Psion Epoc eBooks and Text Readers

The best miniature eBook readers on the planet

Standards do not exist in eBooks. Common formats for book files work badly on PDAs.

On this page

Background about book formats.

Avoid proprietary formats
Book readers
Conversion programs
Reviews of readers

ASCII should always work, and valid HTML is always a good compromise. Adobe PDF is very common but is also a very poor match to small displays. There is an attempt at an Open eBook standard based on HTML and XML, probably with a browser alternative as reader. Given how common Palm books are, their Aportis Doc compressed format is also worth considering.

Avoid Proprietary Formats

Unfortunately, there are several attempts at pushing proprietary ebook formats that can only be used by a single operating system. I will never buy any of these, and I strongly recommend avoiding them. Rocket eBook by NuvoMedia uses hardware protection and uses a proprietary format (subset of HTML) in a reasonably compact reader. Adobe Glassbook Reader is a Windows only reader that requires IE as a browser, using variations on Adobe and HTML and proprietary software known as Electronic Book Exchange (EBX). Microsoft make a proprietary reader that only runs on a Pocket PC (and, naturally, under Windows). Franklin do a proprietary reader slightly larger than a Palm. Softbook Press have tablet sized reader, which downloads by phone. EveryBook is a dual colour passive LCD notebook computer sized model that opens like a book.

I also have considerable philosophical and practical objections to formats that attempt to lock out conversion of files to other formats, and that implement file security. I suggest boycotting such works and telling authors and publishers that you are doing so.

Readers under EPOC

Anya Designs Ltd
Hypertext reader with compression and search facilities. They have a Classics Library and a Law Library available for subscription. Brighton U.K. Phone 01273 504178 www.anya-designs.demon.co.uk
DocReader
eBook reader, file format unknown www.epocware.com
eBook
Version 1.02 Freeware by Simon Quinn. Uses Psion .tcr format, and also text, Aportis DOC, and Palm PDB and PRC. Recommended by Mike Martino. Zoom text, insert bookmarks, view horizontal and vertical, keyword search. Movement is a bit limited (no concept of pages). From 3Lib. Shoresystems
eBook
Version 2.1 of Simon Quinn's product was shareware for £10. Supports compressed and uncompressed Palm (Aportis) DOC file (.prc and .pdb), the old Psion 3 .tcr format, and text. Does not support HTML or other formats. Has autoscroll, scrollbar, clipboard, 80 bookmarks, EPOC font file support. Has DOC and TCR recogniser for ER5, and EPOC .grd font support for international fonts. Does horizontal and vertical display. I understand 2.3 this has been freeware since late 2002, despite being a very competent reader. Code for registration is XM32349101 (Nokia version is 15438888) www.geocities.com/ebookepoc/
eRead
Freeware by Nicklas Larsson. Text and Psion Word page oriented viewer. Very similar to a book, but can have two page or full screen justified format. Up to 50 bookmarks per text. Pagination, font and bookmarks for each text are saved. In beta when last noted, Formerly at w1.318.telia.com/~u31802901/nicbit/epoc.htm
Mobipocket
Offer a number of eBooks, and yet another type of reader freeware. I understand MobiPocket will support the Open eBook (OEB) format, which is sort of like compressed HTML. Also reads Palm Apprortis DOC format. Will present text in one or two columns, but does not do a vertical read. Has hyperlinks (as has Tome Raider). Rich text, HTML, Bookmarks, Table of contents, Font size management, Full screen mode, Full justified text. Can generate a unique identifier for each machine using a reader, probably for use with commercial products. Requires cookies to access the site (which I dislike). Has free MobiPocket Publisher tools available for producing books in PRC (Palm) and MS Reader (LIT) formats. Download the actual Psion version of the reader (which works well) from www.mobipocket.com/soft/MobipocketReader_Psion_US.exe www.mobipocket.com www.openebook.org
pdbRead
View Palm Pilot files on your EPOC machine, with PdbRead Have you ever felt envious of your Palm-carrying colleagues, with the tons of free databases which they can download from the Net? Cheer up - Palmaris Medical have released PdbRead, a new application by Shane McKee which allows EPOC users to view many of the most commonly used Palm file formats. DOC, JFile, MobileDB, HanDBase data, MemoPad, LISTdb - all can be viewed with PdbRead. Use pdbRead to convert the files to the EPOC Data format so you can edit. When tested as a reader for HTML based PRC files (various novels) it put a lot of junk on one side of my S7 display, but did show them. Help files says to use eBook reader (I prefer Mobipocket) for DOC or compressed files. www.palmaris.com
Portable Document Format (PDF)
Free Acrobat Reader displays a modified version of Adobe PDF, which is derived from Postscript. Versions exist on many platforms and it does a pretty good job of keeping text looking like the original. Sander van der Wal keeps working on it, and in December 2000 announced a commercial version, Pdf+, which adds printing, copying of text, bookmarks, link and URL following. I was a beta tester, and it is impressive. In June 2001 Sander announced version 1.10, with embedded font display, automatic column following, font substitution, supression of errors in the PDF file after the first reports. Version 1.25 appeared in April 2002. Check Sander's description of how the PDF porting was done at http://www.symbiandevnet.com/techlibrary/techpapers/Techcomms/pdf_port/PDF_Port.html and also check Sander's web site for the C++ code, giving an example of a large C++ proting effort. www.mBrainSoftware.com Get Pdf for EPOC PDA's
PdfPrinter
Create Adobe(R) Acrobat(R) files, also know as PDF files, on your Symbian OS powered device. Pdfprinter is a printer driver, this means that almost all programs that can print, can now also be used to create PDF files in the device itself. Version for Psion and compatibles (www.mBrainSoftware.com/Psion/PdfPrinter/PdfPrinter.htm), and one for the Nokia 9200 Series Communicator (www.mBrainSoftware.com/Nokia/PdfPrinter/PdfPrinter.htm)
Tome Raider
Sabs Kovax and others. Shareware. Has very handy List and Page views, structures information well, is very fast, and handles giant database documents well. Not free, and a propriety format, and may be locked to serial numbers. Only handles Tomeraider format files. PC based Tome Binder utilities readily available to produce files. Looks interesting, but I am resisting proprietary formats. PC version also available, as are Windows CE. www.yadabyte.com/
vReader 5
Freeware. Gives some false "end of file" messages, I'm told. I gather it hasn't been updated in some time, but seems fairly complete in version 2. It supports txt, pcd, pdb, tcr (Psion 3), Aportis DOC (Palm) and HTML. Seems pretty complete. Bookmarks, search, screen numbers, horizontal and vertical left or vertical right display. SIS install. Some crashes. Handles HTML badly. No URL known. Author is jean-luc damnet, jldamnet at antall.com

Conversion Software

Aportis document format for Palm
There is a freeware program on the http://www.aportis.com web site called MakeDocW. This will convert any text file into .prc format, make sure you tick the compress box though. This is intended for Palm users converting stuff on a PC but works fine for other users. Source code is available as well as binaries for Linux. They also have a Windows based PDF to Aportis DOC converter, which produces a saller file than a PDF. http://www.aportis.com now seems to be TechBuyer
Makedoc7
You can convert ASCII versions of books into Psion eBooks using Makedoc7. The .tcr format used by EBooks and VReader on Epoc (and Reader on SIBO) is more compact than ASCII text or the Aportis Doc format Palm use. Shoresystems.
MobiPocket
They have a free converter that can make many different format ebooks, including Palm and Microsoft. Sounds like a handy tool www.mobipocket.com

Quick Review of eBook

I tried version 2.08 of Simon Quinn's shareware eBook on some free sample SF novels from www.baen.com said to be in Palm .prc format. eBook extracted the compressed file, however when it displayed the file, it included html like coding, making reading very difficult. While I am suspicious about the format of the book files, on my first test, eBook just didn't really work.

Quick Review of Mobipocket

Version 3 was able to easily display the above .prc files. It appears to works equally fast, and did not produce any problems.

Quick Review of early PDF

I tried version 0.80 of Sander's PDF reader on a variety of .pdf test files. The novels all worked fine. However some technical manuals had very large full stops (up to a half page) in areas that had a graphics character (bug in the Psion graphics). Also the same manuals displayed incorrect characters for a registered trade mark, and for the copyright character. All these items displayed correctly on the PC version of Adobe Acrobat.

Basically, PDF is not an appropriate format on a PDA for viewing books and magazines, especially books and magazines designed for the printed page. This is because you can not change the letter count in each line, nor the line count per page. Sander has attempted to compensate with a wide variety of zoom options, however it is just too easy to encounter material that is too wide to easily handle. This means pushing the zoom to the limit (and not being able to read the text), or doing a lot of horizontal and vertical scrolling.

Despite this, if you encounter PDF files, you don't have any choice. I remind you that lots of Psion documentation is in PDF format. This is available, and works very well given the limitations of the display. I suspect texts designed for the Psion display sizes would be fine, but texts designed for Letter page printing or done in two column formats are just a total pain.

Review of PDF+

Placeholder - but it was real good.

Quick Review of Tomeraider

Tomeraider only handles its own format, but is now available on a variety of PDAs, including Psion, Windows CE, and Palm, and on Windows. It provides both a list view and a chapter view. It works fast, and can handle large files such as dictionaries and small encyclopedias. The sample version blocks access to some pages, but is otherwise fine for evaluating the product before purchase.

This site will look much better in a browser that supports W3C web standards but it is accessible to any browser or internet device, including Psion Web and similar PDA or limited browsers. Netscape 4.x users - turn Style Sheets off. Your style sheet support is too broken to use (sorry).


ericlindsay.com -> epoc -> software sites -> readers

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