eReaders Ressources

Foreword

As any avid reader, I have had a look at eReaders. In that respect, I must say that I find the anti-ereaders' reaction very funny and very similar to what I heard many years ago when microwave ovens started to appear. Many people were objecting to microwave ovens on various grounds, but there was one common feature: they didn't seem to understand that the microwave was not there to replace the cooker, but to supplement it.
What we hear today about ereaders goes very much in the same direction. Most of the objections start from the premisse that if/when you buy an ereader, you will stop buying/using/reading paper books. I personally don't see why. I happily continue to use both. And even if you do at some point, I guess it will be for the same reason the car replaced the horse. End of the subject as far as I am concerned :-)
Last comment: I also have tablets, and of course I sometimes read on those as well. However, whatever the quality of the display, I find the tablet/phone screens more tiring for the eyes than the eInk.
Une partie des informations de cette page est disponible en français ou sous forme d'ePub.

Machines


So far I played with 4 families of machines: the Sony, the kindle, the Kobo(s), and the Trekstor, but there are many others: Tolino, nook, iriver, pocket ebook, etc.
ALL of them use the free ePub format, except the kindle which uses a proprietary, closed format.

The Sony


is a very good reader, but in this country it is the most expensive of the lot - but the most complete as well.
Models shown here are PRS-350 and PRS-600
There are others, the PRS-T3 springs to mind. All of them read ePubs and pdf, amongst other things. Unfortunately, as of August 2014, Sony is pulling out of the eReader market.

The Nook


The Nook is backed up by Barnes and Nobles, one of the biggest library of the US.
It is similar to the kobo touch, but a bit more basic softwarewise.
The basic model used to go for £30 at Curries or Blackwells - but they are out of stock most of the time.

The Kindle


The kindle has become the synonym for ereader in many people's mind.
However, it is not the machine of my choice, for various reasons.
  1. First of all, there is the tie to Amazon. Amazon has been known to erase books you have bought from your kindle remotely without asking permission. This happened in July 2009, and again in November 2010, and again in October 2012. Whatever the reasons, I haven't seen anybody from WHS Smiths breaking into my house to reclaim a book I had bought at their bookstore.
  2. Amazon may also simply decide they don't like you, erase your kindle and remove your account, no explanation given, like they did with a Norwegian lady.
  3. Or the book you want to read may have too many hyphens, in which case amazon will also remove it. (Dec 2014)
  4. Another problem I have with the kindle is a more practical one: the format of the books. The default formats of the kindle, .mobi or the amazon format, are closed source (even if the earlier versions were reverse-enginneered). This means that there are very few tools that enables you to create your own books to put on your kindle. If you do, you have to create an ePub and use a converter. This extra step is not only annoying, but despite the best efforts of the people behind the conversion software, sometimes the result isn't optimum (mangled toc, etc).
  5. I find the ergonomy of the kindle lacking. For example, it is fine if you have few books, but I routinely carry hundred of books, and the "catalog" system of the kindle is not very practical or ergonomic - not as easy as the Kobo anyway.
  6. The strict management right of amazon causes problems for travelling people. This is a milder version of (1). An example of this: you buy a book in the UK, but your reader refuses to allow you to read it when travelling in Norway (or the US). Even inside the US, you might not be able to cross a state border. Don't bother if you never leave your country.
  7. Milder case of the above: if you live in a country NOT on amazon list, good luck to buy some books available to anybody else.

For all those reasons, I do not want a kindle.

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The Kobo(s)


<== Kobo WiFi
Let's be clear: at £50 (€60), the Kobo wifi was a bargain ! It was probably the cheapest ereader on the market, and it did its job very well. It was my first reader, and I loved that machine. I say was because unfortunately it has been phased out.


<== Kobo touch // Kobo mini ==>

The entrance level moneywise is now the Kobo mini (at £29.99, roughly €40 !- if you can find it ) which shares the software and functionalities of the Touch (£59.99, roughly €75 ! Sep 2014), but with a smaller screen and a reduced battery life. However it seems the model is being phased out (Oct. 2014).
Just to be complete: there is also a "Glo" (£79.99, roughly €100 - Sep 2014) which has some kind of soft backlight, but I'm not interested.
I also have a Touch, because I travel a lot and the Touch features a browser, which enables me to check my emails or read the paper (so to speak !!) on the go on a bigger screen than my phone. It also sports other improvement compared to the basic model, but apart from a slightly longer battery life, none of those mattered to me. Some extra gadget are a sudoku (and now a Chess game), stats on your books/reading, possibility to share directly on facebook, "badges", etc.
Kobo (a Canadian firm now Japanese-owned) was smart enough to make its device the exact same size as corresponding kindle model, which means that any kindle accessory will also work with the Kobo :-)
One thing I like about the Kobo is that you can hack it: change dictionnaries, add fonts, etc. Very useful if you want to read books in a less-known language that uses special fonts!
Two notes on that:
  • Kobo runs Linux, which explains how you can do all those tweaking to the system.
  • Knowing the above, I find it quite extraordinary that the Desktop program only exists for windows and mac.
    That said, it installed perfectly on my Debian under wine 1.4.1-4. Unfortunately, the good news stop there. The update of "My Library" stopped after adding two books and never went any further (???). And of course, since at the moment wine has a very limited USB support, you can't connect to the Kobo with the Desktop program, so its utility is nil.
I had the opportunity to see the inside of a broken kobo wifi. The hard disk is in fact a 2G sdcard under the main board. I took it out for examination (of course), and here are the results of the Luxemburguese jury:
3 partitions: 2 of 250M, 1 of 140M

Device Boot      Start          End           Blocks    Id    System
/dev/sdf1          19456        543744       262144+    83    Linux
/dev/sdf2          543745      1068033       262144+    83    Linux
/dev/sdf3         1068034      3862527      1397247      b    W95 FAT32

2 Linux  partitions, one Fat32 partition
sdf1 seems to be the active partition, while sdf2 would be a back-up partition, with an image ready to run or be restored in case of problem. Once archived, the sdf1 partition tgz sizes at 5 megs and sdf2 at 150 megs.
sdf3 is data only.
Examination of the linux system partition doesn't reveal anything specific, except that it is a minimum linux system based on busybox and the QT libraries.


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TrekStor Pyrus Mini

Since I have used the Kobo mini extensively and found the 4'X 3' screen not to be too much of an inconvenience, I thought I would give the trekstor mini a spin. At €29, I didn't have much to lose anyway. (Update 201502: now €39)
Update 20151208: both seem to be discontinued :-(



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Tolino

A friend drew my attention to the Tolino, which fits perfectly in the category of readers I like. I haven't tried it yet, but the description seems to be what I want. More on this when I can actually play with one :-)

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Others

I explored a bit the other ereaders on the market. Here are the results (original Nov 2013 - updated 20151209):
Terms of reference are:
Mandatory:
  • eInk
  • screen min 5"
  • price <= €50 /£40-45/$60-70
  • decent battery life (>8h)
Nice to have
  • WiFi
  • SD Card
Looked at and discarted:
  • Txtr Beagle (discontinued).
  • Cybook Odyssey (Bookeen) too expensive.(€79):
All that is left:
Conclusion:

Considering the terms of reference, the best are (Nov 2014/June 2016):
NameTouch
Screen
Diction-
nary
WiFiPrice
Kobo Touch [OK] [OK][OK]£59.9
Tolino Page [OK] [?][OK]€69
Kobo Mini [OK][OK][OK]£29.9 (phased out except amazon.com ?!)
PocketBook Touch [OK] [NotOK][OK]€79


  • Dictionnary: touch a word and
    get a translation or definition.
  • Wi-Fi: used to update firmware or
    send books to reader;
    with crude browser
    also allows for checking mail
    or reading online newspaper.

If you are in the UK, check out Argos. They did carry both Kobo and Nook <£50 at some point.

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Envoi

That's all there is to say, really. My advice is to try and borrow one (or several) before you make your choice. Obviously there is room for many readers out there depending on what you do with it. They all offer pretty much the same functionalities. I have done a very rough comparison between the prices of the 10 most read books on amazon and the top ten on kobobooks, and they are roughly the same. So whatever works for you. What matters is that you read ! :-)
You can compare most of them by yourself on ReaderRocket
Unfortunately, small readers seem to disappear from the market: first the kobo mini, then the TrekStor mini. So if you see one, grab it before it disappears. I've had mine for years and they last forever anyway :-)
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Ressources

Tools

As explained above, I create a lot of ebooks. The reason is very simple: like most people, when I am on the internet I don't always have the time to read interesting stuff I come across. One possibility is of course to bookmark the page, but we all have gazillions of bookmarks we will never read. So what I do is simply to capture the page(s) into an epub, and send it to my Kobo to read on the train / bus.
Un excellent tutoriel sur la création d'epub
  • Grab my book This is really the BEST capture tool to ePub. You can grab all your tabs, rss feeds, page, part of the page, links, whatever you want. It also gives you some basic metadata like author, summary, and even epub cover. Available for Firefox, Chrome and android. If you have a problem installing on Opera, you can download the [crx]
  • DotePub Is a good alternative. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of GrabMyBook, but it does the job. It also saves natively to kindle.
  • Pocket Enables you to tag articles, etc on the PC and sends them directly to the Kobo to read later. Requires 3.0.0+ firmware on the Kobo (except Glo, seems to be 2.8.1 ?) and free registration. Also has Android / iOS client. Faster than GrabMyBook for the odd article and really handy.
  • Readability Is another alternative. It stores pages for you and clean them. You can then print, read, export to ePub or send to your kindle. Requires free registration.
  • Sigil is a free word processor for ePub.(former repository) This is THE tool that will allow you to finish what you started with grabMyBook and give the professional finishing touch. Needless to say you can do anything in an ePub with this tools, which is also extremely simple and natural to use.
  • Alternately, you can use My eBookMaker (requires registration), a web-based ePub editor. Limitation: can't upload an ebook and edit, need to start there.
  • Calibre is the most misused tool for ebook. It is in fact a cataloging tool, and allows you to manage you ebooks library. It understands many format, and allows you to do some basic metadata editing, as well as converting from one format into another. I'm willing to bet 90% of Calibre user don't use it to manage an ebook library but to convert to/from .mobi (kindle) format. As far as I know it's the only tool to do that. Hint: on linux you don't need to use the GUI. You can mass-convert entire directories using ebook-convert. Get the scripts
  • TeBookConverter is an alternate front-end to Calibre.
  • Papercrop will transform your pdf to make them display better on phones/tablets
  • PDF2Epub will transform your pdf in an .ePub
  • PDF4Kindle will transform your pdf in a .mobi
  • Cloud Convert will transform your pdf in epub
  • Doc Pals is another nice convertor.
  • BookType is an open source platform to help you write and publish print and digital books.
  • tools

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References

  • Adding fonts: nothing easier. Just create a directory at the higher lever (same as .kobo) and name it fonts. Then put your fonts in there. Make sure you have one for each style (ie bold, italic, etc), with the proper name (by default, name convention is:
    • *-Regular.ttf
    • *-Bold.ttf
    • *-Italic.ttf
    • *-BoldItalic.ttf
    You may also have to modify /.kobo/Kobo/Kobo eReader.conf. I personally added Linux Libertine fonts to my Kobo. You can also add fonts that existed in older roms; To install these fonts,
    1. download one of the old firmwares.
    2. Open the downloaded Zip file and extract the koboroot.tgz to your PC or Mac; do NOT extract this to your Kobo. Now open the tgz (on Windows, Winzip handles it; Mac or Linux tar at a minimum will work). The fonts are located in usr/local/trolltech/QtEmbedded-4.6.2-arm/lib/fonts Copy the desired fonts to your Kobo in the directory fonts the same as all other fonts you have installed (and yes... the case of the directory name IS important).
    3. Be sure to copy all members of the font family.
    Un autre tutoriel ici
  • Kobo Touch hacking
  • Transform your Kobo in Linux Tablet
  • Full list of to download (scroll down for latest).
  • -->
    DateVersionMark 2
    the original Wi-Fi
    Mark 3
    Original Touch
    (N905/N905B Model)
    Mark 4 MiniMark 4
    TouchLC
    (Low Cost -
    N905C Model)
    Mark 4
    Glo/Aura HD
    Mark 5
    Aura/Aura H20
    Mark 6
    Glo HD
    Release notes
    201609124.0.7523 4.0.7523 77.8MB Release notes
    201512313.19.5761 3.19.5761 76.1MB 3.19.5761 96.2MB 3.19.5761 80.5MB 3.19.5761 79.2MB 3.19.5613 Release notes (same as previous)
    Patching instructions
    201311213.0.1 1.9.11 3.0.13.0.1 Pocket addition for 3.X!
  • 20120904 Touch Firmware (2.1.1)
    About 80Megs. To update manually:
    • Connect kobo to computer, unzip file and put content in the ".kobo" directory.
      The zip file contains the following:
      • \Upgrade directory and subdirectories - Linux boot and kernel
      • manifest.md5sum - md5 hashes for the \Upgrade directory
      • KoboRoot.tgz - this is the firmware
    • Disconnect and reboot kobo. Update should start automagically.
    • It is recommended to reset to factory setting before doing so, but then you need to re-install your books and your stats are lost.
  • Full list of dictionaries links.
  • Enabling telnet and ftp
  • Bypassing registration after manual firmware upgrade: see here
  • Experimental plugin to make the Kobo do things :-) (2.1.5+)
  • Java replacement for the Kobo interface (take that, kindle! :-)
  • Trucs et astuces pour le Kobo (super !)
  • Hacking the Kobo Touch for DUMMIES
  • Hacking the Kobo Touch
  • Blog with infos on releases
  • Dozens of other ebooks ressources


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