Sony eReader format (LRF) viewer for the Mac, Linux and Windows


Thanks to Kovid Goyal, the Sony Reader’s very own terrible software (iTunes wannabe) can very soon be decommissioned from my software collection. The libprs500 project, multi-platform solution written in Python works very well and allows to move data between Sony and your Mac / Linux / Windows. The UI is actually pretty decent, considering that it is not native Cocoa app:


You can also edit metadata, which is very important because of the limited screen space on PRS500. As added benefit, the application gives you a reader for LRF file format that allows reading unprotected LRF books on the Mac/Linux as well in addition to Windows. Here is a snapshot:


And best for the end: the libprs500 can do format conversion from TXT, HTML, RTF and LIT (haleluja !) as well as PDF – as long as it does not contain too many images. Seems like Christmas arrived twice this winter – and we have still Macworld ahead 🙂

Huge thanks to Kovid who wrote this thing and to Peter who made aware of it …

iPod Touch eBooks reader – problem solved


As I noticed on Apple Website, the SDK for developing 3rd party applications for iPhone/Touch will be available in February. This solves the biggest problem – offline reading – because with SDK, storing a downloaded copy will be trivial. It also will most likely fix the annoying lack of updatability of calendar and add few more interesting apps.

It is only matter of time until the other eBook formats will be be readable on iPod – such as CHM or PalmDoc (non-DRM-ed version).

With only 8 days remaining to Leopard and this anouncement, it feels like Christmas is here early this year 🙂

iPod touch – first impressions


No, I have not bought it yet, to big disappointment of Gabo and Shane – sorry guys. I wanted to buy it but all FutureShop stores in Ottawa are hopelessly sold out and on-line delivery is 7-10 business days – which I hope I will beat if these guys get new shipment (maybe tomorrow ?).

I played with two demo pieces though for about 30 minutes, and here are the first impressions:

The screen is VERY nice. It reads well, and the touch interface is plain fantastic. No issues there. I tried the YouTube videos via wireless – worked OK, I also tried the web interface and was surprised that on such small screen the combination of touch interface and the way Safari renders pages gives you actually very usable browsing experience. Typing on the keyboard works better than I expected – almost no typos.

I tried to open up a PDF file from Web and read it. It was best PDF reading experience so far (on the really small screen – I was comparing to PocketPCs). What works much better is that resizing of the PDF actually works – using the two fingers you can stretch the page and get the character size to what your eyes can handle. I guess it is even possible to read really small fonts this way – you can always increase them so that the page is bigger that the screen and move it around with your thumb while holding it in single hand (although you may get quite muscular thumb after a while :-))

The biggest issue right now is how to read offline. There is no built-in way how to save something from the Web on the device – neither HTML nor PDF – and iTunes will synchronize only music and videos (plus address, pictures and web bookmarks). So you cannot simple load few books and go ahead. This makes it unusable outside of home or other WiFi accessible content. There may be some solution soon as first hacks are appearing – and even officially sanctioned applications for iPhone and iTouch are multiplying nicely and some of them point to right direction. So either Apple will provide these options – or the hacks will bring them, it is only matter of time. The temptation is too large … Another possibility is the direction of Google Gears which could pretty soon bring an offline mode for Web application. This most likely will need some cooperation between Google and Apple -but judging by the keynotes, Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt are good buddies 😉 – let’s keep our finger’s crossed.

I did not test the actual music playing – I had no headphones and the demo pieces had no music (this says something about the professional skills of the sales force in FS).

Free PDF ebook ‘Build your own Ruby on Rails Application’


For sixty more days (actually 59 days and 17 hours as of, or if you prefer to speak Javaish rather than Rubyish, new java.util.Date()) you will be able to download free PDF version of the book by Patrick Lenz Build Your Own Ruby on Rails Web Applications – courtesy of nice guys of Sitepoint.

The book download page is here, no strings attached – all it will cost you is disclosing an email address (book download link will be emailed to you) and bandwidth to get the 20 MB PDF. Mine is downloading right now, so I cannot tell anything about the book yet. It has 447 pages and from the table of content it looks like solid beginner’s book.

As a nice surprise it covers Ruby installation under OS-X 10.5 (Leopard) :-). From the rumors I have heard, Leopard should come with Rails preinstalled and with current version of Ruby (1.8.6) – which will not stay current long because Ruby 1.9 as well as Rails 2.0 are quite close.

So hurry up and get your copy until Sitepoint’s ISP does not disconnect them from excessive bandwidth usage :-). I am not joking, the first surge of download already did take down their server once :-).

After you download – spread the word.

BOTD: The Reader


Today’s Blog of the Day is “The Reader”.

Everything about ebooks and readers – all the stuff I like. See at

Here I discovered that Sony is assumably preparing new version of reader – PRS 505. From the changes that should be included, none is IMHO really so important. The memory capacity of the reader with SD cards (which are reaching 8GB these days) is much bigger than you ever will need. If I should pick some enhancements hat would make a huge difference, it would be:

1) price. Make it accessible, meaning ~ 150 USD (which is about 145 CAD 🙂 – just kidding)

2) content – price and availability of books. The fair price for eBook should not be more than 30-40% of the paperback. Without DRM, of course. Who would want any DRM from the company with 2 rootkit fiasco’s in last 2 years (first and second) ?

3) Software – Sony please stop trying to create these terrible slow knock-off of iTunes, and outsource it to somebody that will write decent client, preferably in Java, so that it runs everywhere. Considering Sony’s software history, making it opensource would help to restore the trust …

Speaking of software, it should provide an easy way how to download and format RSS feed and web pages for offline reading, ideally again something in the way how iTunes handles podcasts.

I do not think that adding WiFi (what many people call for) will work on the eInk device – speed and lack of interactivity would allow to read only very static Web pages, and user input handling would be a big challenge.

New iPod touch as ebook reader ?


As the September 28th is approaching (the day when the new iPod touch will be available in Canada), I have a real dilemma: do I go with the “iPhone without the phone” or not ? The price $329 for 8 GB iPod is pretty high – compared to $279 for 80GB classic – which would allow me to carry all my music, some movies and all podcasts with me. On the other hand, the Touch has WiFi and can be used as pretty decent Web browser on top of iPod functionality.

What will be the decision point for me is probably how good or bad is this device for reading eBooks – as I am real eBook junkie :-). HTML books should not be an issue (Safari), the real question is how the PDF will look like. According this video, reading PDF on iPhone should be fairly OK and iPod touch is  same or better …
And according to this:

“Subjectively, the iPhone’s display is clearly superior to any computer display I’ve ever seen. While this is a function of many factors, the high pixel density plays a huge part in creating the extraordinarily tack-sharp perception”

Hmm, that sounds very good. Reading is all about display – the better screen, the more fun. Especially when you use properly formatted PDF – you can go for example to FeedBooks and use the PDF formatted for Sony PRS 500. It will certainly not offer Sony’s battery life (it lasted for almost 2 weeks during my holiday) or readability in a bright sun … but the screen and UI should make it up.

Let’s hope that the hack allowing install Skype (and other apps) and run it on iPod touch will come soon :-). If that happens, that’s good enough reason for buying it – OS-X in a pocket …

One more reason to like TWIT


As it happens, both my most favorite podcasters – Leo Laporte as well as Steve Gibson are passionate e-book readers. They have both purchased and are (mostly) happy users of the Sony PRS-500 aka Sony Reader in addition to several other platforms – (Palm, Pocket PC). In the latest podcasts – both in TWIT as well as Security Now!, the eBooks and eReader got quite some publicity :-).

Both had similar experience with PDF format on PRS-500 as myself – but Steve mentioned the PDF re-flowing the document to make it better suites for small screen – something I have looked into but did not get it working quite right. The preferred approach to using Reader is RTF format – which again, matches my impressions.

Nice discovery was that some independent sources – other than Sony store – are offering ebooks in LRF format. As an example see McCollum’s books – a hardcore, scientific sci-fi (no dwarves, elves, spells and dragons here :-)). Thanks for tips, gentlemen – I have added McCollum to my reading list.