Welcome to Dear Jane, a weekly column based upon reader mailbag questions on anything relating to e-books. No question is too simple or too mundane. We are all learning together. Send your questions Jane@DearAuthor.com with "Dear Jane" in the subject matter.

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Hi Jane, I'd like to talk some basic care and keeping of my new e-reader. What are the essentials for keeping my brand new reader alive and working well?

- Rhyan

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Photo by Serge MelkiDear Rhyan, So you've got your new e-book reader. Now what? Here are ten tips I use with my e-readers, some lessons learned through painful experience - and approximately how much each item will cost you:

1. Get a case or a screen protector. ($30 - $60) I admit I'm a clumsy person. I've dropped every electronic item in my possession at one point or another. I dropped my iPhone in my garage. I dropped the nookColor getting into my car. I've dropped the Kindle 2 (the end was smushed in). The one thing that has saved me was having a case and/or screen protector. In the case of the nookColor, the screen protector saved my screen as the pebbles marked up the screen protector. I just pulled that damaged protector off and slapped a new one on. The case saved my iPhone. I figure that spending $20 on a case or a screen protector is better than spending 10x that to get a new device once my clumsiness has ruined it.

2. Download Calibre. (Free) http://calibre-ebook.com/ This is an amazingly powerful tool that will help you keep track of your books. I don't know about you but there is nothing more frustrating than realizing you have bought the same book more than once. If you buy at one retailer, sometimes the retailer tells you that you have already purchased that book, but not all retailers. With e-books it is even worse because you can't return it**, give it away or resell it. At its most simple level, Calibre helps to keep track of your purchases but it can also keep a list of your to be read books, your to be purchased books, what you thought of your books, and so forth. It is a really powerful tool and I'll be talking more about it in the coming months. For now, you can take a look at some of the articles already published at Dear Author.

** Kindle has a policy that allows you 7 days to return a mistaken purchase.

3. Backup. (Free) Dropbox, mozy, Mobileme, Sugarsync. These cloud based syncing services are your friends. There are any number of reasons to backup your e-books. First, because sometimes you will buy books that cannot be redownloaded. Second, because sometimes the retailers will decide you shouldn't have that book anymore (this rarely happens, but just in case). Sometimes you might accidentally delete a file that you didn't mean to delete. Backups are for all those occasions and for all other occasions you don't anticipate. These backup services are great because they are free up to a certain storage amount (usually 2 GB which is equal to a couple thousand books) and because they allow you to access the backup anywhere you have web access. If you go on a trip and didn't bring your computer, hop onto a browser and download that sucker. What I also like about the sync services is that these work without your interaction. Designate a certain folder as the location for your digital books and every time a book is downloaded, the service will make a copy for you automatically. For the more experienced (or more adventurous) you can use a cloud based service to create an always accessible catalog of your digital books.

4. Take advantage of the freebies. (Free) I used to just download the free books that interested me but now I download nearly every free book because I don't have to put the freebies on my device and I don't know when I'll want to read something different. Plus, once Ned got his Kindle and we were account sharing, I began to realize that I needed to start downloading the other genres. Remember that you can always delete them later.

5. Don't forget the samples. (Free) E-books can be expensive given that they aren't discounted (for the most part) because you can't share many of them, can't resell them and can't trade them. One way to reduce the chances you take buying e-books (and ending up with a dud) is to use the sample feature. True, some of the samples are worthless, but some publishers will give you a chapter so that you can test out for yourself whether the author's voice will work for you. Samples are free and pretty easy to use.

6. Check out your libraries (but only if you ARE NOT a Kindle user). (Free) More and more libraries are getting into the digital lending business. Lending is generally powered by one company called Overdrive. Overdrive offers ePub and PDF. In the past they had offered Mobi. ePub format works with most generic eReaders like Aluretek and Libratek as well as the more commonly known Readers like the nook, kobo, and Sony Readers. For the most part, ePub works with nearly every reader EXCEPT for the Kindle.

7. You can share but only with really trusted people. (Free) This is sharing e-books beyond the limited loaning. Last week, we covered digital lending allowed by nook and Kindle. However, if you want to share your entire library with a few other people who you don't mind sharing your credit card with, you can engage in account sharing. Basically, this means that other people's devices (like a spouse or child or a trusted friend) are hooked to your account. There is a limit to how many "devices" (versus computers or computing like entities that run "apps") that can be hooked to one account.

8. Get another charger. ($5+) Most of your e-book readers are charged with a USB cord. These USB cords can be generic and cost as little as $5. Having an extra charger around can prevent you from being without a book. Because surely there is nothing worse than being blocked access to your library of books because your device ran out of juice, right? My favorite place to buy stuff like this is eBay, just make sure you buy from a reputable seller.

  • Kindle power cords
  • eInk Nook power cords
  • **Note, the Nookcolor requires a special USB cord to charge so make sure that any power cord/USB cord you buy for the nookcolor is specifically made for it.

Update: Angela James reports that a micro USB works fine with the nookColor. This is the official statement from the moderator at BN's nook forums so it looks like a micro USB will work but only if you aren't using your nook at the same time. It will also take longer:

The nookColor comes with a wall adapter charger designed for fast charging that will charge your nookColor to 80% in 2 hours, and fully charge your nookColor in 4-5 hours. If you operate your nookColor while charging, then the charging process will take longer (depending on activity). When connected to a PC or Mac via a USB cable, nookColor can charge but at a much slower rate and only if the device is not in use. Otherwise using the device will actually consume more power that it receives from the USB cable.

NOTE: We do not recommend using any other wall adapter charger including the original nook charger. nookColor has a custom connector that is compatible with usb connectivity.

While the nookColor connector may appear the same as a microUSB connector, the connector is slightly longer supporting a second set of pins dedicated for charging at a higher rate for a higher capacity battery (when compared to Nook and other mobile devices). As a result the nookColor connector will NOT work in other typical microUSB ports.

However you can use a microUSB connector on the nookColor to sync data from a PC/MAC, but not for the fast charging provided by your dedicated nookColor cable.

One more thing – the nookColor cable should ONLY be used with the provided nookColor AC adaptor.

9. Get to know the words "public domain". (Free) Books are subject to what is called copyright protection. For books that were published before 1923, copyright term has expired and those books are considered public domain. There is also a number of books published post 1923 for which copyrights were never renewed and are also part of the public domain. (Chart here). Books in the public domain belong, in a general sense, to the public. Organizations like Project Gutenberg or MobileRead have taken to digitizing these texts and making them freeling available for download. My mother recently got a Kindle (okay, we gave her one for Christmas) and emailed me excitedly that a series of books that I had read as girl and that she had read as a girl were digitized: The Five Little Peppers. Guess what bedtime reading will be for my tot in the upcoming months?

10. Learn what and how DRM affects you (and where you can get non DRM'ed books). (Free) DRM is short for Digital Rights Management. It is a software key that publishers place on books to prevent readers from sharing the digital book with others. This software key prevents you from buying a book at Barnes and Noble and reading it on your Kindle. It prevents you from converting from a Kindle reader to a nook reader. DRM may prevent you from bequeathing your legally obtained library of books to your family. Essentially, DRM stands in the way of free and clear ownership of a legally purchased book. Instead, you are essentially granted a license to view that book until such time as you lose access to it either because the company you purchased it from goes out of business, stops providing e-books, or decides not to offer certain books anymore (all of these things have happened at one time from major vendors including Barnes & Noble and Amazon). The good news is that there are publishers out there that don't put this software key on their books. Usually these are smaller publishers but it doesn't mean that the quality isn't there. These books are called DRM free or multiformat.

Sincerely,
Jane

You can check out the RT's Reader Forum: E-book Questions Answered Here.

Have an e-book question? Send it to Jane@DearAuthor.com and your question may be featured in her next column.

Tags: RT Daily Blog, E-Book
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