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Comparing Ebook Stores and Formats

Once you've purchased an ereader, where will you buy ebooks? Each ereader is associated with an ebook store and supports certain ebook formats. Comparing these can be as crucial to your purchase decision as comparing the hardware.

A sizeable ebook store and support for a variety of popular ebook formats provides the largest selection of titles.

Ebook Stores.

Amazon sells ebooks for Kindles; Barnes & Noble sells ebooks for its Nooks; Sony maintains a sizeable ebook store for its Reader devices; and Kobo's library is also quite extensive. Ectaco doesn't have a library for the JetBook Mini, but the device can read EPUB files, which is the format most ebook libraries use. Ebook readers can also buy material from online ebook stores, such as Fictionwise.com or Ebooks.com. And most local libraries maintain inventories of lendable ebooks.

Compared to prices of print books, ebooks are a virtual bargain. Lots of ebooks sell for less than $10 and best-sellers typically cost less than $15; some ebooks are even free. Many libraries lend ebooks at no charge, usually in the EPUB format. You can also find more than a million free ebooks from Google and online bookstores. These free ebooks are typically classics whose copyrights have expired, such as Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, and other well-known titles from yesteryear.

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Ebook Formats.

Older ebook readers sometimes support a variety of text, audio, and image formats, but today's devices focus mostly on text, with support for a few image formats. The more text formats an ebook reader supports, the easier it is to find reading material. Perhaps the most popular ebook format is EPUB. Many libraries, bookstores (such as Barnes & Noble), and online vendors make books available in the EPUB ebook format. Nook ereaders and the Kobo Mini support EPUB as well as Adobe's popular PDF format. The Ectaco JetBook Mini can read EPUB files after they've been converted using Calibre software. Other ebook formats include TXT, Mobi, and RTF. Our top picks among budget ereaders also support JPG, GIF, and PNG image formats.

Amazon‘s Kindle ereaders and ebooks stand apart in the virtual world. They use a proprietary format called AZW, including a newer version called Kindle Format 8 (abbreviated as AZW3, curiously) that allows more behind-the-scenes formatting options such as drop caps and support for HTML5 files. Kindles do not support EPUB and cannot read ebooks that are DRM-protected files purchased outside of the Kindle library. Kindles can, however, read TXT and PDF files and they do support the common image formats noted above.

Titles purchased at ebook stores are often DRM-protected, meaning they will work on your ebook reader and PC but not on anyone else's. Sharing is out and everyone has to buy their own copies. (Nooks and Kindles are exceptions to this rule: If you own a Nook or Kindle you can share an ebook with another user of the respective device for up to 14 days.) Most ereaders include support for DRM-protected EPUB and PDF files by using a product called Adobe Digital Edition, which manages and "approves" DRM products on your ebook reader. All the ereaders on our list are compatible with at least some DRM-protected ebook formats. Libraries have accommodated to the many formats, so borrowing ebooks should be hassle-free.

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