Just one
[fnt (fascinating new thing)

Back to the other things

[Thu Apr 22 01:18:28 2010] p

Got a Light?

So Glady got me a Kindle for Christmas. I finally finished reading my first real purchase on the thing, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Really good read. If you're going to read it (on paper or on the Kindle), I recommend grabbing and printing the translation of the maps that were in the original Swedish editions, but were inexplicably omitted from the English translation: Missing Maps.

But hey look, Kindle has tons of free books, thanks to Project Gutenberg, including Glady's favorite, Jane Austen. So far she's read Northanger Abbey and Emma, and now she's reading Mansfield Park. It's a lot more convenient to read on a Kindle as opposed to her 1336 page (!) Complete Novels of Jane Austen that weighs over 3 lbs.

Unfortunately, I also loaded up a 3-pound book onto the Kindle: David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, a book that has been taunting me from atop the old Mac tower in the backroom for over 10 years, or whenever I borrowed it from Senjou. I really want to finish this book before I turn 40.

So yes, we are fighting over the Kindle.

Luckily the Kobo eReader is supposed to be coming to Borders this summer, and at $150, with 100 free eBooks preloaded (I'm guessing Jane Austen will be well-represented), it seems like a no-brainer. Kobo is already available as an app on the iPhone, iPad, WebOS (yes!), and Blackberry, and their on-line bookstore is pretty well-stocked. Probably second only to the Kindle store. And yes, it has all of the Jane Austen novels for free as well, just in case they don't pre-load all of her lesser works too.

Speaking of the iPad, here's a great review of the various eBook apps available for it.

But ugh, I'm not paying $500 for an iPad, as drool-worthy as it may be, sorry

But I would like to occasionally read a book I purchased for my Kindle even if Glady is reading Jane Austen on it. Now there is a Kindle App for the iPhone and Blackberry, and also readers for Mac and Windows. But um, I carry a Palm Pre. So... hey look, Amazon's file format is actually Mobipocket with some DRM nonsense added. And hey, there's a couple of ereader apps for the Pre that support non-DRM Mobipocket files. I wonder if...

Hrm, it looks like hypothetically speaking one could use something handy like unswindle.pyw and mobidedrm.py (Bundled here.) to strip the DRM off of any Kindle book that you've purchased and want to read on a non-Kindle Mobipocket-compatible reader.

Speaking of differently-formatted books, it turns out I actually bought a copy of Cryptonomicon in 2003 to read on my Palm Zire 71. It was purchased from Palm Digital Media (Palm Inc. had acquired Peanut Press), and was in the eReader format. Remarkably, eReader.com still has my purchase information for this book. That's after 3 or 4 acquisitions. Crazy.

Turns out that hypothetically speaking there are tools like erdr2pml.py that can convert the eReader format (if you have your original credit card number used to purchase the book. No really, that's the hash key!) into the PML (Palm Markup Language).

There is an amazing tool called Calibre that can convert pretty much any ebook format to another. So it can take a PML file and oh look at that, convert it into the Mobipocket format that a Kindle can read.

Last bits... that Kobo eReader I was talking about, and the various apps the store supports? It uses yet another format, ePub. Adobe provides DRM for this format through its Digital Editions ereader for Mac and Windows. Interestingly, there are again, some scripts, cleverly named ineptkey and ineptepub (a play on the name of the DRM scheme, "ADEPT") that hypothetically should allow you to strip the DRM off of books purchased from Kobo and downloaded via Digital Editions. And why yes, in theory Calibre should be able to convert this unprotected ePub into the Mobipocket format for reading on a Kindle.

Note that legally speaking, breaking any DRM scheme is illegal. But hello -- is it really that different than taping your vinyl? Or heck, converting your vinyl to MP3s? When you buy a physical book, it doesn't "go bad" after 7 years. I'm exceedingly happy that in theory a copy of Cryptonomicon purchased to be read on a tiny 320x320 color screen can now be read on the latest E Ink technology in the Kindle.

Last bit - Kobo used to offer $2-off and $3-off coupons off of all their books. Amazon used to offer $9.99 pricing on all New York Times best-sellers. As of April 1, they no longer can do this. because of something slimy called the agency pricing model. Book publishers want to impose price-fixing, much like they do in physical bookstores. (Hardbacks are annoyingly expensive when they're first released, then get marked down, and finally when the paperbacks come out they're a lot cheaper.) Now smaller booksellers like Kobo and Apple are happy about this, it prevents Amazon from continuing to sell e-books at a loss. (Amazon's $9.99 price was often less than what they paid the publisher for the "book". It's hard to wrap your head around this, I know.) The New Yorker has a piece on how this agency thing is working out. I'm going to go read it now. Or maybe I'll send it to my Kindle.

OH, also: A number of libraries offer ebooks in PDF and Mobipocket format. With the appropriate reader, the books can be read for a certain period of time (8 days, for example), and then they "expire", just like regular books, except they actually stop being readable. And wouldn't you know it, the Kindle can't read these books, even though they're in Mobipocket or PDF format. Unless there was some kind of script that let you generate a unique Mobipocket ID from your Kindle's serial number so that the books can properly expire, and then some other script that tweaked the files just a bit so that the Kindle didn't outright reject them.

Also of interest, in a manifesto kind of way: The Right to Read.

Your feedback, as always, is welcome.