Friday, July 1, 2011

How to get started reading eBooks... for free

How to get started reading eBooks... for free

As the summer starts, many of us will find time to do some reading, whether on the boat, or in the RV, or in a tent, or at home.  The timing is right, then, to provide a little practical assistance.  The first question to ask is what kind of device you plan to use.  You can find eBooks formatted for smartphones, for tablet PCs, for the Nook®, the Kindle®, and for other generic and proprietary eReaders.  You can also find good software for reading right on your desktop PC, notebook PC, or netbook PC.  If you're new to this eBook thing and you just want to try it out and see what's available, start by using eReader software for your laptop.  

Update 5/5/12: 
I've started using fbreader for android for my tablet, and it's a great app, but there's also versions for PC / laptop.  It's stable, good software, and it's free.  It will read mobi (Kindle) files as well as ePub (Nook/Kobo) files.  I highly recommend it.

Images showMobipocket Reader on laptop screen

This is a great way to read!

With the increasing number of eBooks, the question is: how do we read our eBooks? Many people are buying a Kindle®, or a Nook®, or other similar e-readers. Many people are reading on their PDA, or smart-phone. Still others are starting to use their iPad®, and Apple is introducing their new iBookstore (including 6 of my books - thanks to Smashwords) to promote that. Those are all good ways to read eBooks, but there is still another option that is overlooked.

A great way to read eBooks is a way that has been in use for some time: a laptop (or desktop) computer. The really good news that there are really good software alternatives for using a laptop to read eBooks. Barnes & Noble® and Sony® have their own software to use with ‘ePub’ files. B&N has a Nook for PC. Amazon has Kindle software for PC. There are many other ways to get software to read ePub files.

If you’re still reading your books as PDF or similar files, there is a much better way.

From my perspective, after spending a lot of time looking for something I liked to use, one of the best choices for reading eBooks is software called “Mobipocket Reader®.” This turns your laptop into a really nice, big-screen e-reader. The price is right, too; it’s FREE. You can set the software to display full-screen, or part-screen. Any eBook can be displayed in many different fonts and sizes.

Both of the images above are from the Mobipocket reader.

This Mobipocket Reader requires ‘Mobi’ files, and the choice of eBooks titles in that format is huge and growing by the day. The Kindle® also uses Mobi files.

Most books on Smashwords, for instance, are available in multi-formats, and can therefore be read on a laptop with Mobipocket Reader software. Mobi files can be downloaded from many eBook retailers, including a store that comes with the software, but this Mobipocket Reader® will also convert PDF, Doc, and a number of other text file types into Mobi files so that the books can be read more easily.

So, what is my recommendation? Go get your FREE Mobipocket Reader software, get it set up on your laptop, and then look for eBook retailers that sell books in the Mobi format. As a start, I would recommend Smashwords, as they have over 30,000 titles available, and many of them are Free. It’s a really good way to get started reading eBooks.

If you want a really good book to get started with, I further recommend one of my books at Smashwords. Some are free. Try the software to see how it all works, and I think you’ll be pleased and impressed. I was, and I still am.

Good luck with your reading, and


  1. Good information. I've held off getting e-books because I don't have an e-reader. Maybe I'll try the Mobi software on my computer just for special books I want to view — like yours. I think we have the same goal in writing for about the same audience.

    Wilson, please contact me ( I'd like to discuss permission for using your review of Kendall's Storm, e-edition, on the cover of the print edition. (which has seen some revisions that I'd be happy to share with you.)

  2. Sorry my reply is delayed a couple of days. Too much travel.

    I've been really happy with using e-reader software, as I've embraced eBooks for my own reading enjoyment, but more importantly I think our target reading audience are the type who are more likely to read eBooks than print books. While I enjoy print books, I enjoy even more the idea of being able to carry hundreds of books in my laptop. I travel quite a bit (including overseas by air), and being able to take hundreds of books with me is wonderful.

    As to using my review for the print version of Kendall's Storm, I'd be happy to allow that, and I will contact you to discuss further. I'd also welcome the opportunity to have a look at the revisions, at your convenience.

    Wishing you all the best with your writing,


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