I read a lot of ebooks on my smart phone, and they all come from Project Gutenberg. In other words, they’re all free. When I recently migrated from my venerable Palm Treo 700 to a new phone, a good ebook reader was a high priority.
In fact, finding a good ebook reader was deal breaker – I wouldn’t keep a phone that didn’t have a good reader. I settled on a new Blackberry Storm 2 and Amazon’s Kindle for the Blackberry. While not perfect, the Kindle software serves its purpose well. And I still haven’t had to pay for a book.
Originally, the Gutenberg books were all flat ASCII text files. Some books also appeared in HTML and in Palm ebook format (“.pdb” suffix), but these were specific titles that someone manually converted. I manually converted several titles to .pdb myself, and found it to be a tedious task, even if you write a Java program to do the formatting.
Today, Gutenberg provides most titles in several ebook formats, not including the old Palm format. About a year ago I picked up a copy of Mobipocket Reader for the Palm, and started reading books in that form. Unfortunately, the Mobipocket software suffers from bit rot. The developer team has apparently abandoned the product and no fixes have appeared in a long time. The Palm version was usable, but I found I still preferred the old ebook Reader.
Thanks to Google, I found the following ebook readers for the Storm 2:
- Mobipocket Reader, now hosted by Amazon, maker of the Kindle.
The only way the Blackberry Storm version would move from page to page was if I displayed the keyboard and hit the space bar. This used up most of the screen, making reading difficult. Postings in the user community forum expressed frustration at the fact that the Storm software was still a “beta” version that hadn’t been updated in over a year.
- EReader, now hosted by Barnes&Noble.
This appears to be the heir apparent of the old Palm ereader, and allegedly reads .pdb format books. In fact, it only reads some newer version of the format, which doomed much of my existing ebook library. Moreover, Gutenberg only provides spotty support of the .pdb format. Most Gutenberg titles in .pdb format probably use the older format.
- RepliGo Reader, part of a doc exchange system for ‘berries.
Actually, the program is touted as “just the thing” for reading PDFs. Most of the books I read are nothing more than text. I could read them in PDF, but it would be troublesome to get them into a PDF format that comfortably fit the screen.
- Wattpad, its own thing.
Several forum posts suggested this, but there was no documentation on how the reader worked. It seemed as if Wattpad was only intended to download stories and documents posted on Wattpad’s home site. Maybe I’m wrong, but there wasn’t any explanation on the site. And I was suspicious after trying two readers that failed.
- Amazon’s Kindle for the Blackberry.
Amazon doesn’t publicize the fact that the Kindle reads free Mobipocket files as well as for-fee Kindle books, but it does. The Blackberry version works pretty smoothly.
I also came across a couple of Java-based ebook readers. I avoided them because I wasn’t sure how that worked into the security model – if I use unverified Java code on my ‘Berry, I wonder if it makes the device more vulnerable to malware. If there’s a way to verify the Java code, how do I do it?
Kindle for Blackberry
It was fairly easy to install – I think I installed it from the Blackberry browser – and it started up without a hitch. Once it was running, I plugged my ‘berry into my desktop machine. The ‘berry appeared as a volume, and the volume now had a “Kindle” folder. Thus, it was easy to add free “Mobipocket” files (“.mobi” extension) to the Kindle:
- Plug the Kindle into your desktop machine. I used a Mac.
- Navigate to the Blackberry device and open the “kindle” folder
- Within the “Kindle” folder, open the “eBooks” folder.
- Copy your ‘.mobi’ files to the “eBooks” folder.
- Eject the Blackberry.
The books appear in the Kindle’s library listing the next time it starts up.
In fact, I organize my kindle/eBooks folder into subfolders by author. It doesn’t improve the Kindle’s library listing: it’s a linear list sorted by title or author regardless of what you do. However, it’s helpful to have the files themselves organized somehow.
A shortcoming of the Blackberry Kindle software is the lack of a ‘search’ function. Mostly that doesn’t matter, except for one thing: the “Magic Catalog.” This is a list of major Gutenberg titles with links to .mobi download links. I can download any book in that list just by clicking on the link. However, I have to find the book in the list before I can click the link. That’s not easy without a search function to at least locate title words or author names.
Instead, I search Gutenberg itself using the Blackberry browser. It’s a bit more difficult but it works. Or I can search the Magic Catalog’s home site: FreeKindleBooks.org. That should save a couple clicks.
Kindle’s flawless .mobi support makes it obvious why Amazon hasn’t updated any Mobipocket software. Why bother if you can get everyone to migrate to the Kindle software? I know the Palm version of Mobipocket also read the old .pdb formats as well as .mobi, and I’m not sure how many formats it really supported. So perhaps Kindle isn’t really a Mobipocket replacement – I haven’t bothered to see if it handles.pdb or text or HTML. For all I know, any or all of those formats just might work.