E-books have never been more popular, but despite all of the attention they have gotten recently, there isn’t a universal e-book format, and we must contend with the many different types of e-books and e-readers that are available. Here’s a rundown of the popular e-book formats that are available today and how to use them all.
Adobe PDF is the most well-known e-book format; it’s been around since 1993. Adobe provides a free PDF reader with Adobe Reader and offers a commercial product called Adobe Acrobat for creating PDF files. Other programs also provide the ability to create documents in PDF format such as Microsoft Office 2007, OpenOffice and many freeware tools.
The Amazon Kindle series of e-readers has its own .azw format (a variation of MobiPocket format). Amazon has released free Kindle readers for the PC, Mac, iPhone & BlackBerry, which will allow you to read Kindle books without a Kindle. Here’s the Kindle library of e-books, which also includes some free books.
Barnes & Noble Nook hit the streets in November 2009 and is a serious challenger to Amazon’s Kindle. The Nook is based on Android, and supports EPUB, PDF and PDB formats. Just like Amazon does with its free Kindle reader, Barnes & Noble also provides a free eReader for multiple platforms (PC, Mac, iPhone and BlackBerry). You can also find a bevvy of free e-books on the online library.
Sony has several models of e-readers available. It has its own eBookStore where you can download e-books and free readers for the PC and Mac. You can use this player to read free books you can download from the eBookStore, as well as from Google’s book library, which contains over one million public domain books available. Sony Readers support the following formats: BBeB Book (LRF/LRX), PDF, TXT, RTF and ePub.
Microsoft Reader introduced the LIT format in 2000. I can’t believe it’s been a decade since Microsoft unleashed what it hoped was going to be the PDF killer. Sadly, that revolution never transpired, but Microsoft Reader is alive and kicking and free for creating and reading e-books on laptops, desktops, tablets and Windows Mobile devices.
Apple announced support for the free open e-book standard EPUB (Electronic Publication) in its iPad when it introduced the iBooks e-reader app in January. Obviously, it’s much too early to tell how good this app will turn out to be. However, based on all of the pre-orders for the device, one can safely guess that this new format will become popular very quickly. Apple’s iBookStore will have content from publishers Penguin Books, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan Publishers, and Hachette Book Group USA.
Which e-reader do you use, and why?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Irrational Exuberance Over E-Books?