Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ebooks in Linux and Windows

I've owned a Palm OS device in one form or another for a few years now. My first Palm was a Palm m500 that I bought on sale on a whim, without really considering whether or not I had a use for one.

I was a little worried about my girlfriend's reaction, and was sure she was going to give me shit for wasting money. Turns out she loved it. She is very organized and keeps a notebook full of lists of things she needs to accomplish, and thought this would be a good replacement.

When I told her I was worried she would think it was a waste of money she said, "It is for you!" I ended up giving her the Palm and bought a Sony Clie PEG-SJ20 for myself. My girlfriend found she still preferred keeping lists in her notebook, but used it as an address book and for playing games like Bejeweled.

The SJ20 turned out to be perfect for what I eventually ended up using it for: ebooks. The screen, although black and white, was high resolution and very readable even with the backlight on. The m500 screen turned into horrible green-on-black letters with the backlight on, good enough for casual use but not for sustained reading.

I am able to store literally dozens of books on my Palm in a package small enough that I can always have reading material available to me whether I am waiting in line, on the bus, or in bed. My Palm was invaluable when I would go out of town for work.

I found lots of sources for ebooks, but it took me awhile to find ways to be able to read them on my Palm. If an ebook is available in a Palm format it is very easy, but sometimes an ebook has to be converted into a Palm-readable format.

There are lots of different readers for the Palm but I have two that seem to cover everything. I use eReader for books already formatted for that reader. It's a free program, but there's a pro version available with a couple of more bells and whistles. I find the free version does everything I need.

I also use Plucker, which contains a reader that installs on the Palm and desktop software that will convert text or HTML files to Plucker-readable files. It will also allow you to download webpages for later viewing on your Palm. It available for both Linux and Windows.

OpenOffice can read RTF, text, HTML, .doc (Word) and many other formats and save them in Aportisdoc format, which can be read by eReader. Of course, it is also a full featured office suite. Also available for both Linux and Windows.

.lit files are a proprietary Microsoft format that is mostly used with PocketPCs. To be able to read them on my Palm I first run them through the unfortunately acronymed Convert LIT. For Windows I use the freeware ABC Amber LIT Converter. Each of these programs "explodes" the .lit file into HTML and jpg files, which can then be converted with Plucker.

Of course, once the files are ready they have to be transferred to the Palm. I use KPilot, which is a Palm Desktop replacement for Linux. There are others available, but KPilot has been the most reliable and easiest to use for me.

If you have any questions about converting, transferring, or using ebooks with a Palm feel free to contact me through email or the comments. I'll try to help you as best I can.

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