If you’re completely new to the world of ebooks, this post is for you. There are so many options available now that it can be confusing for newbies. Kindle, Nook, iPad! Which is the best for you? If you’re not at least basically aware of the consequences of your choices, you can end up with a bad experience. But not to worry! This post will give you enough background on ebooks to get started. I’ve broken it into two sections, for those who already own a device that they want to read ebooks on, and for those who want to get a new device for ebook reading.
A. WHEN YOU ALREADY OWN A DEVICE
This is the process I recommend for you if you want to read ebooks on a device that you already own. This might be your smartphone, iPad or other tablet, or an eReader that you acquired in the past.
1. Do Not Buy or Download Any eBooks Yet
eBooks come in different formats, and not every format can be read on every device. Before you spend any money buying eBooks, follow the next few steps. This will save you money, time, and confusion.
2. Learn Which Types of eBooks You Can Use
If you have an eReader (like a BeBook, Cybook, Sony Reader) that’s not tied to a specific bookseller, the best thing to do is to go to the website that sells that device and look in the specifications to find out which ebook formats it supports. Also look for support for “DRM” (digital rights management) because without it, the types of ebooks you can use will be further restricted. Most eReaders can read PDF and ePub files and some can read additional file types like Mobi, txt, and others.
If you have an eReader (like a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo) that is associated with a specific bookseller you won’t have to worry about file types if you only purchase ebooks from that specific store. However, the Nook and Kobo eReaders can also read PDF or ePub files from other sources.
If you want to read ebooks on your iPhone or iPad, you can use iBooks, which is built into Apple’s system. By doing so you can easily get ebooks in the same manner that you download apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types. In addition to that, big booksellers like Amazon and B&N have iOS apps that will let you read their ebooks without having to own a Kindle or Nook device.
If you have an Android phone or tablet, you can read Kindle and Nook ebooks with their respective Android apps. You can also read PDF or ePub if you get an app that can handle those file types.
3. Install Software/Apps If Necessary
E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android
4. Find Out Where Your Type of eBooks Are Sold
Here are the basics:
If you have a Kindle then you must buy ebooks from Amazon.
If you have a Nook you can buy eBooks from Barnes & Noble or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have a Kobo you can buy eBooks from Kobo or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks.
If you have an iPad or iPhone you can buy eBooks from iBooks, use the iOS app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an Android phone or tablet you can use the Android app from Amazon/B&N/Kobo, or buy from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have another eReader (like a BeBook, Sony Reader, etc) you can buy eBooks from any ebook store that sells PDF or ePub ebooks (check DRM requirements – you might need a specific app).
If you have an off-brand cheaper eReader, you can probably use PDF and ePub ebooks, but you might not be able to use DRM-protected files. It’s vital that you check the specifications for your particular eReader.
5. Get eBooks!
Once you’ve done all of the research and learning above, go forth and buy ebooks from your chosen book store.
B. WHEN YOU DO NOT YET OWN A DEVICE
This is the process that I recommend if you don’t yet own a device for ebook reading, or if you’re not yet sure which device you want to use.
1. Do Not Buy an eReader or Tablet First
Don’t buy anything until you have a basic grasp on the options available.
2. Consider eBook Stores
My recommendation is to first figure out where you want to buy ebooks. This will narrow down your device choices. For example, if you really want to buy most of your ebooks from Amazon, you should get a Kindle. (You can also read Kindle ebooks on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Kindle app). Likewise, if you really want to buy your ebooks from Barnes & Noble, you should get a Nook. (You can also use an iPad, iPhone, or Android device with the Nook app). The same goes for Kobo. If you like buying things from Apple and would like to buy your ebooks through iBooks, you should get an iPad. If you’re the type of person who wants to buy from smaller ebook websites, you can pick and choose from a few different sites like ebooks.com, ebookmall.com, or diesel-ebooks.com, as well as others. They will be able to support a lot of devices with the main exception being the Kindle. However, the process isn’t as streamlined as when you buy a specific type of ebook for a specific type of device, like a Kindle ebook for a Kindle eReader.
3. Based on Your Store Choice, Consider eBook Readers
Let’s say you decided that you’d really like to buy all of your ebooks from Amazon. That makes it pretty easy because you can get any Kindle model that you want. (Note that Kindle is not synonymous with eReader. A Kindle is the type of eReader sold at Amazon.com.) The same goes for Barnes & Noble — just get one of the Nook models. If you would like more variety, you could consider getting and iPad or Android tablet. That’s a great choice because you can use ebooks from a variety of sources, and you’ll also have a fully functional tablet computer that you can use for web browsing, movies, or whatever else.
4. Buy Your Chosen eReader
Once you know where you want to buy your ebooks and what kind of device you want to use for reading, go get your eReader!
5. Install Software/Apps If Necessary
Depending on what kind of device you’ve chosen, you might need to install an app or other software. E-Ink eReaders like the basic Kindle and Nook eReaders don’t need apps. But if you want to read on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you’ll need an app for reading ebooks. The best one to use depends on where you’ll buy your ebooks. I have explained this in more detail in previous posts: Best eBook Apps for iPad and iPhone, Best eBook Apps for Android
6. Get eBooks!
Go forth and buy ebooks.
I hope this guide is helpful for ebook newbies. If you have any more tips for someone who is completely new to ebooks, leave them in the comments.
The best Android ebook app for you mostly depends on where you want to buy your ebooks. Each ebook app works for a specific type of ebooks, so you need to match up the type of ebooks you own to the type of app you need. The apps below are the most popular for Android users and cover most main ebook sources that people use today.
The Aldiko Android App is the best alternative to apps from big ebook sources (like Kindle or Nook) because it allows you to read PDF and ePub ebooks from independent ebook sources. It supports Adobe DRM and non-DRM ebooks, so you can read ebooks that you purchased at places like ebookmall.com, ebooks.com, or diesel-ebooks.com. You can also import your own content and create your own ebook catalogs.
Download: You can get a direct download from Aldiko.com or find Aldiko in the Google Play Market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.1 or higher
eBooks Supported: The Aldiko Book Reader supports Adobe-DRMed ePub and PDF as well as non-encrypted ePub and PDF formats. Get eBooks anywhere ePub and PDF eBooks are sold or available for free. You can also get ebooks from your public library (where supported).
Amazon Kindle Android App
The Kindle App for Android lets you read all of your Kindle ebooks on an Android device, even if you don’t own a Kindle eBook Reader. If you do have a Kindle, you can read your ebooks on both the Kindle and Android device. Your reading progress will be synced between the devices with Amazon’s “Whispersinc”. You can use the Kindle Android app to borrow ebooks and view free samples.
Download: Go to the Kindle for Android page on Amazon. Or, while on your phone you can search for “Kindle” in the Google Play market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.2 or higher
eBooks Supported: Amazon Kindle ebooks in the AZW format that are only sold at Amazon.com/Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nook Android App
The Android Nook App from Barnes & Noble lets you read all of the Nook ebooks on your Android device without having to own a Nook eBook Reader. Nook for Android gives you access to over 2 million books, magazines, and newspapers. You can try newspapers and magazines for free for 14 days and sample lots of Nook ebooks for free. You can also start reading an ebook on one device and continue at the same place on another device.
Download: Get the Android app at B&N’s Nook for Android page by scanning the barcode shown with your phone. Or search for “NOOK” in the Google Play market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.1 or higher
eBooks Supported: If you want to read ebooks using the Nook App, then you should get ebooks from Barnes & Noble’s Nook store.
Kobo Android App
With the Kobo Android app, you can buy ebooks from inside the app and download them directly to your phone. Take your entire library with you on the go. You can find all of your favorite titles and authors in Kobo’s large ebook selection of over 2.5 million books. You can also get personalized recommendations.
Download: Go to the Kobo Android App webpage to scan the QR code. Or search Google Play for Kobo.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 1.6 or higher
eBooks Supported: If you want to use the Kobo Android app, you should download eBooks from the Kobo eReader store.
The Sony Reader Android app comes pre-loaded with three classic titles and three excerpts from bestselling ebooks. You can sync your reading position, bookmarks, and highlights to Reader Daily Edition (PRS-950SC with firmware 2.0). Like the other apps, you can also read Sony Reader ebooks even if you don’t have a Sony Reader.
Download: Go to the Sony Reader for Android webpage and scan the QR code. Or, search for the app in the Google Play market.
Android OS Version Supported: Android OS 2.2 or higher
eBooks Supported: If you want to read Sony Reader ebooks on your Android device, get them from Sony’s Reader Store.
The best ebook reading app for your iPad or iPhone depends mostly on where you get your ebooks. Each of these apps have basically the same features, so the main issue to consider is the type of ebooks that they support. All of the major ebook sellers have their own ebook app that works only for their ebooks. You can put lots of different ebook apps on your device, though, so that’s not really a problem — it just means that you probably won’t be able to stick to one single app unless you commit to only buying ebooks from one source. If you have a favorite ebook app for iOS, mention it in the comments along with info about what types of ebooks it can use.
iBooks is Apple’s native ebook app for iOS. The only thing that’s really important to know about this app is that it is mainly meant to be used with ebooks that you get from Apple’s iBookstore, and won’t work with ebooks that you purchased elsewhere, unless they don’t have DRM.
Use This For: eBooks you purchase in Apple’s iBookstore. Your own PDF, ePubs, or books you created in iBooks Author (only non-DRM). iBooks textbooks are only available for iPad.
iTunes Download: Download iBooks
The Kindle app lets you read all of your Kindle ebooks on your iPhone or iPad — no Kindle eReader required. This app will only work with Kindle ebooks that you buy at Amazon.com. (It will also read .mobi files, but only those that do not have DRM, and you won’t find many of those ebooks anymore since Mobipocket is out of operation.)
Use This For: Kindle ebooks that you buy at Amazon.com.
iTunes Download: Download Kindle App
This is the app from Barnes & Noble that you can use to read your Nook ebooks on your iPad or iPhone. It is only made to read Nook ebooks that you get from Barnes & Noble. That includes all of the magazines that they sell as well.
Use This For: Nook eBooks from Barnes & Noble.
iTunes Download: Download Nook App
This is the app from the ebook company Kobo. You can use it to read ebooks that you buy from Kobo, as well as your non-DRM PDFs and ePubs. Kobo is also putting a lot of focus on “social reading” so this app has more of that than apps from other companies.
Use This For: Kobo eBooks from Kobo.com and non-DRM PDFs and ePubs
iTunes Download: Download Kobo App
Bluefire Reader is a great app because it fulfills a need that all the other apps do not: it supports Adobe DRM, so you can read your DRM-protected PDFs and ePubs. If you like to shop at independent ebook stores, this is the ebook app for you. It also reads standard non-DRM PDFs and ePubs. See my Bluefire Reader page for instructions on how this works.
Use This For: DRM and non-DRM PDF and ePub ebooks.
iTunes Download: Download Bluefire Reader
Overdrive Media Console is the app to use for your ebooks and audiobooks that you get from the library. Check with your local library to see if they have ebooks and to get help or technical support.
Use This For: Library ebooks and audiobooks.
iTunes Download: Download Overdrive App
I read about this at The eBook Reader today: Barnes & Noble has closed the “loophole” that allowed users to sideload apps onto it with their newest software update for the Tablet. Now you can only use B&N-approved apps. They are locking everyone in to their own App Store so that you have to buy your apps from them, and you can’t get any competing ebook software. That’s only understandable if you’re into forcing people to buy only your products. This move just seems like a punishment to their own users.
This really paints B&N in a negative light for me. I probably will avoid ever purchasing anything from them again.
Today I was doing some research on ebook apps and wanted to look something up on the Lexcycle website. It’s down. I don’t know if it’s just temporarily down or if it’s gone for good. However, signs point to Stanza going away for good.
A while back I heard some reports from Stanza users saying that Lexcycle had stopped responding to all support questions about the app. Since I couldn’t get to Lexcycle’s website today I Googled “stanza” and found the iTunes Stanza page. Interestingly, they point to getsatisfaction.com/stanza for support, which is a community forum that doesn’t seem to be affiliated with Lexcycle.
And then I remembered that last month I’d read something about how people got all excited about a new Stanza update, followed by a disappointing announcement that Stanza would no longer be getting any updates at all. A blogger reported on that here. Amazon bought Lexcycle in 2009, so apparently, like they did with Mobipocket, they are slurping up ebook apps and spitting them out into the Kindle.
Now, personally, I am not bothered by Stanza going away. I never liked it that much. But it does make me wonder how many small companies Amazon is going to kill in the name of the Kindle. They have so much of the market share already that they really don’t need to snuff everyone else out. I don’t like that kind of Wal-Mart style business operation.
The big ebook companies have now released tablet versions of their eReaders. Amazon has the Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble has the Nook Tablet, and Kobo has the Kobo Vox. They are all Android tablets and come with a lot of apps pre-installed. However, unlike normal Android tablets, they don’t have full access to the Android Market. Instead it seems that each company has come up with their own smaller app market, where you can choose from a specific selection of apps.
This is significant because it means that if you bought eBooks from other ebook stores that use Adobes DRM, you wouldn’t be able to open them in the correct app on your tablet (which is usually Aldiko). Aldiko and other ebook apps are, not surprisingly, left out of the pre-approved list of apps. However, it seems that people are already finding easy ways around this.
For one thing, I noticed that on the Aldiko website they will now email you a link to download their app if you sign up. You can see that at http://aldiko.com/download.html. I don’t know for sure, but I think you could use your tablet’s browser to go to the link they send you and download it directly to the tablet. If anyone has tried this, I’d be interested if you could leave a comment and let me know how this worked.
I also saw on the blog Good Reader that they posted a way to get Aldiko on your Kobo Vox. Check that post out at How To Copy eBooks With DRM To The Kobo Vox. Their method involves downloading the app from a link that they have on their website where they host the file. I’m not sure if this is condoned by Aldiko, but they probably don’t care.
On Google+ I found a post from Aldiko saying that you could download the app and sideload it onto your Kindle Fire. There is also this post from a user who says he did it successfully and it was easy.
And to round it out, The Digital Reader has a post saying that the Nook Tablet can run Aldiko in much the same way: by installing it through the browser.
The nice thing about this is that it doesn’t require anything like hacking, and should be easy enough to do even for someone who isn’t a big techno geek. If you are reading this and have installed Aldiko on any of these three devices, please leave a comment with your experience. I think that would be a great help to others who are interested in doing this.
Just a quick post today to show you something I came across. This article claims that some hacking can be done to the Nook Touch to allow it to use the Kindle app.
This would be useful for those who want to buy the new Nook Touch but also have some Kindle books. Amazon is very restrictive about where their Kindle ebooks can be used. If you buy a Kindle ebook from Amazon.com you can only read it on your Kindle or in the Kindle app, which is not made for e-readers other than the Kindle. But with this hack you can apparently use the Kindle app on your Nook.
Personally, if I owned a Nook I wouldn’t want to mess with it this much, but that’s just me. I know there are a lot of people who love this kind of thing.
Google launched their ebook service a while ago, and I’ve been planning on writing a post about it but I hadn’t had a chance to thoroughly check it out until today. I wanted to find out which ebook formats the ebooks are offered in, which types of devices they can be used on, and what is involved in the downloading process.
When you first get to the ebooks section of Google Books, they show you a selection of three free ebooks that are already in your account. I chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to use for my testing. The first thing I did was click on the cover image shown, and that brought me to the online reading option, where you can read the ebook in your browser.
This is a screen capture showing where the default three free ebooks are shown on your initial visit to the “Google eBookstore” storefront:
The images at the top change every time I go there, so you probably won’t see a screen that looks exactly like this.
I clicked the image for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and was taken to the online version of the ebook, which looked like this:
That’s nice, but not exactly what I was after. I clicked the “< Back” link at the top of the page, and was taken to the main overview page for the ebook that has reviews and other information. That looks like this:
Clicking the big blue “Read Now” button on that page took me back to the online reading option. I figured it would, but I just wanted to test it out.
Next I clicked the “Read on your device” link to see what that would get me. It took me to:
It lists “Smartphones and Tablets” with Android and iOS as the options. Then “Laptop and computers” which just takes you back to the online reading option. Last is “eReaders and other devices” with EPUB and PDF options. These can be read on devices like the Sony Reader, Nook, BeBook, etc. Google doesn’t mention it on this particular page, but they can also be read on Android or iOS with the appropriate ebook apps.
I decided to download the EPUB version:
It chose Adobe Digital Editions as the default program to open the file. That might not happen on your computer. I have Adobe Digital Editions set to be the default program for EPUB and PDF files because, as you probably know, part of my work involves that program. This is what it looked like when the ebook opened in ADE:
For some reason the cover image is way too large. The text of the ebook was normal, though.
Next I decided to get the iPhone app.
Clicking the “Download app” button is supposed to launch iTunes. This started about a half hour’s worth of work with iTunes, which is one of the reasons why I stopped using my iPhone about a year ago. Anything I have to do in iTunes is very slow and tedious. It took about five minutes before it even launched, and after that it wanted me to download an update to iTunes. After that it wanted to sync and backup the iPhone, and after that it wanted me to restart the computer, at which point I had to save all of the screenshots that I’d been gathering for this post, bookmark the Google books iPhone app page, and restart.
Once I returned from the restart, I had to go back to Google Books and start the app download again. This time I was able to download the app, and then send it to the iPhone. This is what you get in iTunes:
You start the download by clicking the “Free App” button.
What I really wondered at this point was whether I’d be able to download ebooks directly from within the app, or if I’d have to download them to my computer and then use iTunes’ file transferring ability to send them to the iPhone.
Upon opening the Google Books app for the first time, it asked me to sign in with my Google account.
After signing in, I was shown the same three free ebooks.
I chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and got a normal-sized cover screen, and then the rest of the book, which all worked fine.
Now I wanted to find out how buying an ebook would work. Tapping the “Get eBooks” button takes you to the Google Books website. I decided to download a sample ebook, and I was instructed me to sign in again. After that I got a screen saying that the sample was now in my library, with a “Read Now” button.
I tapped the “Read Now” button, which took me back to the Google Books app, and the sample began to download.
This particular sample that I got was basically just a table of contents. That might have been disappointing for someone who actually wanted to evaluate the ebook. But that wasn’t the point in this case — it answered my question regarding whether I would be able to download ebooks directly into the iPhone. Between a combination of the iPhone’s browser and the Google Books app, that was successful.
The process for the iPad will be pretty much the exact same thing. I don’t have an Android device so I can’t provide any kind of walkthrough on that, but I’m sure it’s very similar to any other Android app.
Google eBooks Summary
All in all, Google Books seems to be a competent ebook delivery system. I like the fact that it is not tied to or dependent on one particular device. Everything I did went smoothly except for the use of iTunes, but that is not the fault of Google. You won’t have to deal with that on an Android device or a dedicated ebook reader.
I don’t know how Google is handling technical support issues. Google doesn’t strike me as the type of company that has a great customer support system, mostly because they are such a large entity and most of their services don’t require direct communication with their users.
Since I only downloaded a free ebook and a sample, I didn’t run across DRM. I do know that Google allows publishers to determine whether DRM will be on their ebooks, and Google supports Adobe Content Server 4 for those publishers. That means that what I’ve covered in the past for Adobe Digital Editions will apply to those downloads.
I’d recommend Google Books for reading ebooks on any of the devices that they support. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it above other ebook systems, but it’s certainly worth giving a try.
I usually don’t like to repeat news stories that I’ve seen on other websites. That’s not really the purpose of this blog. But I thought it was worth mentioning that it’s been reported that there will be a version of Bluefire Reader for Android.
I like Bluefire Reader because it’s compatible with Adobe DRM ebooks and library ebooks. It was the first real solution for Adobe DRM on iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod). It is easy to use, has all the same features that are now expected of ebook reader apps, and it’s free.
Android devices are quickly becoming popular and widespread, first with the many Android mobile phones that were released, and now with Android-based tablets that are coming out like the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy.
Since Android devices aren’t directly connected to a big book company (such as Amazon, B&N, etc) users aren’t stuck with one ebook source. This makes Bluefire Reader an excellent option for Android because it allows the user to read ebooks from smaller ebook stores.
I haven’t read any specific release date, but I’m sure it will be in the Android Market whenever it is ready to go.
Like my last post about Bluefire Reader (for iOS devices) there is a solution for reading Adobe DRM ebooks on your Android phone or tablet. The app is called Aldiko Book Reader and it can be used on Android OS 2.1 or higher. This is useful because it means that you can get Adobe PDF or EPUB ebooks from sources other than the major sellers like Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble (or even Aldiko itself) and you can read them on your Android device.
Here are instructions for what you need to do to use this app:
Step 1: Install
To install Aldiko on your Android device, scan the barcode on the Aldiko website with your device. Or, search “Aldiko” in the Android Market.
Step 2: Authorize
Just like with Bluefire Reader, you’ll need to authorize your device with an Adobe ID. This is how Adobe verifies that you are the same person who bought the ebook. When you have both your computer and device authorized with the same Adobe ID, you can use your ebooks both places.
To authorize your device, tap on “Adobe DRM” under General Settings. If you have an Adobe ID already, type in your Adobe ID and Password and then tap on “Sign in”. If you don’t have an Adobe ID, just tap on “Register” and you will be linked to the registration page.
Step 3: Import
Here are the options that I gathered from the Aldiko website:
Option 1: Put the ebook in the SD card of your device, then tap on the “SD Card” icon at Home. Check the box next to the file that you want to import (or tap on the menu key of your device and choose “Select All”), then tap on the “Import to Aldiko” button at the pop-up window at the bottom.
Option 2: Create a folder (for example, “import”) in your SD card, and put all the files that you want to import in that folder. Tap on the “SD Card” icon at Home, check the box next to the folder and then tap on the “Import to Aldiko” button at the pop-up window at the bottom.
Option 3: If the ebook files that you want to import are under different folders, tap on the “SD Card” icon at Home, check the box next to the folders that you want to import and then tap on the “Import to Aldiko” button at the pop-up window at the bottom.
If you need help, try Aldiko’s Support website.