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Old 05-13-2009, 06:39 PM   #1
taosaur
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So I want to buy my first ebook...

...and it's ridiculously frustrating. I'm looking for Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter's Sunstorm in a format I can read in portrait orientation on my netbook, formatted like an actual book (proper spacing and indents), ideally in FBReader.

First off, most places want $7.99, which I wouldn't spend on a paperback, much less a file of unknown quality with an uncertain future. Diesel-ebooks.com has a .prc for $6.19, which is still a buck above reasonable but I could deal with it--except it appears to be DRMed to the mobipocket device only. The remaining formats on Diesel and Fictionwise are Palm/eReader and MS Lit--I've downloaded the official software for both, and neither supports a portrait orientation, nor does Stanza for PC, and I highly suspect one or all of these programs would present me with spaced blobs of text. I'm not spending $6-8 to read the formatting equivalent of a webpage circa 1992.

I'm appalled all over again at the state of this "industry." Is there any software that will allow me to read the available file formats in portrait with proper formatting? Is there a store I've missed that offers a format FBReader can read?

Or shall I just give up on legitimately purchasing ebooks and check back in ten years to see if these publishers have their act together yet?
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Old 05-13-2009, 10:56 PM   #2
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One of the most serious downsides to DRM is that it forces you to use the DRM-provider's ebook reader. As a rule, these are OK but if they are missing a function you want you are stuck.

The "solution" is to strip the DRM. This is thought by some to be illegal in the US and several other places, but it probably is legal in the US for personal use and this certainly harms no one (you have bought the ebook after all).

For MOBI/PRC use mobidedrm.py. The resulting DRM-free MOBI typically works using FBReader unless it has MOBI-specific compression (which is rare). Calibre will format shift any DRM-free ebook to ePub which can be read using FBReader.
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Old 05-14-2009, 01:49 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by wallcraft View Post
One of the most serious downsides to DRM is that it forces you to use the DRM-provider's ebook reader. As a rule, these are OK but if they are missing a function you want you are stuck.

The "solution" is to strip the DRM. This is thought by some to be illegal in the US and several other places, but it probably is legal in the US for personal use and this certainly harms no one (you have bought the ebook after all).

For MOBI/PRC use mobidedrm.py. The resulting DRM-free MOBI typically works using FBReader unless it has MOBI-specific compression (which is rare). Calibre will format shift any DRM-free ebook to ePub which can be read using FBReader.
The problem on diesel is you can't even download the .prc without a device PIN. Maybe I could do something with an eReader (.pdb) file, I don't know. Either way, it's not a purchase but a gamble whether I will end up with something I can read comfortably on my hardware. Even if I knew I could peel off the straitjacket with good results, I hate to support a business model that actively obstructs the development of this medium.

Hopefully someone soon will sell the publishers on making their wares accessible to the growing netbook market, particularly if the 3Qi displays pan out. I might even bite the bullet and use their half dozen different crap-tastic proprietary viewers if I knew I would get a book-quality product that I could optimize for my display.
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Old 05-14-2009, 03:04 PM   #4
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Normally you can buy mobipocket books by downloading the free reader for a windows PC and then use that ID to buy and read the book.

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Old 05-14-2009, 03:20 PM   #5
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The problem on diesel is you can't even download the .prc without a device PIN.
The "device" can be a Windows PC. FBReader generally does a good job displaying MOBI/PRC ebooks (once any DRM has been stripped), and Calibre can convert them to ePub if necessary and will soon be able to convert them to FB2. Both ePub and FB2 ebooks are relatively easy to edit if necessary.

I like FBReader, but the Windows MobiPocket Reader software is also pretty good. If your only issue is rotating the screen, I think it is possible to rotate at the Windows XP level but I don't know the details.
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Old 05-14-2009, 03:29 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wallcraft View Post
The "device" can be a Windows PC. FBReader generally does a good job displaying MOBI/PRC ebooks (once any DRM has been stripped), and Calibre can convert them to ePub if necessary and will soon be able to convert them to FB2. Both ePub and FB2 ebooks are relatively easy to edit if necessary.

I like FBReader, but the Windows MobiPocket Reader software is also pretty good. If your only issue is rotating the screen, I think it is possible to rotate at the Windows XP level but I don't know the details.
rotating the screen at XP requires a driver for the screen that has this ability. It is not native for the OS itself. My netbooks (ASUS) has this feature but not all Windows machines do.

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Old 05-14-2009, 08:42 PM   #7
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Well, I downloaded Mobireader for PC, found my PID, bought the .prc for $6.14, found mobidedrm, learned to navigate DOS, installed Python, through considerable trial and error got mobidedrm to work aaaaaaaand...Unsupported Compression Method in FBReader

I guess I'll attempt a format shift in Calibre and see if anything intelligible comes out the other side. Fourth or fifth piece of software's the charm, right? I can't see using the Mobireader software--it's a bad iTunes knock-off for books, making very poor use of my display area.

Don't mistake my tone--my frustration is not with you guys, who are pointing me in the right directions, but with the lack of vision in this industry and the resultant babel of hacks, work-arounds and redundancies. While I can understand the chain of events that has left ebooks--text!--so far behind other electronic media, the situation is nonetheless shocking and absurd.
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Old 05-15-2009, 08:07 AM   #8
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I can read! Calibre gave me what appears to be a clean ePub copy

Now that I know the layout of the obstacle course, I can probably get through the hoops fairly quickly in the future, but it leaves a bit of a sour taste paying someone to put me to the trouble.

Thank you, Dale and Wallcraft, and all who forged the work-arounds that make these products usable.
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