Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 17, 2017

Sony Reader.

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The eBooks revolution

There’s a revolution going on in the way books are produced, distributed and read that is likely to open up the libraries of the world to anyone with a computer.

For the past few years, Google has been digitizing books with the controversial goal of establishing a single commercial database of eight million titles. More than a million publications are already available in full or excerpted versions at www.books.google.com.

Countless other sites also offer eBooks. Generally you pay for popular titles but many others are free. At Free-eBooks.net, for example, you can choose from thousands of titles and even upload your own book to be instantly available online. It’s just one of many sites that encourage e-publishing. Thousands of authors, both amateur and professional, are bypassing traditional publishing to go direct to readers online.

You need a computer to access most eBooks. The exception, for readers in the US, is Amazon’s Kindle whose proprietary software wirelessly connects directly to the Amazon store, downloads your selections and charges your credit card automatically all in a matter of minutes. Currently you can choose from 270,000 titles.

The only direct competitor to the Kindle is the Sony Reader. Sony has a website similar to Amazon’s at Ebookstore.sony.com that sells books and their Readers. Titles are downloaded to your computer and transferred to the device through a USB port. A big bonus is that you can also access Google’s vast library.

The Sony Touch ($399; $260 for the Pocket Edition) holds 350 titles and takes SD and memory stick Pro Duo for virtually unlimited library expansion. Unlike the Kindle, it can display most formats, including the popular ePub from Adobe (free download) and PDFs.

The screens on both the Kindle and the Reader are similar. Both run up to two weeks on a single charge. The controls on the Sony are easier to use. But US users love Amazon’s effortless wireless download. Sony plans to introduce the feature with a new model in January 2010; let’s hope it’s available in Canada.

Neither of the devices are backlit. You can always read your downloaded works on a computer, but that’s awkward. Size and a bright screen have made the cell phone one of the most popular devices for reading eBooks. The Kindle offers downloads only to the iPhone. If you can put up with the small screen, and many can, you need nothing more than a cell phone to become an eBook reader — there’s even free software online at eReader.com, and many other sites that will get you started.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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