21 July 2014

The eMerging eReader #7: Updating Technology and Sources

Welcome to another edition of the eMerging eReader. If I've learned anything about transitioning from print to eReading, it's this: The process is an ongoing learning experience--at least for me.

Here's what's new in my journey.

Gadgetry and apps. I think my biggest frustrations are still with the technology. I want to read all my books on a single device and I want to switch seamlessly from eInk to color and from PDF to ePUB. In this day and age, I find it difficult to believe that I can't get what I want.

I love my Kobo eReader for the clarity, size, and ease of use. If I'm going to read electronically for pleasure, I will choose eInk over a back-lit screen every time. Although the research is inconclusive, my own experience says that back-lit screens cause eye strain.

On the other hand, after less than a year of serious eReading, I find the vast array of gadgets to be overwhelming and, frankly, a pain in the ass. I hate maintaining all the things. When my friend Swapna had issues with her eReader and started talking about giving up on eInk, I had a sudden fit of jealousy. Sounds odd, I know. But all I could think of was that she had one less device to recharge, load, and carry around.

We had a short conversation about devices, and both of us agreed that it'd be nice to have all our books in one place instead of PDFs on the now gone Readmill and ePUBs on the Kobo. The big problem was that nothing really felt like a good Readmill replacement.

After my talk with Swapna, I decided to give iBooks, a free app for the iPad and iPhone, a second chance. It has some pluses, most notably a sepia setting for ePUBs, which is more kind to my eyes than just black on white. It also has a lot of font choices and is fairly easy to use. Unfortunately, iBooks is not without its flaws, and some of the issues are, naturally, with PDFs. When reading PDFs in iBooks, you can't access the sepia setting and you can't change fonts.

The other thing I don't like is that, as far as I can tell, you can't see all your books on the same display. Instead, iBooks divides your books by format, which means ePUBs and PDFs are shown in two different lists. So I have to remember to switch between the two views. Not a huge deal, but it's annoying.

Just as I was giving up on the notion of sending my Kobo to the dry dock, the good people at Bluefire saved the day. The newest version of the app has two features I love plus a couple of other advantages over iBooks. First, the most important improvement to me is that I can now read PDFs in sepia! That feature alone would make me a Bluefire fan, but I also love the new integration with Dropbox--it is now possible to access my Dropbox account directly from my Bluefire library. Nice! I always like saving a few steps.

Finally, Bluefire puts all my books in the same list, so I don't have to switch between the PDF and ePUB view. (Note, however, that the app allows you to make separate collections, if you like that idea.) I can sort my books by title or author and I can display them as a list or by covers.

For the last month or so, I've read all my eBooks on my iPad. The best part is not having to deal with a separate gadget. The worst part is that I miss the eInk, especially when reading outside. I also find the iPad Air to be a little heavy. But all in all, I can see that I'm heading in the direction of simplicity over clarity and weight.

I still store all my books in Calibre (discussed in an earlier post) on the PC and then upload them to Dropbox. So each book is in two places: on the laptop and in the cloud. It may seem complicated to you, but I find I have the most control over my eBooks this way. I know many people download directly to their reader app, but I'm less likely to forget about a book if I can see it in my Dropbox or Calibre list.

Sources. A friend of mine recently told me about BookBub, which is a service that alerts you to eBook bargains of the day. You can check off the types of books you are interested in and the formats you can read (Kindle, ePUB, Nook, etc.), Several times a week you get an email that lists the books on sale (or for free) that day. I haven't found a lot to buy, but you can't beat the prices.

Several of my graphic novel buddies (SuziQOregon and Swapna, in particular) turned me on to Comixology, an excellent source for graphic novels of all kinds. Except for a couple of series (Fables, for example), I plan to start buying many of my GNs digitally. If you decide to go that route, be sure to check the prices carefully. I almost bought a collected volume of a series I'm interested in, but realized that buying individual issues saved me a few dollars. The price difference isn't a lot, but a couple of dollars here and there can add up.

Current status. I seem to be doing more eReading than ever before. I'm not sure if it's because I've consolidated to a single device or whether it's because I've fully integrated the habit of eReading (discussed in an earlier post). I'm still looking for the perfect device (eInk, sepia, color, and equally adept at ePUB and PDF), but for now, anyway, the tablet and Bluefire are working.


Meghan 7/21/14, 7:53 AM  

I can see the appeal of using just one device. I think last time you posted I was on iPad and iPhone and Kindle. I've since switched to an Android phone which is bigger than my iPhone was so I've mostly stopped using the iPad - can't seem to find a purpose for it! The Kindle for me is so separate that I don't really mind just taking it plus the phone anywhere I'm going. I am impressed that you're getting on okay with the backlit screen. I still think I'd struggle, but maybe I should try it.

bermudaonion 7/21/14, 8:47 AM  

I'm impressed that you're embracing ebooks! I can switch between my phone and iPad and swear I'm going to read more ebooks but I haven't gotten into that habit and I'm not sure why.

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/21/14, 9:37 AM  

I'll have to check out the new version of Bluefire. I have really learned so much from these posts, you did such a great, thorough job with them.

Beth Hoffman 7/21/14, 9:52 AM  

I love reading on my iPad, but like you, I wish ePUBs and PDFs could be filed in the same location.

Mary (Bookfan) 7/21/14, 10:30 AM  

I will choose E-ink unless I'm on the treadmill and then I read from an app on the iPad. I especially like the E-ink lit from the top - down (paperwhite).
I don't care for backlit of any color when reading. Bothers my eyes.

SuziQoregon 7/21/14, 11:30 AM  

I do love my iPad for comics and GNs and Bluefire makes it best for PDFs but for epubs I prefer the Kobo Aura HD.

Anonymous,  7/21/14, 1:04 PM  

Some of these issues are why I still prefer print, even though I've tried earnestly to switch. I'm a Calibre lover, too, but I've been using another reading app that I'm not really in love with. Definitely going to check out Bluefire, though.

Man of la Book 7/23/14, 7:27 AM  

Great post. I have a nook, but we have a Kindle as well as a Galaxy nexsus which can read all formats (with a nook & Kindle app as well as PDF reader).

I found that the eReaders are meant more as a gateway to sell books, to integrate the customer with an easy shopping experience, not to make it easier to read different formats.


Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 7/24/14, 10:36 AM  

I'm still not a total convert, although I will occasionally read a book on my Nexus 7 tablet. It reads all formats using various apps.

I have mostly given up on pdf and epub formats. The print is usually way too tiny for my eyes so I pass on pdf and use calibre to convert epub to mobi, and read it using the kindle app. There are exceptions like books filled with photos, such as cookbooks or gardening books - those are ones I'll read on my computer. I'll have to update the Bluefire app and see if that makes a difference in the pdfs.

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