Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, April 01, 2011

e-Books, e-Readers and Trying to Figure Them Out!

Dear Folks,

Do you know the ins and outs of eReaders and eBooks?  I'm still trying to figure it out myself.  Since I have had questions from customers as to whether my books can be downloaded into Kindle or similar devices, I thought I better get more information for my own use and for any of you who wish to purchase ebook versions of my books.

Before iPad and Kindle exploded the market for ebooks (digital files of published books) there was PDF, a file format which has been around for decades and was one of the first "ebook" formats - meaning you could get a book in a file form you could download onto your PC or Mac.

Some of the initial concern with PDFs was the ability of 'some' folks to pirate the files and avoid paying the author/publisher not only their monetary value, but also their copyrights.

Both of my main books have been available as PDF options for purchase for several years now.

Then iPad galloped onto the scene and everyone, it seemed, wanted not only to own one for its multi-tasking capabilities, but every author and publishing house wanted to get their work into iBookstore.  Me included --
both my books are now available for iPad.

So we now have not only all the one-function eReaders like Kindle (it is REALLY difficult to do more than download and read books on it), but in addition to iPad we now have reader/tablets (tablet is the name for those devices which are the size of a paperback or slightly larger unit) like NookColor and more that, offer websurfing, email checking in addition to being able to read a book on the device.

I'm considering the NookColor for those capabilities so I don't have to turn on the computer to check my email and look up something quickly.

Back to your "reader" or the one you are considering.  I LOVE books and have a library of favorite fiction along with my research books on cooking, gardening and herbs.  I also enjoy some selected magazines -- which have turned into a library of their own and I'm now seeing the benefit of having books and magazines on either my computer (more on that below - it is an option to the tablet) or a tablet - tablet being the generic term for these iPad and ereaders.  Those magazines I've accumulated over the years?  The problem is I have to remember where in what magazine I saw the article, reference or recipe I want -- practically impossible.

So now I can really see the benefit of having my books and magazines as a digital and searchable file.  Now that is worth looking into!

I will not ever, most likely, get rid of my books, but the magazines can be either recycled in the recycling centers or donated to Senior Centers.  I also may not stop buying my fiction books (I am fond of 'cozy' mysteries with a food or gardening theme).

So now you may be thinking more of buying a reader or maybe using your computer for the digital books.


You can, in fact, download free software to read the modern file format of ePUB on your computer.  Here's the challenge - long periods of reading are not going to be physically comfortable. Think about the last time you spent an hour or two working on the computer, and translate that into sitting and reading a book or magazine and you can see why the technical engineers developed a hand-held device that physically mimics holding a book.

If you merely want to search for something you can certainly use your computer for that within the book or magazine, so you have the 'right' to store your purchases or free downloads on both your computer and your reading device.   Best of both worlds.

To Read ePUB files you need to have software to do that.  Favorite digital content giant Adobe has a free program called

Adobe Digital Editions - reading software for computers and tablets


Another software developed also offers a free download of reading software specifically aimed at the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone.

Stanza - reading software for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

Back to the original digital file format PDF

At $500 give or take bells and whistles the iPad is out of reach for many people.  With Kindle and Sony preceding the launch of the iPad, PDF files were in the forefront of the eReading revolution.

Some options are:

Sony readers can take either ePub or PDF

Kindle takes PDF and Amazon's proprietary publishing format

NookColor and Nook can use either ePub, PDF or PDB

Some of the other-than-iPad readers/tablets can also play music, video and view pictures.

The variety of bells and whistles depends on the device.  You really should consider going to a physical store and trying the device(s) you are interested in.  (Also if you can support your local economy by purchasing locally.)

Back to my customer's Kindle question - yes my books can be purchased as a PDF.  I asked my friend to download my book into her kindle (I actually did the work, because I also wanted to know the procedure).

The easiest way was to download it into her computer first and transfer the book to her Kindle via USB cable.  Why?  The kindle's limited keyboard is a bear to deal with when surfing on the web.  The keyboard is letters only - to add a numerical digit or a character like "1" or @ you have to switch to a different 'mode' - it was a pain and the reason why she says she would have now known to choose a different or more flexible reader.

BUT if you only want to download from Amazon and just use the device for reading - Kindle is easy and inexpensive for the one-function only needs.

I am personally a person who wants my devices to do more than one thing unless that one thing is so specialized that nothing else compares to it.  E-Readers don't fall into that category for me. I want more out of my hundred(s) dollar purchase.

New to reading ebooks? Find your device and the compatible formats here - they keep coming out with more devices, but this is gives some of the most popular - Nook is not on it but I looked up the information note above for compatibility.

To sum up, below I give you links to the various forms of my books in either ePub or PDF format.

101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady

EPUB format
PDF format

Edible Landscaping in The Desert Southwest: Wheelbarrow To Plate

EPUB Format

PDF Format

What's A Chill Hour? Help In Choosing Fruit Trees in The Desert Southwest

PDF Format (only not available as ePub)

If you want to just browse, go to my publisher store site -- there when it says "ebook" it means the ePUB version and when it says "download" it means the PDF version.

Hope that is helpful to you all considering not only my books but any other publications.  We live in interesting times, and sometimes the interests are good :-)

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady


David said...

A few comments.

I have used Adobe Digital Editions for well over a year now, and I have found it somewhat limited and clunky. One issue is that all your PDF and EPUB files must be put someplace and then added to the Digital Editions library. If you move the file or rename it, Digital Editions loses track of it and can't find it -- so be careful. I created a special folder for my files and put them all there and named them how i wanted before importing them into Digital Editions. Also, if the info fields of the PDF haven't been appropriately set by the PDF creator, the info (book name, author) on each file does not appear properly. I have also had problems with photos and images in PDF files disappearing in Digital Editions. (I have a lot of free, public domain eBooks especially form the 18th and 19th centuries.) The ability to manage multiple documents in a library-shelf-like format is it's strong point in comparison to other apps.

If you have a Mac and are reading PDFs, try using Preview (comes pre-installed with Mac OS for free) instead of Adobe Reader -- it is far more capable. One thing I like is that Preview allows color "highlighting" of text and even adding, deleting, and rearranging pages within a document. Combining two or more PDF files into one and rearranging the pages is a breeze -- I do it all the time.

One of my concerns with the various e-Readers (and I do not have any experience with them, so I am not sure if this is an issue or not) is the ability to do the digital equivalent of sticking bookmarks in, writing notes in the margin, underlining key words and sentences, and using a yellow highlighter to accent text passages. Can any of them do this? Without these capabilities, I would find them useless for anything other than reading straight trough the latest steamy bestseller (which I don't do). I recently wrote a 2500 word book review for publication. The author provided a pre-publication PDF of the book exactly as it would appear in print -- I read the book in Preview on my Mac. As i read it, i highlighted key passages for quick reference later. I was also able to refer to specific pages in the book and know that they matched the print copy. The review would have been extremely more difficult to do without this capability

Catherine, The Herb Lady said...

Thanks, David. The more we all know the better we can make decisions about what devices and software to choose.