Blind World Magazine

Understanding e-books

Deccan Herald, India.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006.

For the tech savvy, leafing through hundreds of pages and savouring a book may be a thing of the past, thanks to digital books. S B Viswakumar explains how to access and read such books in your computer.

Have you ever thought of reading a novel on a computing device while you're on the move? Do you wish to find words and place bookmarks in the book? Try an e-book. They are the digital editions of physical books, journals, newspapers, magazines, and newsletters.

From literary classics to fiction to non-fiction, you'll find millions of e-books on the web. According to International Digital Publishing Forum, the number of e-book titles published increased by 20 percent in 2005 compared to the previous year. The Forum also mentions that over 1.6 million eBook units were sold in 2005 alone.

Free books.

The Web also has hundreds of free e-books, you may want to download one to get a hang of it. To get a list of sites that offer free digital books, use a search engine and type keywords like 'free e-books'. Microsoft offers free e-books from the University of Oregon e-Asia project and from the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center. You can find these as well as books you can buy, in the Microsoft Reader Catalog of e-books


Adobe too has an excellent one-stop resource for e-books at its e-bookmall


Here you can find links to a number of e-book stores, both in the general and educational categories.

Although the price varies from book-to-book, you can be sure that you pay much lesser for an e-book than for the same paper book.

e-book Readers.

To read an e-book, you need an e-book reader like the Microsoft Reader


or the Adobe Reader


Both of these tools are free. When you download the reader, just be sure to download the one for the device you wish to use. While the first of these readers opens e-book files in .lit format, the second reads digital editions in .PDF format. Both the Microsoft Reader and Adobe Reader require you to activate your computer before you can read digital books. Activation ensures the copyright protection of e-books.


e-book reader software are pivotal to the success of the digital books. Take an academic book in electronic format for instance: The reader facilitates you to read the text and allow you to make notes, on a particular concept in the book, and place it in the margin. To open the notes, you just have to click the Notes icon. The left and right arrows inside the notes allow you to navigate through your comments. Use the Highlight option to mark important points, as you would with a highlighter pen in the paper book What's more, you can easily erase the marks just with the click of a mouse.

After you launch an e-book, you can scale the font to a comfortable reading size. The typographic technology that a reader uses - such as ClearType, for example - make your e-book reading experience almost similar to reading a paper book. In an e-book, however, you can use the 'Find tool' to search for a particular word or a phrase - even across hundreds of pages.

When you half-finish reading a story book, you perhaps place a bookmark to quickly return to the page where you left off. With digital books, should your reader support it, you can place more than one bookmark and specify a colour and a name for each bookmark.

Some readers, such as the Microsoft Reader, provide you the option to make drawings in the digital editions. You can make drawings with the pencil tool in the margins. The same tool also lets you underline, strike, or circle words. You're not limited to just the default black pencil colour; you can choose a different colour from an array of more than ten choices. Want to remove all the sketches? A single click of the pencil icon erases all the drawings in the page.

If you've made a lot of notes in your e-book, the Annotations option, if available, gives you a quick access to not only the list of notes, but also to any bookmarks or drawings you have inserted. Just click the relevant icon in the annotation index, and the reader will take you to the page with the item very fast.

As you're reading a book and encounter an unfamiliar term, you reach for a dictionary and flip the pages to find the word and its meaning. With a reader that links to an electronic dictionary, the definitions are at your finger tips. For instance, the free Microsoft Encarta Pocket Dictionary


which works with the Microsoft Reader, gives definitions of thousands of words. To use this digital vocabulary, first download it. Then, start the Reader and open an e-book. Highlight a word you want to familiarise and right-click. Select Lookup. A window pops up with one or more interpretations of the word.

For visually-challenged persons, and for children who would rather like to listen to the story rather than read it, the read-aloud option can be beneficial. Microsoft Reader supports this feature what it calls as the Book-to-Speech functionality. For this to work, you've to first install the Text-to-Speech package


Next, highlight the paragraph or page you want to listen to, right-click, and select Play. The Reader plays the audio using a synthetic speech engine. Adobe Reader also has the read-aloud option. In the 6.0 version of this software, click the View menu and move the cursor over the Read Out Loud choice and select either the Read this Page Only or Read to End of Document options. In both the readers, you'll hear the program read out the text in American accent. Unless you can comprehend this voice, you would find a neutral accent along with a control over the speed more useful.

End of article.

Any further reproduction or distribution of this article in a format other than a specialized format, may be an infringement of copyright.

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