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Wish for a book - 2

tech reviews Updated: Dec 12, 2009 18:56 IST
Prasanto K Roy
Prasanto K Roy
Hindustan Times
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With one Indian newspaper already out on Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader – the Hindustan Times, at $10 a month – there’s another surge of interest in the Kindle. Meanwhile I’ve been getting a flood of reader letters about e-book readers, since writing about the Kindle on this page (Star Tech, November 1). Here’s a selection. Flashback: An e-book reader like the Kindle lets you think of a book, search for it, buy it online – and have it sent to your e-book reader, all in minutes.

I read with interest your column on the Amazon Kindle e-book reader. I want to buy a Kindle online, but I see it is quite expensive to get in India. I also have seen the Sony e-book reader, which seems to be very compact. How does it compare? I haven’t seen the Kindle yet. I believe Amazon has a far better book collection, and so if I buy the Sony reader, would I be limited in my choice of books? - Rupsha Gupta, Jamshedpur

The Amazon Kindle (international edition) costs $259, or about Rs 13k, if you order it from Amazon for delivery within the USA, and it’s close to Rs 19k for delivery to India (thanks to shipping, and duties). Sony has several e-book readers, and most are indeed sleeker and snazzier than the Kindle, though they look more ‘digital device’ while the Kindle feels more ‘book’. They do have the edge on the Kindle in terms of features, such as wi-fi and memory card slots that let you cheaply add memory. On the book selection... well, Amazon was born an online bookstore, and no one stocks more books online than Amazon. But if you buy a Sony or a Nook or another e-book reader, you can still buy Amazon’s Kindle e-books; in fact, if you build up a library for one e-book reader, and switch to another, you don’t abandon your library. You use some free software called Calibre, described further down this page

I found some Kindles selling on eBay “almost new” for less than half the price you mentioned. I believe the Kindle is fairly rugged with no moving parts to wear out... so is it worth the gamble to pick up one of those? -Mohit Sharma, New Delhi

No, trying to buy a second-hand Kindle isn’t worth it. First, those are all the older Kindle models, with US-only wireless support. The current Kindle 2 is the international model, which works anywhere, including India. Second, assuming that the display is okay and unscratched, there are indeed two things that can wear out – the battery, which you can’t replace easily at your end, and the QWERTY keypad.

I bought a Kindle after reading your column – I got someone to bring it in from the US, and saved some money. Thanks for the tip. However, I have quite a few magazines in PDF form. I tried copying them into the Kindle but I can’t view them. Do I need to do something else?

My new Kindle 2 couldn’t read PDFs either, until Amazon issued a software update this month. I didn’t have to do anything – it updated wirelessly one fine day when I switched it on. Now I can read PDFs, rotate the screen, and use it for longer – nearly a week of reading with the wireless on, better than the earlier four days. Your Kindle should have auto-updated by now, if your wireless is on. If it hasn’t, go to bit.ly/kindle-update on your PC browser.

THE RIGHT CALIBRE

You said in your column that we can read Kindle e-books on an iPhone or a laptop. How would this work? I have an iPhone 3G. What do I do to get this e-book reader? And if I buy Kindle e-books from Amazon.com then do I have to buy them specifically for the Kindle or for the iPhone? If I build up a collection of books bought for the iPhone and then someday I buy some other e-book reader, can I still use my e-book library? - Payal Mahapatra, Mumbai

Instead of spending Rs 19k on a Kindle, you can indeed download a free Kindle reader for your Windows laptop (bit.ly/pc-kindle) or your iPhone (bit.ly/i-kindle). The Windows version is in beta and is a bit unstable – I got a few crashes. But it’s free, and is worth trying out. If you build up a collection of books for one e-book reader, you’re not stuck. Just use an e-book library management tool like Calibre (available free at calibre-ebook.com), available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS.

Calibre is a free (and open source) e-book manager. It lets you organise, save and manage your e-book library, converting smoothly between formats and between different e-book readers. Developed by a physics graduate student in the USA, Kovid Goyal, Calibre already has a half-million users. Kovid’s Mumbai-based father Niraj Goyal is helping him promote the service to publishers in India. Calibre has a built-in e-book viewer, which reads all popular e-book formats. It can also fetch news and RSS feeds from websites, format them into an e-book, and let you carry all updates on a news website with you on your e-book reader or laptop - and read it like a book. What’s more, for a publisher (such as Hindustan Times), Calibre would allow publishing a newspaper to all e-book readers, and not just the Kindle.