eBooks on the move

As someone who is unable to resist a freebie, I have acquired a number of novels in various electronic formats over the past few years. When offered these books, I download them with every intention of reading them but not a great deal of thought as to how or when.

Obviously, I could read any or all of these on my PC but the reality is that sitting in front of a screen is not a comfortable position for ploughing through 400 pages of fiction. So I have finally taken the plunge and installed FBReader on my N810. It’s lovely.

As you can see from the screen shot, the display is nice and clear and when you go to full-screen mode you get a decent sized page of text which can be conveniently navigated by way of the + and – buttons on the top of the device. FBReader supports a variety of formats including Fictionbooks (FB2), ePub and Mobi (excluding DRM’ed files). One format that it doesn’t support, however, is PDF. Guess what format most of my downloads are in?

Luckily there is Calibre.

Calibre is an eBook library manager but it also includes a stack of conversion options – including PDF to FB2. The conversion is not always perfect and odd bits of extraneous data can end up in the FB2 file although it looks like the issue is down to poorly structured PDFs rather than a problem with Calibre. Since FB2 is an XML format, imperfect conversions can be very easily fixed using the find and replace options in your text editor of choice.

And just to expand my ever-growing pile of unread books even more, I have found a few sites that distribute eBooks for free, including ManyBooks.net (who have an RSS feed) and Fictionbook-lib.org.

I’m still not entirely convinced how well a small, backlit screen will work as a replacement to reading a full-sized ink on paper novel but being able to fit a small library in my pocket is certainly convenient. The real test will come when we next go away which is very likely to turn into a test of comfort versus convenience.