What We Need From an Ebook Reader for the iPhone

There was some buzz in the lit-bloggy-verse a little bit ago about eReader coming out with an ebook reader for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Let me tell you why this is not a big deal.

eReader's software only reads one ebook format, Palm Doc or "pdb", which was originally developed for the Palm Pilot. As an aside, the help section on the site unhelpfully calls this the "Doc" format, which is confusing since for most people "doc" refers to files with the ".doc" extension, that is, Microsoft Word files. I suppose eReader didn't want to confuse people who might think that the format only works with Palm Pilot, but I think it would have been a much better idea to simply explain that the format originated on the Palm Pilot. As it is it might confuse people into thinking their eReader software can read Microsoft Word documents.

Anyway, the eReader store only offers eBooks with DRM, which is typical for Palm Doc files. (Typically the only way to get a Palm Doc file without DRM is to make it yourself.) I once bought two ebooks like this to read on my Palm Pilot. One was an essay collection, the other a long novel I never finished. Now they are useless to me, because to read them I have to input my old credit card number as an "unlock code". I haven't had this credit card in years. No matter that I paid real money for these books, no matter how much I want to reference that essay collection or finish reading that novel, I can't. The books I bought are useless to me, in striking contrast to, say, physical books, which when paid for can be reread and reread to one's hearts content. (And if I didn't want to be able to reread the books, I would have just gotten them from the library in the first place.)

I will never buy another book in the Palm Doc format, or any other format crippled with DRM.

This shouldn't be a problem. More and more eBooks are being offered in non-DRM'd format, specifically, as reliable, old PDFs. What we need is a proper PDF reader for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

Of course, the iPhone/iPod Touch can already read PDFs. There are, however, two major problems with the way it does so. One, it can only read PDFs that are emailed to the device or that are on a web page, and it can't move those PDFs into the file system for easy access, meaning in the case of web page PDFs one has to be online to read them at all. Two, even more critically for eBooks, the PDF reader can't bookmark pages.

So this is what we need: the ability to transfer a PDF from the computer to the device's file system and the ability to bookmark pages. Solve those two problems and you will have (finally) turned the iPhone/iPod Touch into the ebook reader we've all been waiting for.

And if nobody makes an ebook reader like this in July, when the iPhone/iPod Touch App Store is unveiled, I may just make it myself.


In my experience the PDF

In my experience the PDF format sucks for E-reading.

About the pdb eReader format: it gives you smooth scrolling, I don't think that's available in any other reader (except Mobipocket maybe). A lot of titles are DRM, thats's true, but it's dead easy to convert many other formats into eReader.

In order to read the books you once bought, just go to your bookshelf on eReader.com and submit a current credit card number. Then download the books again, and you're back in business!

I'm not affiliated with eReader.com, but I own a great many books in that excellent format.

Best regards

I didn't buy my pdb books

I didn't buy my pdb books from eReader, I bought them from the Palm eBook Store. Frankly, though, I'd rather not be dependent on a web site to be able to read books which I supposedly own.

According to this page, in order to convert PDFs to PDB you have to convert the PDF to text, the text to PML and then the PML to PDB. Which is a pain the in ass and probably going to have mixed results with things like page numbers and line breaks. Do you know a better way?

Also, here's the

Also, here's the instructions from the Palm store for unlocking old eBooks:
"How can I change my Credit Card to unlock new books?

The first is to buy more books with your new credit card. Once you have made a purchase with a new credit card, you can log in to your account and reset the unlock code on your previous purchases to be the new credit card, then download the books again. In this case, a new purchase is required to verify the new credit card number.

Your second choice, if you do not wish to purchase additional books at this time, is to reply to this message with a phone number and time of day when it will be convenient for us to call you and provide you with the old number over the phone. For security reasons, we cannot send credit card numbers through email."

What a pain in the ass.

Note: the instructions are

Note: the instructions are word-for-word the same at the eReader site. (I think the eReader site must belong to Palm?) This is not easy to do, especially if you don't want to buy more crippled ebooks.

You can use DropBook

You can download DropBook for Mac or Win from eReader.com. They too say it "allows you to convert a text file formatted using the Palm Markup Language (PML) into a Palm OS .pdb file..." As I remember it's really more flexible than that and converts more formats. Not sure about PDF though. But DropBook is free.
Do you really have to buy more books to get it working again over the net? That sounds like a racket, and I don't think it's necessary at the eReader site.
eReader was owned by Motricity for a long time, but was recently bought by Fictionwise.

Best regards

PDFs? No. ePub

I posted a lot about Apple and ebooks. This post has all the backlinks:
What Apple Better Not Miss About eBooks

See Teleread, which has been banging the drum for a standard ebook file format for years -- and is also against DRM.

PDF is a terrible choice. Ask anyone who tries to deal with them on a Sony Reader. Sony was supposed to release a software update that would allow certain kinds of advanced PDFs to reflow text, but the software hasn't come out yet -- and, as noted, it probably would not work well with old PDFs.

The same situation would reign with the iPhone/iPod Touch.

eReader and DRM

I think you are giving bad information regarding eReader and DRM. If you personally want to never buy another of their books, that's your choice. But you can easily go onto their web site and get back into any of the books you purchased. That allows you to keep them and read them over and over.

It sounds like you bought a couple of things from eReader then just let them sit around for a long time. You did say you had not had that original credit card for years.

I've been purchasing their books for over 6 years and have collected quite a few. I've also changed credit cards simply because I changed banks. I registered the new card with eReader and converted all my previous book purchases to use the new card as the key.

I've also moved through several different PDA from Handspring Visor to Palm to another Palm to Garmin. In every case, my ebooks were important to me and I took them along, with no difficulty.

I suggest you do go buy another book from them and also get the correct credit number established so you can unlock your previous purchases.


Locked eReader files

you can easily get your books/essays back. Login to the ereader site and enter a new credit card, then download the book again using that card. You are not charged for it, the card and information are used to re-encrypt the book. I have been using ereader.com since it was peanutpress.com and now fictionwize.com. Books I purchsed with a card that belongs to a company I no longer work for have all been re-encrypted with a current card. no charge.

There is another problem: the

There is another problem: the pdf readers that exists for the iPhone don't "reflow" the pdf files. However, there are some apps like ebook or rubooks that you can read html books with, that means we are needing another app to convert html into pdf. I just download ebooks from p2p networks (this is, I never buy ebooks he he) and the vast majority of them exists in pdf, so I think is the most popular and standard format. I'll keep tracking a complete application like Adobe Reader for Windows Mobile, which works perfectly for pdf books in my Windows Mobile device (HTC TyTN II).