Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Misc: Review of E-Book Websites

This post will provide you with a quick round-up of the book sites I visit on a regular basis. Do you have a favourite I didn't mention? Leave me a comment!

Manybooks: This is by far my favourite website for acquiring new e-book content. It allows you to download every title in your choice of formats, and has content guides such as thematic reading lists, reader reviews, RSS feeds for new additions in your favourite categories, and special collections where related titles are all compiled together. It originally was primarily a prettier way to browse the Project Gutenberg collection, but it recently has been expanding its offerings to Creative Commons-licensed texts and a growing collectio of pulp fiction. It also has an iTouch/iPhone-friendly browsing mode, which will allow you to very quickly and easily search for and download new titles from within the free eReader app, available at the iTunes App Store.

Project Gutenberg: This is the largest internet collection, and their very noble goal is to digitize, in plain text readable by any platform, basically every single work they can find which has lapsed into the public domain. As the United States has become increasingly, and in my opinion, unreasonably stupid about the length of copyright terms, they have also set up satellite websites in Australia, Canada, and Europe, where they post works of specific interest in those regions, as well as general works which are not yet 'available' in the US but are fair game in these other, more sensible (for now) regions. I've found the Gutenberg family of sites to be unparalleled in the sheer quantity of their offerings. You could read for decades off these, and you would be surprised at what's in the public domain these days---it's not just Shakespeare and the Bible! But I've also found that these sites can be hard to browse and are not as fun to use unless you know exactly what you're looking for. Even a one-sentence summary for some of this stuff would be helpful, especially for more obscure titles which the volunteers at Gutenberg have rescued from total oblivion. There are some real treasures in here, but you've got to know where to look and have some idea of *what* to look for.

Fictionwise: This is the site I use when I want to purchase a new, current book. They have a weekly newsletter that goes out with special deals. My favourite is the '100% Micropay' deal---you buy a title at full price and they refund the lot of it to you in store credit. If you planned to purchase other stuff anyway, it's a great way to get a free book out of it. What I like to do is buy a big, flashy best-seller, then use the credit to buy some of the indie stuff, which tends to be fairly inexpensive. My one flashy purchase can get me five or six great novels from some of these up and coming types. The indie titles tend to be available in 'multiformat' where one has a choice of download formats and can download purchases in any (or all) of these file types. The more best-sellery types tend to be available only in 'secure' formats. I usually purchase these in secure eReader as it can be read on most (but not all) of my devices and is the least obtrusive DRM scheme there is---no restrictions on how many times or to how many devices one may download their book, but it requires input of your credit card number in order to unlock the book the first time you open it. So, while you *can* share your books, you won't want to, as you would be sharing your credit card number too! But if you do buy a new device down the road, you can download your books again, and the eReader format has been around for awhile, so I feel secure that these purchases will be readable for a good, long time. The site also has a wish list feature, which is handy, and a somewhat weak 'user rating' for each book. They do not have a reader reviews feature though, for reasons which I understand (although I disagree wit them). But that was one of my reasons for starting this blog!

eReader: eReader was recently acquired by Fictionwise, and while I have not, nor do I plan to, buy from their on-line store (I am already attached to Fictionwise) they do make the eReader software, which I use (with great enjoyment) on my iPod Touch. The program is fast, elegant and a joy to use. I can download directly within the program from sites like Manybooks, or from my Fictionwise bookshelf. The software is free, too!

Mobile Read: This is a very active e-book forum where people discuss all things hardware, software and what to read. Many of the users also post whatever free books they have which they have pre-formatted for their various devices. So you can download free books from one part of the forum, then go to another part to talk about them! It's also a good place to look out for news about the latest gizmos and gadgets.

Teleread: I am a regular contributor to this blog, which covers the technical aspects of e-reading as well as the political and social ones. The quality of analysis at this blog can be very high, and there are some high-profile people who actually work in publishing who post there regularly. I'm very proud of my affiliation with them, and will continue to post analysis and opinion articles there on a regular basis. As a wrap-up to this review, I will post some links below to the best of the articles I've written for them:


Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Joanna,
Hope this finds you well. This is a really fabulous idea of yours. I know my take on reviews at Fictionwise differ from yours but I am glad there were no hard feelings. You did raise some valid points though, and you are putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak, and creating this blog. I commend you for it.
Good luck with this, hope it takes off big time, because it will be a very useful aid for writers and readers alike.

Rob Preece/ said...

Hi Ficbot,

I hope your review blog is a huge success. If you ever want to review books from, let me know. I'll be happy to provide review comments.

Rob Preece

Anonymous said...

This is great! There is a huge amount of rubbish out there, and we need honest reviewers to help readers wade through it.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Suzanne,
I agree, this is a great idea.

Ficbot said...

I am incredibly gratified by your kind messages and positive responses! I'll do my best to post often, and I hope we can continue the dialogue. Feel free to make suggestions to me of works you think I might like, or works you want to see reviewed.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Joanna,
I think you have really started something here. What type of books do you like to read?