I have always been an avid reader. Every bookshelf in my home is filled to capacity (and I have a lot of book cases). Lately I’ve been exploring electronic options (no bookshelves needed :)), and I’m delighted to report that I have loaded up my SD card with books. Now, whenever I’m standing in line, waiting for an appointment, or just hanging out, I’ve always got a miniature library with me to keep me occupied.
The subject of electronic books (referred to here as eBooks) and Mobile Devices is quite large and somewhat complex. In this article, I’ve attempted to give you enough information to get you started. At a minimum you need to know something about eBook Reader software, you need a basic understanding of encryption and Digital Rights Management and you need to know where to go to get the books.
eBook Reader Software
There is no standard for eBooks and no standard eBook software that will read all the different eBook formats. There are quite a few different readers available that read electronic books, but they are limited to specific file formats.
If you want to read eBooks on your computer or mobile device, you must install software to your Pocket PC that is compatible with your eBook file type.
If you want to read eBooks that are DRM encrypted, you’ll need to choose software that can read encrypted eBooks.
What’s the deal with Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
Many eBooks are encrypted with Digital Rights Management (or Digital Restriction Management, depending on your perspective). As I’ve researched this subject, I’ve discovered that there are four major eBook file formats and related reader software that can be used to read DRM encrypted eBooks:
|Software||File Formats Supported|
|eReader Pro for Windows Mobile Smartphone & Pocket PC||PDB||PDB, DOC|
|Microsoft Reader for Pocket PC
|Adobe Reader for Pocket PC 2.0|
|Mobipocket Reader for Windows Mobile||PRC||PRC, Office files; PDF, HTML, Text, CHM, OCF, PDB|
|Plucker Viewer for the Pocket PC||none||stripped-down HTML|
|uBook Windows Mobile||none||HTML, TXT, RTF, PDB and PRC.
Supports BMP, GIF, PNG and JPG images
DRM locks eBooks to three or four registered electronic devices, such as Pocket PCs, computers, or eBook readers. Before you can read a DRM encrypted eBook you must first register or activate the electronic devices you plan to use to read the eBook.
eReader books probably have the least restrictive DRM encryption of them all. The first time you open an encrypted eReader formatted book you will be prompted to enter unlock information, which consists of your full name and the full credit card number you used when you purchased the eBook. You won’t have to enter this information again unless you change your name and/or credit card, move your books to a different computer, or have to delete and reinstall the eReader software, but you are not limited to a fixed number of devices you can use to read your books, and, if you don’t mind sharing your credit card number, you could even share your eBooks with friends and family.
Microsoft Reader. To read encrypted .LIT files on your mobile device, you must install and activate Microsoft Reader on your computer AND your mobile device. After you have installed Microsoft Reader on your computer and your Pocket PC, activate your devices:
- Connect your computer to the internet
- Connect your Pocket PC to your computer
- Go to the Microsoft Reader Activation page
- Sign into your Microsoft .NET passport or Windows Live ID account.
- Select the “Activate my Computer” button to activate your computer
- Select the “Activate my Pocket PC” button to activate your Pocket PC
You can activate up to 4 devices for each Microsoft passport or Windows Live ID account.
Activation Issues with Microsoft Reader. Many users have reported receiving the following message when attempting to activate Microsoft Reader on their WM5.0 mobile device:
You have an older version of Pocket PC which does not support Activation. Activation requires Pocket PC 2002 or later.
This issue seem to be caused by a missing OEMINFO.XLM file in the windows folder of the Pocket PC. The OEMINFO.XLM file is unique to brands and models of mobile devices, so if you receive this message, you can:
- Check the manufacturer’s support and drivers page for your mobile device to see if the manufacturer has posted an activation fix for Microsoft Reader.
- Post a thread on the MS Reader Discussion Group. Christine, with the Microsoft Reader Team (screen name MSReaderGirl), monitors those posts and may be able to help you get the correct OEMINFO.XLM file for your device.
When you purchase a .LIT formatted eBook, you may be required to activate the book before you can download it. You can only activate .LIT eBooks through Internet Explorer or Netscape – you cannot use FireFox. After the book is activated, you will download it to your computer and then you can transfer it to your mobile device.
Microsoft Reader must be installed to main memory on a Pocket PC (it cannot be installed on a storage card) and this software is not compatible with Smartphones.
Adobe Reader’s DRM seems to be the most restrictive and problematic of them all and Adobe Reader for Pocket PC does not consistently support DRM eBooks…that is, you may not be able to read DRM eBook on your Pocket PC. I have not had any problems reading DRM PDF files on my IPAQ hx2415, but I have never been able to activate any of my other Pocket PCs through Adobe’s website.
To transfer and read a DRM file on your Pocket PC, you need to install Adobe Reader 6 or 7 on your computer. If you don’t have Adobe Reader 6 or 7 already installed on your computer, you can download it from Adobe’s website.
Don’t use Adobe Reader 8.0 or Adobe Acrobat 8.0 because these applications do not include a version of the Digital Editions option that supports transferring DRM encrypted books to your Pocket PC. If you use Adobe Reader 8.0 or Adobe Acrobat 8.0, you are required to install Adobe Digital Editions, which is a separate piece of software. At this time Adobe Digital Editions does not support mobile devices and you will not be able to transfer eBooks to a Pocket PC. You should also disable Adobe Reader’s automatic update feature to avoid having the software updated to Adobe Reader 8.0:
- Open Adobe Reader on your computer
- Select Edit > Preferences
- Select “Updates” in the “Preferences” dialog box
- Under “Check for Updates” drop down box, select “Manually” and then click OK
To read encrypted PDF formatted eBooks on your Pocket PC, install Adobe Reader 2.0 to your Pocket PC, then see if you can activate your Pocket PC on Adobe’s website:
- Open up Adobe Reader on your computer. Select View > Task Button > Digital Editions. This will place a Digital Editions button on the Toolbar that runs along the top of the screen.
- Connect your Pocket PC to your computer
- Make sure your computer is connected to the internet and select the Digital Editions button. Select “Authorize Devices”. This will take you to Adobe’s DRM Activator website where you will be prompted to sign in using your Microsoft .NET passport. If you don’t have a Microsoft .NET passport account you can select a “Sign up for a .NET Passport” hyperlink that will allow you to create an account of you can select a “I prefer not to sign in using Microsoft .NET Passport” hyperlink and sign in with an Adobe ID
- Select the “Activate Pocket PC Device” button
Activation Issues with Adobe Reader for Pocket PC. Activation of Pocket PCs through Adobe’s website is difficult and problematic. Despite numerous attempts I have only been able to activate my IPAQ hx2415. Whenever I attempt to activate any of my other Pocket PCs I receive various error messages which I have not been able to resolve.
Mobipocket Reader. When you install Mobipocket Reader to your computer or mobile device, the software assigns a unique Personal ID (PID) code to the device. After installation you can find the PID code for your Pocket PC:
- Open up Mobipocket Reader on the Pocket PC
- Tap Menu > About
When you buy Mobipocket formatted eBooks, you will be required to define the PID code for your devices before you can download the book. You can transfer Mobipocket eBooks from your computer to your mobile device or you can download Mobipocket eBooks directly to your Pocket PC.
The Mobipocket Reader is more versatile than the other eBook reader applications because the desktop version can convert non-DRM books that are formatted as Office (Word, RTF, Excel, Powerpoint, Visio); PDF, HTML, Text, CHM, or OCF files into the Mobipocket format. The Mobipocket Reader’s DRM is not overly complicated and for the most part works problem free on mobile devices.
Because I don’t want to install a bunch of different eBook readers on my Pocket PC, I’ve decided to look for books only in the Mobipocket and Adobe Reader formats. If I search hard enough, I can almost always find a version of a book in one of these formats. The PDF format is really not the best format for eBooks and, because of the DRM restrictions and difficulties in activating Adobe Reader for Pocket PC to read encrypted PDF files, I won’t purchase any PDF eBooks. I read PDF formatted articles, create a lot of PDF formatted teaching materials, and I even read encrypted books that I’ve checked out of the library, so having Adobe Reader installed on my Pocket PC is a must.
eBooks & eBookStores
Here are links to some of my favorite eBookStores that sell encrypted and unencrypted Mobipocket, Microsoft Reader, Adobe Reader and eReader books:
Free & DRM-free Books
Of course, if you don’t want to mess around with the device activation requirements and limitations that goes along with reading DRM encrypted books, you can always take advantage of the host of DRM-free Public Domain books that are freely available on the internet. Here are some of my favorite websites where you can get these books:
- Baen.com: specializes in Science Fiction and sells DRM-free books and also provides a library that distributes some free books.
- Feedbooks offers thousands of beautifully formatted eBooks and has recently introduce a mobile website where you can browse and download eBooks from your mobile device.
- Many Books.net provides free eBooks in numerous file formats. A really great resource!
- MobileRead provides the latest eBook news, hosts a comprehensive and informative WiKi, has an active and dynamic forum and and its members have formatted over 4,000 eBooks that are free for the taking.
- Plucker Books.com
- Project Gutenberg is the Grandfather of eBooks. Started in 1971, Project Gutenberg has amassed over 100,000 Public Domain eBooks through its partner4s, affiliates and other resources. Project Gutenberg, in turn, is the source of many of the eBooks you see that have been formatted into specific file formats and offered for free from the websites.
- University of Virginia Library’s Etext Center offers over 2,100 free eBooks formatted for Microsoft Reader.
- WOWIO distributes eBooks in a protected PDF file format. Protected PDF files are DRM-free, but include restrictions regarding modifying, printing or copying pages. Since these books are free, they include a couple of pages of advertisement. If you sign up with WOWIO, you will be able to download up to 3 books a day up to a maximum of 30 books per month.
Some local libraries use OverDrive’s digital media services to provide digital collections to their patrons. These digital collections usually include eBooks in the Adobe Reader, Mobipocket Reader and Microsoft Reader formats, as well as audio books (a topic I’ll reserve discussing for another day).
If your local library has a digital collection, you’ll be able to borrow eBooks for some set period of time, usually for 14-21 days. You’ll be able to download eBooks from the library’s website and you won’t have to return the books, so you don’t have to worry about late fees. These types of eBooks are subject to the same DRM constraints of purchased books but their encryption status is modified to include a “time bomb,” that is, they expire after a specified period of time. When an eBook expires, you are not able to open it unless you borrow the eBook again from the library.
Some of the lending libraries I’ve discovered include:
- Boston Public Library
- Brooklyn Public Library
- Cherry Hill Public Library, New Jersey
- Fictionwise Lending library: If you join Fictionwise’s Buywise club, you can borrow books from their small lending library.
- Cleveland Public Library: If you live in Cleveland, you can borrow books from one of the greatest lending libraries in the country. Unfortunately, this library does not provide any kind of non-resident library card.
- Hawai’i State Public Library System
- Michigan Library Consortium
- Northern California Digital Library Consortium
- New York Public Library: if you are not a resident, you can purchase a library card for $100 per year.
- North Suburban Library System in Illinois (Chicago & northern & central Illinois)
- Rochester Public Library
- Seattle Public Library: If you live in Seattle, you can borrow books from this library. If you live in the State of Washington, but not in Seattle, you can join this library for $50 a year.
- Tampa Bay Library Consortium