Sunday, December 7, 2008

MS Reader going, going, gone...

Anyone who knows me will know that I do most of my reading in my browser (Firefox, naturally) or on my PDA. I haven't picked up a book in months. And then only because the book was not available in electronic form.

In the past, all my reading has been done using MS Reader because it was free and worked on both the Desktop computer (Windows) and pocket PC (Windows Mobile/CE). Now, I know there's been no development there for quite some time, but it worked and I was secretly hoping that Microsoft would revive it sometime. Unfortunately, it seems it's not only stagnated, but no longer even available for download at MS. Woe!

I have a lot of .lit files - mostly those I created myself (with ReaderWorks), but also some that I purchased. Though none of the purchased ones were 'secure' - I was caught out with that once and wasn't stupid enough to do that again!

So now here's my scramble to find a new reader that I can use on my Desktop and my Pocket PC. First step was searching my Google Reader RSS subscriptions for anything on ebook readers. Not much there (I'm obviously in the minority!), and what was there is mostly for iPhone and requires you to be online to read books from their selection. This was the case with most of the others I had a quick look at.

This left me with Mobipocket. I had tried this some time (years) ago on my PocketPC, but remember that I didn't like it much. I'm now hoping to like it a lot better: The installation was quick and painless at least. But of course, my .lit files aren't able to be read by it. step: convert those files I made myself. I should be able to download the purchased ones again, as a different file type...I hope (and turned out to be the case).

Next, I checked for free converter software and found it at ABC Amber Lit converter. Installed quickly and easily too. So now, what to convert to? Probably best to convert to HTML, since that can be read by browser and I shouldn't have to convert again if MobiPocket stops existing. Unfortunately, the output is not very good. Instead of book title and author, you get 'ABC Amber Lit Converter' as the title, and a line of text right at the beginning of the book about how it was converted with ABC Amber Lit. Would be better if this was a discreet message at the end of the book, or at the beginning if must be, but why change the title? Stupid.

So this means that I need to edit every file created by the program, first in a text editor to get rid of the advertising texts and set the HTML document title. Then I must import the book to Mobipocket Reader, where I then must edit the author (it always puts in the author of the first book I imported) and enter any other things I want (such as the genre).

Another annoyance is that the hypertext links no longer work. And worse still, the books I made with tables of contents etc, aren't even completely converted. The table of contents and the first section of the book are not there. This makes the whole thing untrustworthy.

Furthermore, my old books of 800k per file are now around 4.5mb! What?!?!?!?  Hmmmmmm Seems that the meta data for the book is not filled in either, except for the title. This even if I download it from my fictionwise bookshelf in Mobipocket .prc format! No covers for the books or anything. Very unattractive.

So what does fictionwise recommend? eReader and µBook 2008. I had a look at µBook 2008 and saw that they charge $US15 for their product (though fictionwise says it's free). You can test it for free but you get nagged every few pages, according to their website. I didn't bother.

Then I had a look at eReader. That seems to be very similar to MS Reader in features and appearance but is also available for all sorts of devices (including the iPhone!). This part is nice. I really like the interface appearance. What's not so nice is the fact that you need to convert the books to pdb format. There's no free conversion software (unless you're prepared to learn PML - Palm Markup Language). You can buy software for $29.95, but that doesn't look like it's much better. After all, I'm after something that doesn't require me to convert format again at a later date.

So what is the ideal? I suppose HTML files (can be read by any browser) and a reader that works like MS Reader and the others mentioned here: it remembers which book you were reading, what page you were up to, and allows you to change the text size and annotate. Other things in addition are nice to have, but not necessary - at least to me.

Since the Mobipocket reader is able to import HTML (as well as Office, CHM, EPUB, Text and PDF files), it looks like that's the one for me. Now to see if it runs on my Pocket PC...

It runs on my Pocket PC (HP ipaq 4700x - an oldie now, but a goodie!) which is a good start. Installation was a matter of synchronising my Pocket PC with Mobipocket running on the desktop. Mobipocket immediately recognised my PocketPC and offered to install the software to it. It downloaded the appropriate files and installed it and then offered to copy all my books across. Very nice! Unfortunately it doesn't show the 'genre', and it doesn't keep where you're up to in a document between devices.

An interesting thing about the Pocket PC version, however, is that it will read HTML files directly! I don't need to actually convert or import them into the desktop version of Mobipocket. This saves me some work in creating my ebooks that I make from html files at least. And since the PocketPC version doesn't show the genre, I can just manually copy my files across in the structure I have used in the past.

Now I just have to go through some of the .lit files I created and find which HTML files were in them for me to copy the original files across to the Pocket PC to read with Mobipocket instead. But I will leave that until it becomes necessary!

There's a good review of the software, with some screenshots here:


jacksmith said...

nice post.Very informative.I too am a avid user of Mobipocket.It's indeed a good software.But when i need to convert my books to mobipocket or kindle,instead of trying different things,I just give to Bob from The results are excellent with good output.

Bianca said...

Thanks for the comment. However, the conversion they offer is not free. Furthermore, they don't appear to offer MS Reader format (LIT) to HTML conversion, which is what I would be wanting. Mobipocket desktop does import from quite a few formats as I mentioned in my post, so that wouldn't be a requirement either.

Anonymous said...

learned a lot