In the beginning, there was Peanut Press. One of the oldest e-book publishers and sellers (and by oldest, I mean almost 10 years old, ancient by e-publishing clocks), they built up a good rep, got bought by Palm to become Palm Reader and then eReader, and then finally getting bought by Fictionwise (which just got bought by Barnes and Noble!). eReader has been around forever, is what I’m saying, and they’ve built up a solid and dependable program that works on possibly more hardware than any other. eReader is available for Palm, Pocket PCs, Symbian phones, your Windows, Mac or OQO desktop, the iPhone and iPod Touch (shown), and as of this week, the Blackberry, all for free.
The experience. eReader has had a lot of time to get it right,
and they’re just about there. Books load quickly, paginate easily to
your specifications, and look good on the screen (assuming, of course,
that you can read comfortably from a small electronic screen without
your eyeballs melting). If your device can handle such things, you can change the orientation from portrait to landscape for easier reading.
eReader also has an AutoScroll feature that
allows you to let the words scroll past you at your desired speed if
you wish (AutoScroll isn’t available on the iPhone version. but they make up for it with a handy piechart graphic next to the books in your library to let you know at a glance how far along you are in each one). While you’re reading you have the full screen, but a single touch brings up a variety of options.
The convenience. eReader allows you to personalize just about
everything, from the colors and font to the line spacing and margins
and page turn animations. If you prefer tapping to turn pages it can,
and if you prefer a gentle swipe it’ll do that, too. Place bookmarks,
make notes, search for words throughout the entire text, use the
built-in dictionary, switch from black-on-white to yellow-on-black with
a single touch, and enjoy yourself.
The content. eReader reads eReader books, readily available by the thousands from eReader’s own bookseller site, ereader.com, and from Fictionwise.com as well as from other sites such as Baen Books. Right now eReader is having a $9.99 sale on all New York Times bestsellers. There are also plenty of free programs to help you turn your own unsecure content into eReader docs.
And eReader has the least annoying DRM of any e-book retailer I’ve ever
seen. When you buy a book, it (securely) encodes your name and the
credit card number you’ve assigned into your hardware so that to open
the e-book you’ve purchased, you have to enter that information. Just
once, and then it remembers for future books (so future DRm is still
there but you don’t have to deal with it) but people are less likely to
send copies around the Intenet if they have to include their own credit
card info along with them.
I’ve been using eReader as my e-book reader of choice for almost a
decade, on a variety of handheld devices up to and including my current
iPod Touch, and there are still a few drawbacks. The biggest one is
that eReader reads only eReader files, so no TXT, HTML, PDFs or other popular
formats (although I understand it will soon support ePub files). If you
want to read something you have to convert it to an eReader file first,
and that can be annoying.
And the eReader on my iPod Touch is even trickier as I can’t just move
files over to it the way I could with my Palm. This isn’t specifically
an eReader problem since Apple won’t let anyone just move files
over willy-nilly — it would somehow bring about the premature
destruction of the Earth, I understand — but troublesome nonetheless.
You can easily connect to eReader and Fictionwise to download books
from your online bookshelves, and both of them offer free sonline
storage for any of your personal books you want to be able to get. You
can manually enter any URL where downloadable books are available, and
you can grab them from your personal home Web server or other location.
But you’ll have this problem with almost any iPhone e-book reader.
After all these years I find I still prefer it to the iPhone Kindle or Stanza apps,
and I didn’t buy my iPod Touch until I made sure that this single program was
available for it. Stanza comes close, but the insistence on chapters bugs me, I prefer swiping the screen to tapping, and many of the preferences I’ve gotten used to in eReader require more hunting and tweaking in Stanza.
That may not last. Stanza offers more options for downloading books and reads more formats (including the eReader one), and that’s darned attractive. Can’t I just shmoosh them together and get the e-book reader I want?
Check out eReader for just about any handheld device you own, and see what you think.