By downloading appropriate software, you can use your desktop or laptop computer to download, manage, and read e-books without shelling out even more money for a Nook or Kindle. I like that I could copy-and-paste from a book to an article that I'm writing in Word -- a great advantage over having books on e-readers.
Of course, you won't want to carry your laptop to the beach, the batteries won't last as long as in an e-reader, and it won't be easy to read outdoors as on one of those paper-like screens. On the other hand, you can't read those paper-like e-reader screens in dim light, and you might need that extra money for keeping the lights on.
If you already have an e-reader, don't worry about transferring books. Once you purchase an e-book, you can read it on either your e-reader or on your computer.
- The Barns and Noble website offers free Nook software so your iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Mac, or Windows computer (including desktops, laptops, and netbooks) can access the Barns and Noble on-line bookstore. The software permits highlighting, taking notes, and creating bookmarks as you read, and you can sync bookmarks between different devices. B&N claims to have more than twice the library that Amazon has.
Nook books use files in the .epub and in Palm's eReader PDB formats. Nook e-readers can download newspaper and magazine subscriptions, but B&N's website does not clearly state that the Nook for PC software has that ability.
- The Amazon website offers free Kindle software so your iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Mac, Windows Phone 7, or Windows (including desktops, laptops, and netbooks) can do what a Kindle does: access Amazon's on-line bookstore and read your purchased e-books. The software permits highlighting, taking notes, and creating bookmarks, as well as synchronizing your highlights, notes, and bookmarks with your other devices.
I really like that the Kindle software has a built-in dictionary. You select a word in the text and get the definition. Great idea, but I doubt the dictionary has that great a quality. Besides, you could always open your favorite browser and search on "definition [big word]".
Kindle books use files in Amazon's .azw format, plain text .txt files, and Mobipocket's .mobi and .prc formats. That means you can find more e-books on sites such as Fictionwise, Mobipocket, Webscriptions, and Project Gutenberg. Beware, though: Books from other sites such as Mobipocket won't work if they have DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection, even though, ironically, Amazon owns Mobipocket.
- Nook and Kindle e-readers and software can display files in Adobe's .pdf format, but not reliably. They can't display some graphics, formulas, and tables.
No problem! Your computer should already have Adobe's free Adobe Reader. If not, use the link I just gave you to download and install it.
- Recommendation: A lot of e-book file formats exist. Calibre (they spell it with a lower-case 'c') provides one solution for Macs, Linux, and Windows computers. Their free e-book viewer software (donation requested) can manage libraries of e-books having a number of formats. Calibre can also convert files between a number of common formats. Since you can download e-books from Amazon and B&N with your browser, you might not even need to bother with their software.
The B&N software can sync e-books on your computer with your Nook, and Amazon software can sync them with your Kindle. If you have them. Calibre works with the Nook and Kindle, too... but it also supports Android phones, Apple iPhone and iPad, Airis dBook, BeBook/BeBook Mini, Binatone Readme, Cybook Gen 3/Opus, eClicto, Ectaco Jetbook, Entourage Edge, Foxit eSlick, Hanvon N515, Irex Illiad/DR1000, Iriver Story, Italica, Kobo Reader, Longshine ShineBook, PocketBook 360, SONY PRS, SpringDesign Alex, and the Teclast K3.
Remember that the free Adobe Reader still is the best software for reading .pdf files.
However, I have downloaded many free books that are formatted for e-readers, so I need appropriate software. If you're like me, you will find the recommendation above to be your best solution.