Three e-reading tools I wish existed

Books and e-reader ebooks e-reader

The past couple years have seen a flood of e-reading apps and tools, but as far as I know, these ones don’t exist yet. I wish they did. I hope you’ll add your own wishlist in the comments.

Book group iPad app that supports Kindle

A bunch of my girlfriends and I are about to start a virtual book club to read Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. We’ll be reading it on our respective devices and then talking about it together on a private message board.

Most of us will be buying the Kindle version of the book, and I wish there were an iPad app that let us open the Kindle file within it and then create our own private conversation around the book — highlights, notes and so on. There are already plenty of social reading iPad apps — Readmill, Subtext, Copia — but they either don’t support Kindle books and/or don’t let users create a private discussion.

If you’re wondering why it has to be Kindle, by the way: It’s the device/format that all of my friends already use. That’s going to be true for a lot of book groups, and so it seems as if any book club app is going to have to support books bought on Kindle.

Interim solution: We’ll be reading the book on respective devices or in print, and then we’ll talk about it together on a private message board.

E-ink mode for iPad

I like to read ebooks on my iPad before I go to bed, but I worry that the back-lit screen messes with my eyes and sleep patterns. I wish there were an e-ink mode or a filter app that changed the type of light coming from the iPad screen — not just a dimmer but something that actually made it look more similar to an e-ink screen, with no glare. Apple actually has a patent on this type of hybrid display, so it might be a feature we see on an iPad one day.

Interim solution: The app F.lux changes a screen’s brightness and tint based on the time of day.

A Web-based Calibre

Calibre is free ebook management software: You can use it to store your ebook collection, convert ebooks to other formats, send ebooks to e-readers, download content from news sites and turn it into an ebook, and so on. There are also a number of third-party plugins that add new features to the service. For example, there are Calibre plugins that break the DRM on an ebook. That means that, for example, you can buy an ebook from Barnes & Noble, break the DRM on it, convert it to a *.mobi file and read it on your Kindle. (That isn’t what publishers or retailers want you to do, but with Calibre third-party plugins it’s possible.)

Calibre is downloadable software, but I’d love to see a web version that lets readers store all their ebooks in the cloud, convert them directly within a web browser and then email them straight to a device. That way, users could access their files from anywhere.

Interim solution: With a couple hacks, you can sync Calibre with Dropbox. That’ll let you access all your ebooks where you have Dropbox installed, but you won’t be able to convert them to other formats. Also, be warned that it looks as if Dropbox has cracked down on this in at least a few cases.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Borys Shevchuk 

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