My Life

eBook Software

I’ve been reading eBooks for years now. Reading a recent post by Brad Torgersen on his blog where he discusses print books versus eBooks, got me thinking. While I agree with Brad on some points (i.e., that there will be print books for many years to come) I find eBook reading a lot more convenient than reading print books and I seldom buy print titles anymore.

I started reading eBooks on a Palm IIIxe, then moved to my Dell Axim, and now I read on my iPod Touch. I love the convenience of having hundreds of titles at my fingertips and I find the iPod touch screen fantastic for reading.

That said I think the real issues with eBooks have little to do with the advantages of print versus electronic but more to do with the fact that eBook reading devices and software aren’t taking enough advantage of the ‘electronic nature’ of eBooks. (And I also really hate the whole DRM-multiple file formats thing but enough other people are talking about that so I won’t).

So far I have had the most experience with Mobipocket on the Dell Axim (a pda) and with Stanza/Calibre/Kindle/eReader on the iPod touch. But there are certain features, ways of interacting with my eBooks that I would really like and can’t find in these programs.

(Disclaimer – hopefully some of these features do exist somewhere, I’d appreciate any comments on how to find them)

1. One List All my ebooks no matter the format in one list on my desktop computer – right now because the books are in different formats they are scattered in various places. I really want to have one nice list of ALL my books no matter the device/software used to read it. And yes, I’d rather not have manually write this list, it should be generated based on the books I have on my computer. It should also allow syncing comments, bookmarks, et cetera.
— Ideally of course, there’d be only one book format, one type of desktop application that allows multiple kinds of devices (i.e., Kindle, iPhone, et cetera) to grab the books
Calibre does come close to this, though it can’t handle DRM books

2. Searching INSIDE Books When doing research I’d really like to be able to type in a search term and have it search through the insides of all the books. I’ve tried using Windows search features (i.e., content:searchterm) to do this but it fails because most of the ebooks, even the non DRM ones are in a format it can’t search through.

3. Word Count & Other Stuff I like comparing word counts of various novels against one another along with other, secondary stats (like average words per sentence, and so on). Ideally this kind of information could just be included in the eBook reader software.

So as much as I am a fan of eBooks I am in a bit of a ‘waiting’ mode now and I don’t buy much (which is not a big deal since I have a few hundred unread books). That said seeing some of the features I mentioned above materialize might just get me excited enough in the whole eBook thing again to start buying more titles.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.