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Three e-reading tools I wish existed

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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 (s aapl) 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 

19 Responses to “Three e-reading tools I wish existed”

  1. Surprised Laura that you are encouraging people to break DRM.

    Don’t think your employers would be happy if I cut and pasted all the articles from
    Paid Content and set up my own web site offering your content.


  2. Kindled

    this is one of the shallowest posts i have ever seen on a techblog. how is it possible to become a writer on a techblog if one does not even figure out the sepia setting in the ipad kindle app?! :-!

  3. thinqa

    Book clubs thoughts.

    I haven’t gone into the legal issues of the following.

    When I first got my brand new Kindle 3 (about 2 years ago), it was preregistered as “Sue’s Kindle 8”. At first I thought I had got a return, until I realized “Sue” was an employee at a local company that I had bought it from. It wasn’t available for shipping to SA yet and the company had them shipped to a USA address and it was reshipped from there. I then had a light bulb moment and wondered why I hadn’t heard of book clublets setting up single Amazon accounts with no credit card details and gift books into it from member accounts. Either having dedicated kindles linked to the joint account or deregister/registering (a quick process) between member and joint accounts.When you re-register, you lose nothing from the device, until you delete a book and have no access to the book-owning account. (Lose a member, change the password type of thing)

    Anyway, as I said I haven’t scrutinized Amazon’s T&Cs regarding number of devices linked to one account and relationship of owners, but who knows? Some large publishers do impose 5 device limits for some of their products.

    At $15.28 for the book you mentioned, it wouldn’t take many books to justify a dedicated device per member. (Did you notice Branson owns Virgin, the publisher and also wrote a piece in the description. Less of a man and he might have been conflict-of-interest-bashed)

    A big downside would be the shared last-page-read which cannot be separated from annotation syncing, which gets me to the point – Shared account -> Shared Notes.

    Assuming this didn’t pan out for legal reasons, you could still have a shared account with each member purchasing the book on their own account and account-switching to sync the notes – Not 100% sure this would work but I seem to remember user-loaded books can be synced on Kindle 3.1 software and up.

    I was at one stage considering a *.MBP merge facility but the biggest problem is getting the .MBPs off a kindle device – you can’t email file attachments with the “Experimental Web Browser” on a Kindle 3 so unless you have a PC/MAC/(iPAD?) as well you’re stuck. (per book MBP file is where LPR and annotations are kept).

    Hamba Kahle (Zulu for Go Well)

    Tony Wilson

  4. Tony Wilson

    It’s 4:37am Sun here in Durban, South Africa thanks to F.lux on PC I’ve been working in bed all night. Sepia text is in the Kindle Fire and Kindle for PC that I know of. If Kindle for iPad has it it will be under font sizer Aa button. It’s not in the Kindle Previewer which can emulate iPad so don’t expect on Kindle for iPad itself. Have a few ideas on bookclub stuff that I’ll add later after a few ZZZs. Sleeeeep

  5. Waxwing

    I convert my Kindle books to ePub for using iBooks or the Marvin app. Search Google for De-DRM plug-ins for Calibre. I don’t condone this approach for sharing files but only for being able to read the book in the reader of my choice. Perhaps you could use one of the social apps you mentioned.

  6. These women would be better served reading Johnny Dirtbag “Movie Star”. It is highly unlikely that there are any real insights in Gwenyth Samberg’s book, whereas; the understandings gleamed by those women who read Johnny Dirtbag “Movie Star” will give them the edge over those women who have not read it, in “The Glass Ceiling Wars”—-

    • “Once upon a time in the tiny little hamlet of Hollywood, there was a movie producer who wanted to give his daughter the ultimate college graduation present; “The Gift of STARDOM”……………Johnny Dirtbag “Movie Star”

  7. philipstanleyturner

    Interesting article. I use F.lux on my IMac desktop comptuer, and hadn’t thought of it for IPad, though I agree it would be a good idea for nighttime reading. However, in Apple’s app store, I don’t find it. When I enter F.lux, I’m offered something called Leadia.

  8. thebestsophist

    Calibre has a built in web server. It won’t let you decide what format you want on the fly, but you can set one that everything is converted to.