Have you tried to read a book electronically? The number of options to read books electronically continues to grow... and are become mainstream. Here are my current thoughts on this subject as I continue to research this exciting topic.

Books 24x7

If you have a computer, you can read a book electronically. But this also means that you'll be sitting at your computer... desktop or laptop. You'll need to be online to access the books, but some books are downloadable, meaning that you can read them when you're offline.

Once you are a subscriber to Books 24x7... you can search for keywords across hundreds of titles, bookmark books, keep track of what chapter you are on, etc. Even if you prefer to read a printed book, engines like Books 24x7 can help you filter through an enormous amount of content to find the best book for your needs.

All IBM Employees have a subscription to the electronic books found on Books 24x7. You can get to this site via employee home pages. I've found that many schools are going this route as well, so if you are in school, see if they offer you a subscription to Books 24x7. All IBM Press books are on this site as are books from many publishers.

Safari Books Online

Safari Books Online is another electronic book engine, and is essentially the same as Books 24x7. Again, all IBM Press books are here as are Pearson Education and O'Reilly titles. If you are looking for a personal subscription, the prices for Safari are pretty reasonable... and if you're lucky you can find a free trial to Safari Books Online.

Electronic Book Readers

These readers are relatively new and this is where I need to do more research. These are handheld devices that were designed specifically for reading books. That means that they are roughly the same size and weight as a book and the text is easier to read than reading text on a computer. And best of all, they are portable.

The best known ones at this time are Amazon Kindle and Sony eBook Reader. Unfortunately I haven't had hands on time with either of these devices, but I've been talking to people who use them and have been reading what I can.

Amazon Kindle

A friend of mine has an Amazon Kindle and finds herself trying to turn the pages with her finger as she would with a book. That must mean that the Kindle is so convincing that you feel like you're actually reading a book! The books I work on are technical books and I've been told that the Kindle is not the best tool to use for reading books with diagrams and technical text.

Amazon has just released Kindle 2... which was intended to fix many of the problems found in the first edition of the device. Unfortunately some of the early reviews are not very favourable for the new unit. DRM problems apparently.

Some more discussion about the topic from some of my friends:

Sony Reader Digital Book

The Sony folks have a new Reader and generally considered to offer a better reading experience. But their buying content experience is pretty bad.

Plastic Logic

PlasticLogic wins most intriguing reader but won't come to market till 2010 - there's a YouTube on it that is making the rounds.

Iphone with Book App

Iphone getting lots of attention - of course, but all the ebook talk is for very flat content.

Apple Tablet

The next major development will be the Apple Tablet in Q3. It will come pre-packaged with educational functionality/apps and you know they will do a good job.

Here is one article that compares the Kindle to Plastic Logics:

Please join in this discussion! I'd like to know if you've tried any of these readers and if you see value in them. Point me to any other articles that you come across that you think are relevant.

Looking forward to hearing from you!


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Replies to This Discussion

I've had plenty of time to try out the Kindle 2 and I do like it, but still only for casual reading. Some technical material is just too "busy" on the Kindle screen. The text to speech comes in handy from time to time, but it is not enabled for all books. Plus, it is a very "dry" speech pattern and I like to have my books jump into my brain in a much more dramatic fashion.

So, still searching for the perfect electronic book replacement that will work for all my material, txt, doc, pdf and whatever else I come across.
I'm curious about the new B&N nook.... have you seen that yet?
Is 2010 THE YEAR OF THE EBOOK? IBM has been delivering ebooks about our products and technologies for years! With all the new devices, I think this might be the year. Check out my blog entry about the number of books that are available.

Go outside your comfort zone…. with an ebook


Earlier this year I wrote a blog entry entitled Year of the e-Book.  Indeed it has been a very popular year for people trying or switching to ebooks.  In the recently published article Top Trends of 2010: Growth of eBooks & eReaders, author Richard MacManus states that “eBook sales almost doubled over 2010 and now make up 9% of total consumer book sales”.


Although this is significant, there is still a long way to go before ebooks become widely accepted.  I’ve owned my Kindle for a year now and my son has a Sony, so from personal experience, two bookworms from different generations were able to make the switch and love the experience.  When I ask people if they’ve considered one of the ebook readers, they tell me that they would never be able to give up the feel of an actual book in their hands.  My answer to this is that most of us have converted from snail mail to email, so the conversion from printed books to ebooks will happen eventually, but it will need people to first step outside their comfort zone.


One of the things I really liked about Richard’s article was his comparison between printed books and ebooks.  I’ve copied his pros & cons here to add my own opinions:


5 Ways That eBooks Are Better Than Paper Books

1. Social Highlighting
2. Notes
3. Look-up of words
4. Ability to Tweet & Facebook quotes
5. Search

I’ve used all of these features on my kindle, but would like to add that my favourite features are 1) the ability to get sample books.  When I’m out with people and we’re discussing books that we recommend, I can easily build a wish list of books by getting sample chapters for free from  On a recent vacation, I read 5 of the samples that I had recently downloaded and decided that 4 of the 5 were books that I was interested in reading further.  2) The price of a new release in kindle format is much cheaper than the hardcover.  Along with this is the weight.  My wrists hurt when reading those heavy hard cover books!  So now I don’t need to wait for the paperback or trade version of the book, I can read it inexpensively and weightlessly on my kindle!

5 Ways That Paper Books Are Better Than eBooks

1. Feel
2. Packaging
3. Sharing
4. Keeping
5. Second-hand books

I still share books with others… mostly other people lending me their printed books.  I will still pick up used books when I see one that I’d like to read.  But for me, most of the books I’ll buy it the future will be gifts or keepsakes.  At the IOD conference I was able to get books signed by the authors.  Even though I already owned e-versions of these books, I purchased the printed copies to get their signature.  I purchased a few as gifts as well.  One guy had the Freakonomics authors sign his Kindle in permanent marker!!


There are so many choices for e-readers now and the prices appear to be dropping, so I presume many people will be getting these as gifts this Christmas.  If you do get one, step outside your comfort zone and give it an honest try.  You might learn that you like it… like I did!


How about technical books?  Well, I’ve noticed that some of the kindle sample books for technical books are not perfect yet.  One book I downloaded, I ended up with only the Front Matter.  I guess looking at the TOC is important, but I wanted to see what the chapters and diagrams looked like.  I contacted the publisher to suggest that they fix this.


Not all publishers have put their books in Kindle format.  There are still issues that need to be worked through with the profits and graphics quality.  The ipad fixes the graphics quality… so that might make technical ebooks more accepted.


From my perspective, all of our books are in electronic format.  Really if you think about it, IBM has been a leader in electronic formats for information.  IBM Redbooks have been a major source of high quality content for forty years now.  Product documentation with IBM products such as DB2 has been delivered in electronic format through the Information Center or online help for more than 10 years now.  Our published books are made available in Books 24x7 and Safari Books Online which are electronic book libraries.  IBM subscribes to Books 24x7 meaning that all IBM employees can access published books electronically, at no charge.  All IBM Press books and all of our Certification Study Guides are available in Kindle format as well as epub format that can be used on any e-reading device.


Check out another blog entry I wrote entitled “The Mainstreaming of e-Books” that gives a bit more information about some of the e-readers.  Also check out my blog entry from yesterday “DB2 on Campus Book Series” which is a set of books that are only available in electronic format.




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