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Enjoy eBooks on the Go

Everyone associates their MP3 player with music. But if that’s all you do with your player you are issing out. Your player can also bring you audio books.

Audio books allow you to listen to your favorite novels, non-fiction, and lectures in a convenient way -- while you are driving your car, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, on the treadmill, at the beach, on the bus, lying in the dark while your partner sleeps, and many other situations.

Your children will love eBooks too. On long road trips they can catch up on their favorite characters or during sleepovers listen to a favorite adventure story in the dark. You can even listen to the latest (and last) word on Harry Potter on your Sansa Connect.

Audio books started being recorded soon after the innovative cassette tape was introduced to the world. With today’s advances in technology, digitized audio book files are easily portable as an “eBook”. eBooks are electronic audio files of a traditional published book. eBook files can be copied to and played on personal computers, PDAs, newer cell phone models, and many MP3 players (including the Sansa models). eBooks are available in many file formats playable on devices that support these file types.

File Types and the Value of “Resume”

Popular file types for eBooks are audible audio book files (.aa), iTunes audio book files (.aac), MP3 files (.mp3), and Windows media files (.wma).

All commercial music players will play one or several of the main formats – and you can enjoy audio books on any device that plays music.

But you may want to make sure that you are able to “bookmark” your book – or “resume” reading where you left off. Without bookmarks you can find yourself fast-forwarding through hours of recording to find “your place.”

For example, audible audio book files (.aa) have built in “bookmark” features which allow you to resume the book where you left off.

Audio books in MP3 and WMA file format lack a built in bookmark functionality so skipping ahead in an MP3 or WMA audio book file can be time consuming unless your players gives you some other means of bookmarking.. With some devices, you have to start from the beginning of the audio file whenever you shut your device off and start it again. That doesn’t matter so much with a one hour lecture – but it can be murder in the middle of War and Peace.

My suggestion: When purchasing a portable audio device, check whether it has a “resume” or “play/resume” function, so even MP3 and WAV audio book files can be started in the same location when the device is powered up.

Lots of Places to Load Up

Listening to e-booksThere are many sources for audio books available on the Internet.

One of the largest and most popular sources is audible.com. Audible has traditional books in its library as well as magazines, newspapers, podcasts, and radio shows. Books are available in 25 categories and several seconds of sample audio to preview files before you buy them. Most files are available in the audio book (.aa) file format.

For audio books in Windows PlayForSure format or Windows media files (.wma), browse to simplyaudiobooks.com. This site offers memberships for renting audio books as well as downloading audio books. You are allotted a certain number of credits to use each month depending on the membership type chosen.

iTunes also has an extensive library of audio books to choose from in the Mac audio format (.aac). Although originally designed for the Mac operating system, iTunes offers Windows compatible software and audio files available. The iTunes player also allows you to convert MP3 files to a Mac audio book format. Although this format is supported by iPods and some other audio players, you would need to convert such files before playing them on Sansa players.

Jiggerbug.com also offers a huge selection of audio books with several membership options. They have also launched a store on eBay where they sell their used CDs that were previously rentals. This means big savings for you. You can find their second hand CD store here.

Soundsgood.com has what James Patterson fans want, a selection of some of his latest novels! This site also offers you two free audio book downloads to try before you join with a subscription. This offers you the chance to test out there files before you hand over any cash.

Several sites that offer free eBooks are out there, but the selection is not as good, the quality of the files is often not optimal, and the titles available are usually dated. Many local libraries offer audio books in the MP3, WMA, and Windows PlayForSure file formats. A good page for audio file links is here. This page has links to many other sites with audio files.

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-3 of 3 | Latest Comment

August 9, 2007 11:02 AM

A note to "fellow readers":

Tara's piece deals with audio books (where books are read out loud and enjoyed over earphones).

I have also come to appreciate the ebooks that put the printed word on a readable screen. Personally I have gotten great use out of reading all kinds of books and documents using Microsoft Reader (free software) over my various PDA's.

[the first person who figures out how to put a readable book file on the Sansa eSeries or Connect -- post a report for us right away!) 

There is a great recent article on this that appeared in the New York Times (in case you are interested in this format for books):

An Entire Bookshelf, in Your Hands

WHEN Paul Biba, a lawyer in Bernardsville, N.J., finds himself stuck waiting, he likes to pull out his Nokia E61i cellphone and read one of the 20 or so books he usually stores on it.

reading on a deviceThe virtual bookshelf in his pocket currently has science fiction like “Falling Free” by Lois McMaster Bujold, all of the novels of Anthony Trollope and Charles Dickens, “Eminent Victorians” by Lytton Strachey and the September issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

“Once you get use to having books with you, you get use to reading in places where it never occurred to you. If I’m waiting in line at the supermarket counter, why not read one of my science fiction magazines?” he said. “Believe it or not, I’ll sit down in my chair at home, pull out my phone and read a book.”

The Sony Reader, a book-shaped electronic device that displays easy-to-read print, is not the only machine well suited for reading electronic books. Many cellphones and personal digital assistants have screens with a resolution fine enough to rival that of the printed page.

The bright virtual pages, along with other advantages like weight, capacity and a built-in reading light, are gradually drawing readers. The International Digital Publishing Forum, a trade group for sellers of electronic books, estimates that retail sales of e-books grew to $8.1 million in the second quarter of 2007, up from $4 million a year earlier.

For ease of use, it is hard to beat the Sony Reader. Sony’s thin nine-ounce tablet comes with a high-resolution black-and-white screen that uses little power, prolonging its battery life. The Sony Reader is intended for moving through a book, offering buttons that let you flip pages with one hand and software that formats the text to fit the screen. (Cellphone readers use a cumbersome number pad, which is made for calling, not browsing.)

The drawback is the $299 investment for the Sony Reader. Cellphones, on the other hand, are a sunk cost: You already bought one for making calls, tracking e-mail and messaging friends.

Mr. Biba loves the flexibility, and even takes his cellphone to bed with him. “If I’m reading in bed and I don’t want to wake up my wife, I can use my phone and read in total darkness,” he said.

Most of the advanced cellphones, as well as laptops and P.D.A.’s with larger screens, can do a good job of displaying words with special “reader” software. Mobipocket (mobipocket.com), a French company owned by Amazon.com, and eReader.com, a division of Motricity, distribute two of the most popular applications.

But there are many options. Fictionwise.com, a bookseller that supports many formats, sells some new novels as multiformat packages that let users choose among 10 readers from companies like Microsoft, Franklin or http://custom.marketwatch.com/custom/... title="Adobe">Adobe. Microsoft’s Reader (www.microsoft.com/reader), for instance, works only with versions of Windows running on PCs or PocketPCs. Adobe distributes a PDF reader for most major platforms, including cellphones, which runs the Symbian OS found most commonly on Nokia phones.

The basic readers are available free, but some companies offer enhanced versions for a price. The “pro” software from eReader.com costs $9.95 and offers a bundled dictionary and more sophisticated features like auto scrolling. There are also open source packages like Plucker (plkr.org) available free. Many people install several readers so they have at least one that matches the format of the book they want to read.

Advanced cellphones with large screens, like the Palm Treo or the Apple iPhone, can usually display e-books formatted in basic standards like the PDF or HTML, but their controls are not optimized for long texts. (The drawback: many cellphones have bright displays that drain batteries faster.)

The iPhone also has a screen that is larger than most other cellphone models, and what is on the screen is displayed more crisply. But it has no custom book reader and no easy way for developers to rewrite their reader package for the phone. The company is deliberately pushing programmers to package their content for Safari, the Mac Web browser bundled with the phone. Users who want to read books on their iPhone need to choose HTML or PDF formats.

It is only a matter of time before users create tools specifically for the iPhone, said Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg, a repository of e-books no longer under copyright protection. “The iPod was only out one week before we had e-book readers running on them, so it will be no surprise if there are multiple sets of programs, readers and formats for the iPhone,” he said.

Indeed, Stephen Pendergrast, the chief technology officer at Fictionwise.com, said his company is trying several formats, including narrow PDF files with margins set to the screen’s width.

Prices for digital books are often lower than those of printed versions, but the difference may not be as great as people assume. “On the e-book side, the author gets a higher percentage,” said Mr. Pendergrast. A bigger cut for the author means less for the publisher, and so the publisher charges more to cover costs. The price of a best seller at Fictionwise is $6.79 with no shipping charge when you download it from the site. Amazon typically charges $7.99 for a paperback best seller and requires an order of $25 to qualify for free shipping.

Sony is promoting its Reader heavily by including 100 classics like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” with the device. Its e-book prices are generally lower than those of hardcovers, but the difference shrinks with the discounting offered by conventional booksellers. For example, “The Quickie,” by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, the top seller yesterday at Sony’s ebooks.connect.com, sells for $15.99 after discounts, compared with Amazon’s price of $15.39 after its discounts.

Free content can be found on sites that collect older books no longer protected by copyright and newer books released with licenses that encourage open sharing, like those from the Creative Commons. Project Gutenberg’s Web site delivers books like “Ulysses” by James Joyce in formats like plain text, HTML and Plucker.

Manybooks.net offers many of the same books in a wider array of formats. Its Web site will even produce customized versions with your personal choice of margins.

A single flash memory card can carry hundreds if not thousands of books, depending on the length of the text and the complexity of the layout.

As the readers and the devices become more common, e-book publishers are noticing a shift in tastes. The early best-seller lists were dominated by science fiction novels and other titles favored by men, who, not coincidentally, also tend to buy gadgets.

But lately, the lists are led by romance and women’s fiction. The top seller at Fictionwise yesterday was “Lady Beware” by Jo Beverley. The top seller at both Mobipocket and eReader recently was “The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever” by Julia Quinn.

“The public’s attitude is that electronic media is disposable,” said Nick Bogaty, the executive director of the International Digital Publishing Forum. “Mystery and romance are priced lower, and there’s an argument to be made about trade e-books that the consumers want a lot of product, and they want it relatively inexpensively.”

Another advantage of the format, he said, is that “on the subway, you don’t need to be embarrassed by the cover.”

It's all about the music, man.

January 22, 2008 1:13 AM


Unfortunately the Sandisk Sansa e280 (or e280R) is absolutely
useless as an Audible, or WMA / MP3 book e-Book player.

The unit was recommended as ideal by a "salesperson". Said I
could place the books on the system, like PodCasts, copy them
over, or even store them on the micro SD card.

Great I thought.  The e280 facts:

Pro:

1] Great storage capacity 8 gigs!  Yeah!

2] Great Battery life, but it must be plugged in to charge
(Duh!). - When plugged in, you cannot listen to the unit if
logged on (default) to the charger, must be tethered until fully
charged. Forget extended travel.

3] Good quality sound.

4] Potential to replace the battery (must use special micro
screwdriver).

5] Fair sensitivity FM receiver. Signal has to be strong. Forget
about fringe reception. The FM is just minor icing to the player.

6] Will receive global FM frequencies, great when traveling abroad.

7] Stores and views pictures and movies... but think about it!

Con:

1] Does not play Audible [even thought stated in the Tech Spec sheet]

2] Fast forward is only about 10-15 seconds. So to fast forward a
3-6 hour book is impractical. No easy rewind.

3] If you turn off the unit or take a break, often the unit will
go back to the beginning or to the next book, another 10-20
minutes to find your place.

4] Impossible to go backward if you missed 2-5 seconds. It will
go back to the beginning if you accidentally press and let go.
You have to HOLD the "|<<" key firmly without slipping to rewind.
The rewind is not controlled in fixed increments, but similar to
the fast forward ">>|".  In book reading it's convenient to
FastForward in large increments, and Rewind in small increments.
Poor control surfaces. Need "Braille", or anti skid type
surfaces. Ideally, raised so you can FEEL the button.

5] Flat controls, easy to accidentally go to the next or previous
book, another 10-20 minutes to wear down your finger nails or
WEAR DOWN THE WHEEL.  If you have no finger nails, it's a non
issue, just read from beginning to end in one sitting.

6] Books get scrambled across directories according to some
scheme better left to music.

7]  Proprietary non standard computer interface, albeit, appears
to be solid.

8] The recorder portion? Your cell phone will make better
recordings. The record button is awkward, and an after thought.

Bottom line.... the Sansa e280 IS NOT an e-Book player.  It is
ONLY for music.

FWIW, I since got an Olympus DS-40 [512meg], and have found solace.
(part of the series: DS-30, DS50 and now DS-60 [2 gig])

Pros:

1]  Audible, PodCast, WMA and MP3 compatible (has indexing).

2]  Adjustable fast forward and rewind.  I set mine at 5 seconds
rewind and 15 minute fast forward. (Yes! It's adjustable) 4 push,
and I forwarded one hour - else just use the index mark.

3]  AAA removable batteries. I'm using 800 mA NiMH rechargeable
when traveling, AND if I need too, I can always buy regular
batteries locally. About 20-30 hours of listening/recording time
per charge depending on battery type.

4]  The recorder is FANTASTIC, very clear, and can be used for
conferences, lectures, notes, etc. See the Tech Spec for details
and features.  As auto sound sensing - so you can record
discretely for documentary purposes.  The microphone is USB
wires, so it's good with Skype / WebCams.

5]  Can be used as a storage drive.

6]  Easy to use buttons. Very intuitive. Raised controls.

7]  Microphone is removable (Stereo!). Unit is compact.

8]  Computer tether uses a standard USB interfaces at both ends.
Once I traveled overseas, forgot my cable, but picked one up at a
local computer/photo/hi-fi store. Cheap. Non-proprietary. Same
cable as external USB drive, or camera interconnect.

9]  Variable playback speed!! You can even listen to chipmunks .

10] You can safely delete and manage the files on the road.

Con:

1]  Storage capacity too small for e-Books, however great for recording

2]  Not Rhapsody compatible (vs the e280R - not my gig anyway)

3]  No fancy album covers with the songs.

4]  Cannot play movies or display postage size pictures.

5]  Does not re-organize your music according to its own fancy.

6]  Clear easy to read MONOCHROME display...

7]  No SD card! Why I initially went with Sansa.

8]  On board memory is small and not upgradeable. DS-60 is only 2
gig and $$$ !! Again, why I bought Sansa.

===================================================
Conclusion based on the Sansa e280 (version ??):
===================================================
Great for random music - and not concerned about filing
methodology. Good sound.

Great for traveling; has global FM frequencies (needs a STRONG
signal), but needs special dedicated charging source and file
transfer.

Cute looking. Fancy blue light. Can be used to find your way at
night.

Terrible AND useless for structured playback, e-books, and voice
recording.
===================================================
Technical Support:
===================================================

Excellent... Sandisk told me that it was not Audible compatible -
honest and true.

Wrote that there is a v2 out there, but not clearly branded, that
"may" later have a firmware upgrade for Audible. I have no idea
how I will know which version I have. Interestingly, the e280, is
also branded e280R with a Rhapsody logo on the back.

AFAIK, the v2 is still not e-book friendly.

The Sansa e280 broke (read failed) after 4-5 weeks - system lock
up with white screen - good support and diagnosis after several
calls over 2-3 days and several FTP & re-format attempts. Tech
Support confirmed that the unit was indeed broken, and not a miss
manipulation on my part. Replaced quickly and efficiently with a
new unit (late 2007, have no idea which hardware version). s/h
paid by Sandisk. Very courteous and nice. Support spoke native CA
English.

===================================================
The above is posted BECAUSE THE MANUAL CLEARLY STATES:

"The Sansa e200 enables users to play MP3, WAV, WMA, secure WMA,
and Audible files." p.4

"Digital Audio Player – supports MP3, WAV, WMA, secure WMA, and
Audiobook files." p.5

ref: http://www.sandisk.com/Assets/File/pdf/guides/e200/e200_userguide_en.pdf

WRONG WRONG WRONG, the unit does not meet specifications, and
Sandisk does not own up or refund the product. Store would not
take it back, as I discovered the flaws after a couple of weeks.

Unit is now happy somewhere in the bottom of a drawer. I guess it
will not have a chance to break again.  I may give it to a 12-15
year old.

November 13, 2008 6:16 PM

I there there is some confusion of usual terminology in this article. "Ebook", for example, is the almost universally accepted term for text files that contain books that you can read with your eyes on the screen of the computer or on the screen of a portable device such as a Palm. They can also be printed out and read on paper although I don't think that's done much.

Books that you listen to are generally referred to as "audiobooks". Places that have both types, such as Fictionwise and Gutenberg would be in trouble if these terms got confused.

Another bit of confusion, although this is not universally accepted, is in the use of the terms "resume" and "bookmark". Nearly always, but not always, "bookmark" refers to a way to set a mark in the book at a place or several places that you might want to come back to. Bookmarks of this type can also replace or backup the resume point. "Resume", on the other hand, usually means the ability to continue a new listening session where you ended the last session. Sansa players do resume but they don't have bookmarks.

Sandisk themselves are helping to confuse these terms by calling "resume" "auto-bookmarking". Other players and most users in most forums use the terms the way I've described above. A number of players do have bookmarks. Some examples are various Creative Labs players and Cowon players.

Bookmarks have another use in a player that lets you set multiple bookmarks in the same file, as many do; if you sometimes fall asleep listening as I do if I listen in bed, by setting a bookmark every little while the last bookmark is not too long before I fell asleep and, since my resume point is no longer valid in that case, the bookmark saves me. I do this all the time.

One more correction: no file has a bookmark feature. Neither Audible nor MP3 files have this. Players have the bookmark feature. In the case of Audible files, in order for a player to call itself Audible Ready, it has to resume when playing Audible files. If it doesn't the manufacturer and sellers can't refer to it as Audible Ready and Audible won't support it. So players, in order to be able to sell to Audible listeners, add that feature. Some, such as Creative Labs and Cowon, add it with any files they play. Some add it only for Audible files. Some, such as Ipods and Sansas, add it for Audible files and provide a way for users to make other files resume.

Audible doesn't require bookmarks, only resume.

Please accept these comments as an attempt to be helpful. Overall it's a good article.

Barry

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-3 of 3 | Latest Comment

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