My recent decision to try a Kobo ebook reader and the research I did as part of that decision made me remember things about my history with ebooks.
1998 - 2003Back in 2000 I owned a science fiction and fantasy web directory. I started getting listings from amateur micro publishers of this new thing called “e-books.“ Most of the earliest ebooks were science fiction or fantasy novels which is how our paths crossed.
No major publishers were selling ebooks, the publishers were all small with varying degrees of expertise. Most ebooks were being sold on CD-ROM disks usually in HTML, TXT and sometimes PDF formats. Many ebooks were self published. eBook publishing was tiny but growing rapidly. I took an interest in the technology of ebook even though I wasn’t actually reading them myself. Somehow, reading books on my desktop computer had no appeal.
But about this time I bought my first ebook reader: the Rocketbook. The Rocketbook was actually a very comfortable device but the problems were lack of titles and very limited battery life.
2003 - 2008Somewhere along the line, I switched to reading ebooks on a PDA. Ebooks had grown. Publishing had become more professional, but the big publishing houses were still holding back. I know there were many competing electronic formats to publish books in. Reading on a PDA required having several reader apps that could translate different formats. You had to download ebooks to your desktop PC, connect the PDA with a cable and then transfer the ebooks to the PDA. It was all cumbersome, but the PDA was small enough that I could carry it anywhere and therefore read anywhere. I read a heck of a lot of books on various PDA’s.
During this time I was mainly reading free public domain ebooks but I also started buying from publisher Booksforabuck which is still around! I also started buying from the best ebook store ever: Fictionwise. See what Fictionwise looked like at Archive.org. I really liked that store. Unfortunately it got bought up by Barnes and Noble and discontinued as reading on PDA’s declined in the wake of dedicated readers like Nook, Kindle and Kobo as well as the new iPhone and later Android devices.
Barnes and Noble was very good about letting me migrate all my 160 Fictionwise ebooks to their Nook platform and I can still access them using a Nook reader app.
2008ish - CurrentIn 2012 I bought a Kindle Touch which is still in service (knock wood) before that I was using the Kindle apps to read on smartphones and tablets. More recently, I bought an 8” Kindle Fire tablet to read on in bed because of the backlit screen.
I’m finding as I get older that I like reading on my smartphone less. I kind of prefer a larger reader screen. I also like some kind of lighting for the screen as my eyesight is weaker. Full size tablets seem too heavy although I do like that smaller 8” Kindle Fire tablet.
Which leads me back to the Kobo reader mentioned at the beginning of this post. The Kobo accepts a lot of different formats for ebooks and lets you load them from your computer using software like Calibre. With new books finally entering the public domain again in 2019 and each year from now on, I wanted a reader that would let me load these.