E-books in a non-Amazon world
January 2, 2019 4:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm doing a good job of not buying stuff from Amazon...except ebooks. The $1.99 Kindle specials are hard to resist. The books are normally the same price at other online booksellers, but I have an old Kindle Basic. Buying a Kobo reader is an option, although a pricey one. Does anybody have personal experience with cheap tablets or Android e-ink devices as your primary reading device? Any recommendations?
posted by COD to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm generally a paper-book person... But when I'm traveling, I enjoy reading epubs on a 2gig Nook Simple Touch I got for $25 on Ebay. I just sideload it with epubs and read away. I like the fact that it has physical buttons as well as being able to turn pages by tapping the screen.

(I rooted it with Android 1.[something] just for kicks but you don't have to do that. I'm not really using any of the Android functionality anyway.)
posted by cnidaria at 4:45 PM on January 2, 2019

I buy my ebooks (or get them from the library) in whatever format they're available in, then convert them to .mobi using Calibre and send the files to my kindle via email.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:54 PM on January 2, 2019 [11 favorites]

I use the Kindle and Nook apps on my Samsung tablet, and they work just like a Nook and Kindle. I have both of those too--a first generation Nook that is on it's last legs and a Kindle I bought off Woot that was refurbished. The apps are just as good.
posted by chocolatetiara at 4:54 PM on January 2, 2019

I know you're probably looking for advice on using a different device, but you can borrow e-books that will work on your current devices already, without giving money to Amazon. Have you checked out their offerings?
posted by peppermind at 4:55 PM on January 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I use an android tablet (RCA Viking 2, an older 10" model) and it's really convenient - there's a Kindle app and a Kobo app for purchased books, and I use Overdrive for library books. My library also offers Hoopla and RBdigital for magazines, so my cheap-o android tablet really ticks all the boxes for my reading needs. I like the 10" screen because I like to use large fonts for ease of reading.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 4:55 PM on January 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Honestly I read a lot on my iPhone (Kindle app) instead of my perfectly good Kindle paperwhite - probably just the convenience factor. I second Calibre for converting things if needed, and my brother in law would tell you that you could get a good Kindle in craigslist or FB marketplace or whatever selling app/site is popular where you live.
posted by fleecy socks at 4:57 PM on January 2, 2019

The magic words are "Apprentice Alf" - that's the blog that has instructions for removing the DRM so you can load your ebooks on whatever device you happen to have. For Kindle books, I use Calibre with the de-DRM plugin; this requires installing an older version of the Kindle Reader on my computer, because some ebooks otherwise are in newer versions that the anti-DRM software won't fix.

I read on an ancient Sony PRS-350, because I insist on e-ink with buttons instead of a touchscreen to turn the pages, and there is literally nothing else on the US market right now. (There's a couple of options available through Amazon; all of them come from overseas companies and there's no tech support.) I used to have a Kobo mini, and I hated the interface; the navigation and sorting options were minimal.

That said, I've also read ebooks on my iphone; there are a number of apps for it that all work with non-DRM'd ebooks.

If you're looking for other ebook stores, Smashwords is a self-pub distributor, where a lot of authors who've reclaimed their formerly traditionally published works set up shop. (Also a lot of random indie works by people who can't write. No really. I mean. I read unbeta'd fanfic and I cringe at some of the stuff at Smashwords.) The other two mainstream ebook stores are Kobo and Barnes & Noble; they have the same DRM issues as Amazon (and pretty much the same fixes).

Other non-DRM ebook sources skew heavily toward self-pub and public domain, but there are some nice options in there.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:19 PM on January 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

I do most of my reading on an iPad or on the Kindle app for PC. When it comes right down to it the main thing the app is doing is displaying some words on a page which is not exactly super taxing on the hardware. Just about any device should work fine, and the official Kindle app is available for Mac, PC, iOS, and Android.
posted by phoenixy at 5:25 PM on January 2, 2019

The big advantage of eInk devices, especially front-lit ones, is ease on the eyes, which is why you will pry my Kindle Paperwhite from my cold, dead hands (though I do often read on my iPhone or iPad). My sister, who has issues with light sensitivity, finally gave up her Kindles for a LikeBook Mars, an Android eInk tablet with lighting she loves and the ability to load Google Play services to get proper Android apps. She, like me, strips her Amazon books of DRM, but she also grabs library ebooks from any public library that will let her sign up. When and if I do give up my Kindle, I'll be seriously considering a Likebook.
posted by lhauser at 7:22 PM on January 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have several Nooks, the e-ink kind, and like them very much.
I love the e-ink and probably would not read on an electronic device with a regular screen.
You can side load books on the Nook, Calibre works great and you can shop from there too.

Used Nooks are pretty easy to find. I have more than I need.

Barnes and Noble has an ongoing "books for $2.99 or less" sale or something similar that usually features 100-200 books and changes frequently. That's where I get most of my books. It's just a lot easier to shop right from the Nook for me, so I'll sometimes pay $.99 for something I might be able to get for free.

The Internet Archive is pretty good for older books.
posted by bongo_x at 7:54 PM on January 2, 2019

Oh, and I neglected to mention: The Nook Simple Touch I got can use up to a 32 gig SD card. And it's e-ink. I think you could download directly from the store as well, but I sideload because I generally am reading free epubs.
posted by cnidaria at 9:15 PM on January 2, 2019

I prefer the epub format to mobi for ebooks so bought a used kobo aura 4gb for £40. Works great and was cheap enough I don't care about losing / breaking it as has happened to previous ones.
posted by JonB at 10:11 PM on January 2, 2019

The library and Calibre?
posted by liminal_shadows at 11:06 PM on January 2, 2019

I love my Kobo, and you can find used older models with e-ink on EBay that work fine.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:00 AM on January 3, 2019

The NOOK Tablet 7" is $50 and seems to have a decent screen.
posted by Ferrari328 at 4:37 AM on January 3, 2019

I have a Kindle, and a couple of tablets, but I've come to do all of my reading on my smart phone using the Moon+ Reader app. Since it's always at hand there's not much need to bring another device along with me just for reading.

The Moon+ app is almost infinitely configurable - you can choose background color/style, font, adjust the brightness as well as the font size with a tap, opt to enable/disable the built-in blue light filter. You can even read in landscape mode with a layout style that replicates the appearance of actual pages and spine of a book. That's my preference, since it feels more familiar and hence more comfortable.

The app is also pretty file format agnostic, so I generally don't have to be concerned about compatibility; on the occasions when it can't handle a certain format, I can convert it using Calibre.

There's a similar app called CoolReader that isn't as configurable as Moon+, but it too works very well as a general ebook reader.

Incidentally, I have both apps installed on my Android tablets, too - just, I don't keep those in my purse at all times, and so they don't get used for reading as much as the phone does. TBH, my phone is used as an ebook reader more than it's used for anything else.
posted by Lunaloon at 6:07 AM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nthing the Nook Simple Touch - I just checked on ebay a few days ago and many are under $30. I got a few free ones from Kobo, however, and I was not able to load them onto my nook. Unless others can confirm that kobo-> nook works for them, you'd be better off buying from Barnes and Noble. Yes I know there is doom and gloom about them closing, but if you buy and download the book, it will be on your nook even if they fold.
As far as cheap tablets, older iPads will still work well if you are just using them to read books. If you can find one in your price range, it's worth a try.
posted by soelo at 8:53 AM on January 3, 2019

I got a few free ones from Kobo
By that I mean that I got a few free books (not free nooks).
posted by soelo at 8:58 AM on January 3, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks all. I ordered a used Kobo because my local indie bookstore is a Kobo affiliate so they'll get a commission on my Kobo purchases.
posted by COD at 2:36 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Kobo has some ebooks that are "kepub" format, and not convertible to anything else. But mostly, they're DRM'd through Adobe Digital Editions, and ebooks either need to be read on a device registered to the same account (you can have up to 6 on an account, including a computer, and it's a pain to remove one to add a new one), or they need to be filtered through a DRM remover to be reloaded onto something else.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:53 PM on January 3, 2019

I have both the Kobo app and Google Play books on my Android. They work great. And I get free and low-cost ebooks through Bookbub.
posted by Enid Lareg at 3:42 PM on January 5, 2019

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