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.
I was fortunate to be able to get a testdrive model of the new BeBook Live tablet. The BeBook Live is, overall, a good entry into the tablet market, and more affordable than most others. I will probably write a fuller review later, but for this post I just want to point out a very useful firmware update.
One of the problems with the standard firmware is that it does not include access to the official Android Market from Google. I noticed this right away when I first started using it.
There is now a firmware upgrade available for the BeBook Live that updates the operating system to include the Android Market. You can download it here:
That download includes the following instructions, which are very simple —
To get the Android app market on your BeBook Live:
* Unzip the file.
* Put all files on a fat32 formatted micro SD card. Keep the folder structure.
* This means: there should be 1 folder in the root of the SD card, all other files should be in that folder. This folder should be named sdfuse.
* Reboot the BeBook Live.
* Installation will automatically start.
The folder structure on your SD card should look like the image to the left.
After you reboot the tablet, it will automatically update the firmware. This takes a few minutes so just let it complete. You’ll see four green bars appear, which is an indication that the update is working. After it’s finished you’ll have full access to the Android Market on your BeBook Live.
Once you’re done, delete the folder on the SD card. Otherwise it will attempt to update your firmware after every reboot.
While you’re at it, take a look at this free personality test that will show your personality type according to the MyersBriggs theory. (Jung) Unfortunately an app version for android is not yet available.
Other Android tablets can require a lot of complicated work for this type of update, but this process was very easy. It will be simple even for someone who is not experienced with this type of update. The instructions above explain all that you have to do — basically just copying the downloaded files onto your SD card and then rebooting.
I am really pleased to have found this. It’s basically the firmware that you’d want on this device.
There are many places to find free ebook downloads online, but there are a few big, reliable, places where you can get a ton of free ebooks safely and easily. Here are my favorites:
I recently wrote up an overview of how you can use the Google eBookStore. The ebooks come in PDF and EPUB for a variety of different devices with the Google Books app, or use on the web. Go directly to the free ebooks.
eBookMall has a section devoted to free ebooks. All are ebook downloads that are totally free. It seems like some are only available for a limited time, as a promotional effort by authors or publishers.
Project Gutenberg has been around for a long time. They started with OCR scanning of public domain books into .txt files, and now they have available HTML, ePub, Kindle, and more.
Amazon Kindle Store
You can get a ton of ebooks for free from Amazon in Kindle format. Like the paid ebooks, you can use them on a Kindle device or in a Kindle app for your computer or other devices. Go to amazon.com/kindle-ebooks/ to get to the Kindle eBook Store, then find the Top 100 Free listing on the right side of the page, a little ways down.
These ebooks aren’t downloadable, but there is a nice selection of classic popular texts that you can read free online. Useful for school projects or study, if they have what you need.
The BeBook store has 20,000 free classic titles available for download. The free ebooks come in plain text and PDF, and can be used on any computer or device.
eBook Reading devices were a popular gift item this holiday season. There was a lot of hype surrounding them because some new ebook readers were released and others were being sold at special low prices.
If you got an eBook Reader as a gift, you might not know what to do with it. It will be very important that you learn how to use your device and do some preliminary research before you buy and download any ebooks. Please use the following steps as a guide.
1. Do not buy the first ebook you see.
It might be temping to Google one of your favorite books and try to download it as an ebook, but please don’t do that before you’ve learned more about how ebooks work. You will only cause yourself a headache.
2. Determine which ebook formats and file types your device supports.
Your ebook reader device came with a manual or a user guide. READ IT. You don’t have to read it cover-to-cover, but find the part that specifies which file types your device can use.
You should also be able to find this information on the website for the device. Look for sections called “specs” “tech specs” “features” or something similar.
For example, if you have a BeBook Neo you would go to mybebook.com and find the information for the Neo.
I have posted information about supported file types for many popular devices on my eReader Comparisons page. Look under “File Formats Supported” for each device.
3. Try to find a free ebook in a supported format to try out.
BIG DISCLAIMER: Free ebooks usually don’t have DRM* so they do not behave the same way as an ebook that is protected by DRM. For example, you won’t have to “authorize” your device or software. By testing out your eBook reader with a free ebook, you can make sure that the standard file type works on your device, but you won’t yet be completely set up for ebooks that you purchase.
4. Learn how to transfer the ebook from your computer to your device.
Once you know the file types that are supported by your device and you have an ebook in that format, you need to know how to get it from your computer to the device. The best place to find instructions for this is in the user guide or manual.
Most of the time, you will need to connect the device to your computer via a USB cable that it came with. Your computer will recognize the device similarly to how it would recognize a thumb drive or external hard drive.
5. Find an eBook store that sells eBook formats that are supported by your device.
If you have a Kindle, you will need to purchase Kindle ebooks from Amazon. Do not attempt to purchase ebooks elsewhere, because 95% of the time they won’t work.
If you have another dedicated ebook reading device like a Nook, BeBook, Cybook, Kobo, or Sony Reader, then you can buy ebooks from just about any ebook retailer. Some good retailers include ebookmall.com, diesel-ebooks.com, fictionwise.com, and ebooks.com.
You can also purchase ebooks from the same company that makes the ebook reader if it also has an ebook store. For example, if you have a Nook then you can get ebooks from Barnes & Noble.
6. Verify that your device is supported by the ebook store.
Don’t assume that an ebook that you buy at an ebook retailer will work on your device. It is very important that you check all of the product details before placing an order.
If you know that your device can use PDF and EPUB files, then double-check to make sure that the ebook you want to purchase is indeed in that format. If you can’t figure it out, email the company to make sure.
7. Install and authorize any required software before making a purchase.
There is one more layer of double-checking the format that you must do. It is vitally important that you determine whether the ebook you want to buy has DRM on it or not.
For example, many devices support PDF and EPUB files. Those two formats have become the most common and are generally the standard. However, the publisher of the book most likely has required that DRM be present on the download. This means that you will have to use a program called Adobe Digital Editions to download the ebook and manage the transfer of the ebook from your computer to your device. You will need to download Adobe Digital Editions and authorize it using an Adobe ID. Please see my post about Adobe Digital Editions for specific instructions on how to work with this program.
Or, you may be working with a different file type, such as a Mobipocket eBook or a Palm eReader eBook. Check out the other types of ebook software that I’ve reviewed for more information.
8. Follow all download instructions to the letter.
Even if you think you have the software that you need, or you think you don’t need to create a special account, go ahead and follow the instructions anyway. In most cases, you really do need to do what you are being told to do. eBook retail websites don’t give you unnecessary instructions. If you ignore the instructions you will mess up your download.
9. Use these steps as a guide but use your own judgement and follow posted instructions.
These steps are very general. I can’t give you specific instructions here because I don’t know what kind of device you have. Always read your manual and follow the instructions given to you by the website where you are buying your ebooks.
* What is DRM?
DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It is the method by which ebooks are protected from being distributed freely to others. The software ties the ebook to your account so that you can’t give it away. The details will vary depending on the software. This security is required by book publishers because they want to protect their copyrights.
Most of the time this blog is about the software used to read ebooks, but sometimes I will post about the hardware used – after all, it uses software and if you have an ebook reader device, you’ll have to be familiar with the required programs and apps for it.
I have created a page for this blog that lists the most current popular ebook readers, with their prices and tech specs. This will allow anybody shopping for an ebook reader to make an informed decision. I hope this will be especially useful for this holiday season, which is starting today with Thanksgiving (or maybe it started back on Halloween.)