate those books you don't want to the library or sell at a garage sale.

4) Sometimes the electronic version is much cheaper than print. This is more true for electronic publishers like Samhain than for the big traditional publishers like St. Martin's Press or Random House.

My book comes out in electronic form on April 7th. If you want to be the first to read it, start checking out some of your options. Otherwise, be patient for the print release!

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