Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reading E-Books Off-line

There are a lot of links to free e-books and other on-line documents on this blog and on my web site. It might be helpful to readers if I explained how to read these off line. Usually if a document will take more than a few minutes to read, I convert it to a text file and read it on a PDA. I have a Pocket-PC and I use the Handibook2 e-book reader software. (The PDA and software are quite old so I don't know if that software is available for current PDA's. Also, newer PDA's may be able to handle non-text documents better than old ones, so you might not need to convert to text to read a document on a newer PDA.) If you read a lot, you may save money in the long run by buying a PDA and reading free-e books from the internet.

If you try using a PDA or other type of e-book reader such as a kindle and you read a lot, try to notice if you wrist or shoulder starts to hurt. You may need to be careful of how you hold the device or how long you use it to prevent wrist or shoulder aches. Also, if the PDA uses standard batteries, you might consider buying rechargable batteres. If the unit comes with a rechargable battery try to notice if you have to place it in a docking cradle to charge it. It can be awkward to use the device while charging if it can only charge in a docking cradle. It is better if the recharger plugs directly into the unit itself.

I've also used a type of bed side tray to read from a laptop computer while lying in bed. This might be an alternative if you want to read a lot of e-books and don't have a PDA. This type of tray stands next to the bed but extends over the bed. It is similar to the type of tray you often find in hospitals but is designed to hold a laptop computer. It works, but is a bit too confining to be really comfortable.

Converting E-Books to Text Files.

If an on-line document is not already in text format, sometimes it can be tricky to convert it to text. Here are some methods for converting on-line documents to text:

(Some on-line documents may have copyright restrictions on how you can use them. Please do not use these techniques to voliate any copyright restrictions.)

  • Save as text. If possible choose "save as" from the file menu on the application you are using to view the book, and save the book as a text file. This is obvious and simple, but it doesn't always work....

  • Pdf files that are page images. If you have a pdf file where each page is a scanned image, you can't simply save as text since there is no text in the file. What you can do is print to a file and select fax as the type of printer. On the printer settings try to set the resolution to 300 dpi if you can. If the settings don't go up that high, set them as high as you can. Name the file with a .tif extension. Then you can use optical character recognition (ocr) software to convert the .tif file to a text file. I use Text Bridge which came with my scanner. There is also freeware ocr software. When I last tried it, it didn't work well, but that was several years ago. Hopefully newer versions will work better.

  • Locked pdf files. Some pdf files are in text format but have saving to text disabled. You can print these files to a generic postscript printer and then open these file in gsview. Gsview is a freeware software package that allows you to view and convert postscript and pdf files to various formats. From gsview you can convert to text by going to the edit menu and selecting text extract.

    If that doesn't work, sometimes you can open the pdf file in gsview and then save as a pdf file by slecting convert from the file menu. Then chose pdfwrite as the device on the dialog box that opens. This new pdf file should let you print.

    If that doesn't work you can always fall back on the ocr method.

  • Single HTML files. If the document is in one large html file you can either save to text from your browser or select all and copy and paste into a text document.

  • Multiple HTML Files. If the e-book is in multiple html files, check the web page to see if there is a link to view the whole book on one page or download the book in one file. If not, it is usually not too hard to simply open each file and copy and paste them successively into a text file. I have written programs to download a list files and paste them together but I rarely use it because it is really simple to just open the html files and paste them into a text file.

Sources Of Free E-Books

The sources listed below are not a complete list. You can find many more sources of free e-books on the internet by using an internet search engine like google or yahoo.

  • Spirituality and the Afterlife.

  • All Subjects

    • ManyBooks This site has books sorted by subject so it is a good place to browse for something to read. They have books from other e-libraries so they can be a good place to start looking for something to read.

    • Project Gutenberg It can be a little hard to browse the catalog, but if you know what you are looking this site is very good.


    • Google Books Not all of the books here are free. You have to check for a "Download" link near the top of the right hand column.

  • Science Fiction

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