Cheapest practical way to read ebooks?

My PDA has just broken, because I trod on it. The one before that broke because I dropped it, as did the one before that. I need a recommendation: I want to read text-only Ebooks, (I am happy to convert them to any other format myself, as long as that format can be reached from a text file). I’m sick of the touch screens on PDAs getting broken every time they receive a bump, so any better options?

My priorities in order.

  1. It must be able to display text ebooks, and keep my place in them whilst unpowered.
  2. It must be compatible with Windows Vista and have USB interface
  3. It must be cheap
  4. It should be durable. Ideally the screen would not be a weak touch-screen. It would be better if I could do it solely through buttons, as I am clumsy and will drop things.
  5. It would be good if it could play mp3s, PDFs, chess etc. but these are all low priority.

The Sony Pocket Reader isn’t super cheap, but it does support ePUB which is the current “MP3” format of ebooks. You can check books out of libraries (although not a lot of books are digitized right now, it’s growing).

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. No (well, compared to other eReaders like the Nook and the Kindle it is cheaper)
  4. A. Unknown. I have a PRS-505 and I have dropped it to no ill effect.
  5. B. It has a button interface, no touch screen.
  6. PDFs, yes, MP3s, no. The next Sony product in the line up, the Sony Touch does play MP3s, but it has a touch/button interface and costs more money.

Other aspects you did not mention:

  1. Ridiculously long battery life, seriously, I’ve gone on a trip and read continually for a week and barely put a dent in the battery
  2. Beautiful screen.
  3. Not backlit - so, no reading in the dark. There are accessories for lighting (books aren’t backlit either, so I don’t consider this a drawback).
  4. Open format - just thought I would mention this again. There are a million free books on the internet - literally (Google is digitizing all the public domain stuff). There are also publishers like Baen who have a ton of free books to download.
  5. And of course, the move into libraries which I consider especially exciting. At this point, I use my Reader mainly for travel, since I get 95% of my reading material from the library because I’m too cheap to support my raging book habit. I can’t wait until libraries offer more ebooks to check out!

PM me if you have any questions about Sony’s eReader line-up.

This thread is relative to my interest. I was going to get a kindle but then I thought better of it as it seems there aren’t a lot of Star Trek or Star wars novels out there for it. (I’m currently on a ST kick right now.)

Also, I don’t like the fact that you can only purchase from Amazon with the Kindle.

I’d like to ask a question also, if the OP doesn’t mind:

Are Ereaders capable of flash animation? Or pictures? Seems like a cool feature to have for an E-reader.

Microsoft Reader runs on a PC. There is an add on for Word that creates .LIT files.

I use Easypdb, and app that creates .PDB files from text, and cheap Palms from Ebay.

Shakes - since I have a Sony reader, I can answer for that product. Yes to pictures, but it is 8 level gray scale. The technology for the Reader (and the Kindle, unsure about the Nook) is a technology called eInk which is just like paper. It makes for a really great, book-like reader experience, but it doesn’t do color and doesn’t do flash animation.

My Reader comes with software that lets me manage my collection of books, I can also read the books on my computer (if I want). Interestingly enough, if I open the book on my computer, it is in color (well, the cover is, every digital book I own is just a regular book with a color cover, no pictures).

I know the Nook has a color strip at the bottom of the device. I’ve heard some scuttlebutt that the “Nook is in color!” The books are not in color, just the strip at the bottom (which includes navigation by color book title).

The reader is just like a book, the pages are like book pages. You can read them in the sun, without glare. The main benefit for me is the portability (normally on trips I would take 5+ books), it’s so handy to carry multiple books in a little device that fits in my purse.

I did use cheap Palms before, but ever since I “upgraded” to a laptop with Vista rather than XP they didn’t work, so I had to buy a PDA for £40 a pop, rather than £10.

Define “cheap”. My recommendation is an ipod Touch.

Palm says 64bit Vista doesn’t support USB synchronization, but they have software for 32 bit.

What kind of phone do you carry?

I keep a few dozen ebooks loaded on my Blackberry at all times. Just about all smartphones have some sort of reader software available.

That’s not entirely true. The only DRMed content the Kindle can use is Amazon’s proprietary .azw format. You can also use unprotected .prc and .mobi files on the Kindle.

I’ve owned a Kindle for 1 1/2 years now, and I love it. There are plenty of sources of free books available (public domain and otherwise) and Amazon has more books than other retailers. But, if they don’t have the books you’re interested in reading, what’s the sense? I just looked up Star Trek titles for the Kindle and there seem to be a lot of them…at least 5 pages. Maybe you should check it out again.

The Sony models will allow you to borrow from your local public library, a feature not available on the Kindle. As most libraries don’t have a large e-collection yet, the value of the feature is dubious. By the time public libraries catch up, you’ll have probably gone through one or two e-reader upgrades anyway.

Yes, there will be a format war, probably between Amazon’s format and epub, but it will probably take that a couple years to shake out also.

Right now, the Kindle has more content available at a lower price and Amazon has been absolutely fantastic with their warranty and replacement policy.

Cheapest way might be to buy a used PDA on eBay. has a wide selection of ebooks which are compatible with quite a few devices. Amazon allows downloading of PDF-format ebooks (which are compatible with the Palm, though I haven’t tried this). Libraries often have ebooks available for lending (mine does, I had to have a desktop Adobe program, which was free).

Since all you’re asking for is an ebook reader, even a lower-end Palm would do the job.

I will note that this is a stopgap measure since the Palms are now all dinosaurs. However, you’d most likely be able to re-download the books in a different format when you change platforms later on.

My husband bought an IPod touch (170 euro’s) last week. We bought it because I wanted internet radio in the kitchen, and the IPod picks up internet radio on our own wireless internet and, with an additional gizmo, tells our old kitchen stereo tp play it.

But I was amazed what the Ipod can do besides that. There are a gazillion nifty applications for it. One of them is e-reading. My husband downloaded several different types of e-reader software on the Ipod. So now it can read kindle format (Amazon) and other standards. So our Ipod gives me access to the entire Gutenberg project, for starters. The Ipod screen is rather small, but I was amazed at how quickly I got used to it.

So, if you’ve got an Ipod and know your way around software, you might already own everything you need.

Oh - just saw this (after I posted the “cheap palm” suggestion). We too upgraded our desktop to a 64 bit Vista and that broke the Palm sync - HOWEVER… we got around it by buying a cheap (20ish dollars) bluetooth adapter for the desktop. The newer Palm software works with bluetooth. If you get a palm without bluetooth, another option is an infrared adapter - also 20ish dollars. We have one of those to allow my husband’s palm (no bluetooth) to sync.

I have been using a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet as an ebook reader for about 4 years. It is backlit, rechargable, plays movies, music, connects to the internet, attaches to a computer via USB or bluetooth. The software I use is FBReader. While the device is a touch screen, I scroll through the pages and do virtually all ebook tasks via the buttons. It has a hard case that it slides out of. I prefer this model to later versions because I think the navigation buttons work better.

I am a consummate klutz. It falls off the bed, gets slept on, gets thrown in my purse, gets played with by my 4 year old and it is still going strong. I’ve never even had to replace the battery (which, by the way, is a common cell phone battery that can be had for about $5)

It is technically obsolete, however, it is gettable on ebay

I paid about $135 for it several years ago, and it is holding its value very well it seems from my quick ebay search. It still seems to go for ~$99-125.

While I am the target demographic for ebook readers, I have yet to find a dedicated ebook reader better than the Nokia 770. I use it every day and have used it every day. I will warn you, it is Linux based, so there is a bit of a learning curve, but get FBReader installed and you’ll never know you are in a different OS.

BTW, It reads most formats, including PDF, although I prefer to convert those and Lit files over to straight text.

You can adjust the alignment, brightness, text size, text color, etc. I turn the text sideways on the screen and use the rocker button to turn the pages. I’m so spoiled by it, I rarely read real books anymore and can’t see that Kindle compares. You see, I like to read in bed. My husband hates night lights. I can fall asleep reading and it keeps my place, it powers off and I don’t have to have an auxiliary light.

I love my Nokia 770.