Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kindle + Calibre (with a dash of Samsung Moment...)

So last Christmas Mark gave me a Kindle. I warily charged it up, bought a book from Amazon (downloaded almost immediately via Whispernet) and started reading. Within minutes I had forgotten I was reading from a device, and I was just reading. A lot. Three months later I absolutely love my Kindle (its all about the eye-friendly E Ink and long battery life), and I love its features (especially landscape viewing and that wonderful font resizer). I also love the bare-bones browser -- it comes in handy every so often (for example, before I bought my Android app phone I used it to check in to FourSquare). I love it reading in bed, and I love it when I'm travelling. I've bought some books from Amazon and no doubt will buy many more in the future, but I'm kinda cheap, so I've been focusing on finding free books (mostly older out of copyright books) from Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive and newer books from combination free/pay ebook publishers and aggregator sites, including Amazon itself. (Even the free Amazon books have DRM, I should note, however).

I also use my Kindle to read articles and other books/documents - mainly PDFs, although some come in other file formats (for example, many free books come in the EPUB format). While the Kindle can read native PDFs it really doesn't do it well on the Kindle 2 (no font changing or text-to-speech) so I convert my PDFs to the Mobi format so the Kindle can easily read them. I use an amazing free program called Calibre. Calibre enables me to convert to and from a wide range of non-DRMed file formats (individually or in bulk) and it also allows me to manage and sync my documents directly to my Kindle or other ereader; it has other features that include adding or fixing metadata, keeping a document library archive on my computer, and even downloading and converting websites, newspaper sites, or blogs automatically (check out its features here). I generally plug my Kindle into my computer to add items to my Kindle via autosync and USB, but I could also use its content server to access my items online, or have them sent to my Kindle outside of Amazon's system.Calibre works with pretty much all ebook devices/readers, including the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony Reader(s) and comes with its own integrated ebook viewer.

While the Kindle does have a keyboard and can highlight, clip and annotate texts, it's a bit clunky. So most of the items I read on it are recreational reading (mainly fiction) and PDF or Word documents (Calibre doesn't do MS Word, so I have to first convert Word files to RTF or Open Office format) that I don't feel the need to manually mark up. To be honest, that is pretty much all of them these days...I have a huge pile of printouts under my desk at work that I never quite managed to read pre-Kindle. Now I rarely print out article PDFs any more unless I know I will want a print copy for a particular purpose - I send them to my Kindle, and then I actually read them (sometimes I lazily use Amazon's service that allows me to email PDFs and have them converted and downloaded automatically via Whispernet- its actually pretty cheap!).

I can read those documents on my cell phone as well, and Calibre facilitates that too. The Kindle has applications for the desktops/laptops and for the BlackBerry, iPhone/Touch, and iPad (I think? Yup) and although it does not yet have an Android application, I use the WordPlayer app - it doesn't work with the Kindle, but it does work with Calibre, so I can read all my non-Amazon stuff  if I wanted. Do I? I confess I was very skeptical, but I have been reading Cory Doctorow's Little Brother on my Samsung Moment using WordPlayer, and I'm happily surprised at how easily its going along.

Now that I have my Kindle-Moment-Calibre troika, I have found that it has positively affected my ability to keep up with professional articles from a wide range of sources, and has enhanced my down-time reading. I've been having a blast working my way through old favorite authors, and discovering new ones, I think this summer I'm doing to work my way through Trollope, and maybe read Galsworthy's Forsyte books again. I'm kinda addicted to reading, and while I still read paper books (fondly known as Dead Tree Books (DTB) in the Kindle community) I appreciate the convenience of my new alternatives.

Some link love:
  • SFBags/WaterField makes a great sleeve case for the Kindle- I have one with a strap, so I can carry my Kindle like a purse if I want.
  • I've dressed my Kindle with a decal from  DecalGal - I choose the burlwood option
  • There are some excellent ebook blogs that I will add here later...

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