Another Malaysian Guide to E-Reading

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Today someone made an article about e-reading which was a simplistic take on e-reading so I decided to remake a new one about my own comprehensive guide. I know this is a repetitive subject in this blog but I probably will never will get tired writing about e-reading anyway.

E-reading have always been a general thing with me. I’ve read and write things on monitor other than on tree books since childhood so I pretty much embrace e-reading gadgets and software from the start. Books in digital form have existed around the same time as computer does. In fact, Star Trek The Original series have a scene Captain Kirk reading a book from his small monitor and that was in the 60s. But the actual ebook for public reading and distribution started with Project Gutenberg in 1971 which began as a “volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works”. Needless, to say the project are successful and some libraries also help with the cause and all these spawn the archiving of more literature and growing. But not older Malaysian literature though.

However, they only work for those out-of-copyright books and so we had a gap on newer publication which was filled by ‘volunteer’ illicitly scanning books to digitize them. In fact, a lot of books that are out of print prior to the ebooks popularity are lost before digitization even happen. I’ve already seen this happening in Malaysia since I was a teenager so I’m not surprised by it. Then again, Malaysian book publication have always been 10 years later than the rest of the world. As usual, we spend more money on censorship than we do to preserve our literature or update and revolutionize our industry. Colour me not surprised. For more history on ebooks, wikipedia have a good article on it.

My current primary devices for e-reading was Amazon Kindle 2011 and Samsung Galaxy 10.1. I’ve reviewed both of them but I’ve familiarize with them myself after spending more than a year with them. Prior to mid-2012, I’ve been reading ebooks from my laptop monitor and yes, its possible. You don’t really need a handheld device to read ebooks, 

I do use iPad regularly but its not really mine to play with so don’t ask me about reading on an iPad. I’m still clueless about the whole gesture thing.

Display for E-reading

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One of the grandest thing about the the ebook market was the birth of eInk. It is as it said, a digital paper. It doesn’t ruin your eyes or drain your battery and can last for days without charging unless you keep the WIFI on all the time. You can read with it. Clean it by wiping off the dirt or chocolate smears. It can pack up several hundred books without making much a dent on its 1.25 gb space.  

Personally this thing is nearly indestructible and I’ve been intentionally hard on my Kindle (I want to get a paperwhite but since its pointless having two same ereader so I want it to die until I upgrade… and I still haven’t upgrade yet…) but through the humidity and the heat, all that did was scraping off the silver paint. The screen was relatively undamaged (except when I plonk a hairbrush on it and I dented a small pixel size on the screen) but it still functioning and its really great for over a year old device. But I really want a paperwhite… :/

As for all tablets?

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Its a mirror. It attracts fingerprints. Its too bright for night reading. Sure it can function as a reader but its heavy to read with one hand and have poor battery life. If you watch a bunch of stuff from it and play a bunch of stuff and there’s twitter and internet… sure, good luck reading a book with the tablet.

If you read a lot of comic books, a tablet and ample wifi storage is good for you but I for one, prefer comic books in paper more than books in paper. Its not the smell or anything but with art, there’s a lot differences with colours and texture on a flat reflective screen than on a paper. I reviewed a lot of graphic ARCs to know for a fact, good art is better in printed form. But in the end, its still your preference. But there are some good news with colour ereaders but I’m not really optimistic with it.

As for reading in the dark, hello…

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MPH’s iRiver use pre-2011 eInk technology and the price is still hovering RM500-1000 for a clucky grayish screen. Average price of the new and improved Kindle Paperwhite 2013 with Ads from Lowyat is around RM470 while the current version of Kindle 2012 is around RM300. If you want to splurge a bit, get a Kobo Glo for RM530 (no ads).

You don’t need to spend a lot for an outdated device. Remember, you’re using it to read, you still need to buy books. Just be smart with your money.

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I know the good old argument between e-reader format across multiple platform but its just preferences. There’s not much differences between ePub, mobi or html format since they all function the same : reading texts.

I started knowing more about e-reading right around the popularity of palmtops. I was familiar with .mobi from Mobipocket and also .lit for Microsoft Reader so it was natural to transition to Amazon Kindle. ePub gain its popularity mostly because Mobipocket was eventually bought over by Amazo, its an open format and also there’s that DRM-functionality.

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If you have a device that was compatible with the formats, then you can choose accordingly. If all fail, Calibre made life much easier.

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Choice : Limitless

But Calibre had its own limitation with pictures, language conversion, most PDF conversion, chaptering and DRM-ed books. But for basic ebook-to-ebook formatting, it work flawlessly. As for DRM…

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Digital rights management (DRM) is a class of controversial technologies that is used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders, and individuals with the intent to control the use of digital content and devices after sale.

DRM have been a popular controversial topic around ebooks. It maintain the idea that your ebooks are just a rented copy unlike your printed books and the ebook maker (publisher) had the right to restrict your viewing restriction and also delete it despite them taking all your hard earned money to get it. Personally, I don’t think I’m the right person to talk about it. There are a lot other sites to read if you’re curious about it : 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

I do think its an inept attempt for people to restrict book piracy since DRM doesn’t work. I have my reason about being unenthusiastic about Google Books in Malaysia thing. Because a couple of months ago, a guy went to Singapore and found out that he couldn’t access his collection on Google Books for a library conference. It took some American to travel around the world to complain about DRM in this region that Google finally lift off their regional restriction. For something I’ve been complaining since 2004, what was so exciting about that anyway?

DRM is also the reason why I use Amazon US  account and get Kindle book via third person to prevent the Amazon from detecting a non-US user here and I had great choice on the actual site rather than the usual “not available to asia pacific” drivel. There’s no law to circumvent DRM for acquiring ebook legally but it doesn’t make everything easy either. Its only illegal if you distribute it but its fine if you’re using it for your own use. Which is why DRM suck at the first place.

E-reading on e-Ink Device

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You know all about the cliched thing about how “it looks like paper”. It really does look like a paper without the bulk of a paper. You can adjust the font to the biggest size and you can turn it at any angle and still see the display perfect under sunlight or regular light bulb. Even I found myself staying away from paperbacks because their fonts are too small and end up getting the ebook version instead. Because of the adjustable font, reading classic never have been more awesome.

You can look up a dictionary from toggling on the words and look up to wikipedia for more definition. Its thin and double up as a bookmark. The grayscale are unimpressive on coloured graphic novels but its is perfect for mangas.

Its been a year and I can safely say that I never had dry eyes while reading from it. I usually had those during university or when I stare too long at LCD screen. We’re growing older and eyes don’t regenerate when its ruined. So, love thy eyes.

Plus, its medically proven that e-reading does help with dyslexia kids concentrating on the text rather than physical book. If you know someone who have dyslexia but frustrated with reading, gift them an ereader and fill it up with books and encourage them.

E-Reading for PC 

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I use Adobe DIgital Editions and Kindle for PC. For ARCs I received, some of them are large PDFs which I download from the ADE and then send it over to the tablet. Its useful for graphic novels and transferring ePubs.

I rarely use Kindle for PC for anything really except to check some ARCs and also the Amazon books I bought. Problem is, I need to manually send them from the Amazon site and neither of them sync the books on their own so I do have some books missing on the PC, the tablet and Kindle itself. Most of the time, I’m too lazy for that because even you’ll give up when you have hundred of stuff in your cloud storage.

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But mostly, I like using this “Send to Kindle” option where I could make an ebook out of online article. I’ve tried it with my reviews but I cringe a lot when I found my weird sentence structures and broken grammars. I can’t edit and write at the same time.

Android Apps

I had a lot of problem with reading from a tablet screen (iPad or Samsung or Nexus). I don’t swear that its perfect since I like matted LCD monitor from a PC or laptop more than those with reflective surface. I do use tablets for night reading but it is still uncomfortable at the lowest brightness setting. Not sure who had the bright idea of thinking you can sleep while staring at a bright lamp.

1. Kindle

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A lot of my ARCs was automatically synced to the tablet as with my Kindle purchases. Kindle have this synced reading thing which you can use across device. But why do I need to read apps when I have the real thing?

2. Kobo

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I use Kobo mostly for the ePub I read and because of Reading Life. I love those cute badges and I really wish someone would do that for writing stuff. Unfortunately the Kobo devices are too pricey even for me. But I really hope they could open up their market in Malaysia.

3. Aldiko Premium

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I recently switch to Aldiko Premium from Aldiko Free. The free app have a lot of bug and I had to clear my tablet’s space and so now my library are bare.

Essentially all three apps have same function and interface for reading. They’re not as awesome as e-Ink reader and still too garish for me.

4. Karangkraf’s eMall

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I don’t use it at all but my sister did. They’re just static PDF copies from the Karangkraf publishing house.  I dislike the unnecessary squinting while reading their ebooks and you can’t blow up the font or change the background or whatever. Honestly, this is disappointing. Add to that, its app-locked books. Its worst than regular DRM because essentially you’re still just renting the books. A lot of people dislike DRM for a reason, when an app-locked ebookstore such as this die, they will take away your own bought and paid for ebooks. When you lost them, you lost them forever.

5. e-Sentral

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Yes, thats Jelita magazine and is the only thing I get from the store because its free. Apparently its one of those animated ePub magazine. The app itself was laggy and prone to crash. But they’re a proper eBook reader for the local market and have its potential to be like Amazon Kindle store with its own publishing site plus their ebooks are quite affordable. I would love for it to have mobi option or regular eink devices but of course, thats not going to happen. As for now, they don’t have an app for Windows 8 so I’ll wait for them to work out their kinks and fill up their database with more books. Normally, it took years for a website and application like this to mature, so all we can do is wait.

and since I don’t use Maxis or Apple products, I don’t really care for their overpriced books. MPH have their own ebookstores too but I rather use Amazon because of the availability. I don’t have a reason to use Barnes and Nobles because I don’t use Nook so don’t ask me about it.

E-reading and Audiobooks

I never was a fan of audiobooks. It never do magic with my brain or made movies while listening. However, I caught the audiobook bug while I was doing Greek and Roman Mythology a year ago, Apparently I’m a picky audiobook listener, I prefer actors, actress and writers as narrators because they work better with the text than monotone narrators.

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I never really like Neil Gaiman’s style of writing but I found another way to appreciate his books because he is an auditory narrator and it work well with his audiobooks which he narrates most of the time.

Its much easier to read and immerse yourself with audiobooks on a tablet if you don’t have MP3 player handy, Of course, you’ll still sacrifice your battery life but nothing is as impressive as listening to Ian McKellan describing Odysseus spearing Polyphemus’s eye while reading through Homer’s poetry.

Difficult literature is easier to appreciate and understood with audiobooks. 

E-reading and Pricing

Here’s the part where it all matters. The pricing.

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Like really, it didn’t take a genius to know how heavily mark up a book was in local bookstore. I rarely read bestsellers and usually those are the stuff that was heavily mark down and stuff like this usually hover around above RM50. Somehow it is frightening how the pricing mark up two or three times from the original pricing just because one is in printed and imported from overseas.

I’m not made of money tree. I learn to spend wisely with my book habit and really don’t want to spend needlessly on just a book.

Will this kill off bookstores, looking for alternative cheaper option? Dude, their jobs is to sell books and not there to really cultivate your reading habit. Even now they’re reduced to selling pushed-to-publish books in store because its a bestseller. How many ceiling high Fifty Shades of Grey you’ve seen in a pile? Its ridiculous. I’ve learn that current bestsellers doesn’t guarantee you reading enjoyment, its just mass sales psychology. Massive book retailers such as Amazon have its flaws but its driven by personal interest rather than hyped books and publishing market trendings.

And finally… why I e-read so much?

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I really hate dirtying up my physical books. That was a dash of chili sauce on the unread edge of the book. Because I read mostly on ereader, most of my physical books are in storage but at least they’re safe from being smeared by random food items and kid’s dirty fingers. Of course, nothing is completely safe from harm.

Whenever you want to say about tactile feelings and smell of dead trees, tell me that again when you splash Starbuck coffee on your book or dunk a book inside your bubble bath.

or better yet.. these do happen to unwanted physical books…

Book stripping and book pulping is a norm in physical book market. Think about it for a while especially those books in landfills.

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There’s nothing wrong being book snob about reading medium to argue the virtues of physical book reading and demonize e-reading. But you should be aware all of this is happening every time you step inside a bookstore, the fact that publishers and booksellers were trashing physical books just to keep the price competitive and for the surviving books to have more value in the market and libraries trashing their old collection for the newer ones. Plus, this is also the reason why they’re against ebooks market in the first place.

It is hard to be ignorant about these atrocities in the age of knowledge and information. Book burning and trashing is a norm. Read and weep.

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2 thoughts on “Another Malaysian Guide to E-Reading

  1. Ah, you’ve heard of us. Thank you for the compliments. We are actively improving and evolving as I write this. In fact, I encourage you to download our app store (it doesn’t lag like it used to) and have a look through our online store again. We have 150+ more free e-books than Gutenberg. 🙂 Do keep in touch. – Lena

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