The Paperless Book - A Guide To eBooks And Audiobooks

Tue, Oct 2, 2007


Here’s an idea: You’ve probably already using your iPod or Mp3-player (from now on I’ll call it iPod, even though I use a Creative Zen Vision:M, its shorter!) on the train or plane, in the car or on your bike, but why not let Stephen King read his latest book for you? Or perhaps you prefer Alan Greenspan and Bill Clinton or Sara Gruen and Julia Sweeney? This is already possible and you don’t even need an iPod for it.

You can sit at home and listen to the audiobooks in the couch in front of your Dali speakers. Audiobooks aren’t a new invention. I used to listen to Tintin (Belgian detective comic by Hergé) on cassette tapes. Usually read by the author himself or by another with a great recording voice. Of course, the tapes were in Danish in my case, since I borrowed it from the children’s department at my local library. Because of the internet and digital mp3 music it is only natural that audiobooks are converted into media files, like mp3 and ebooks. Ebooks are textfiles, often in pdf-format, that you can pay, download and read on your laptop or PDA. The obvious advantage with the ebook is you can bring books like Bill Clinton’s “My Life” everywhere. You can actually have your entire bookcase with you. Perhaps it isn’t relevant with fiction, but very handy with non-fiction. According to some experts the days of the printed books are limited, though sales numbers show otherwise. I have to admit that I still prefer to read paperbacks on the beach instead of the technological formats.

Click and Buy

Several stores offers audiobooks. The most obvious one is iTunes. You simply click on iTunes Store and choose Audiobooks. If you don’t like iTunes, there is an alternative like and, which often offers 2 for 1 audiobook downloads. You can download everything from Harry Potter and James Bond to travel guides and poetry. If you prefer to read sites like offers everything from Body, Mind & Spirit and Humor eBooks to Architecture and Sex eBooks. But what about quality?

Price and Quality

On you can buy the audiobook Bag of Bones by Stephen King for $42. Whereas the eBook Bag of Bones on costs $6.99. That’s quite a price difference, but it takes hours in a studio to record an audiobook, than to produce an eBook. When buying eBooks you are usually guaranteed quality, perhaps not of the content, but of the production. It all depends on the quality of the screen you use to read your eBook. I wouldn’t read an eBook with many pictures or illustrations on my PDA or phone. Unfortunately you can’t always be sure of the quality with audiobooks. Sometimes they are recorded in lousy studios or the narrator just isn’t good enough. Don’t worry though, usually you can listen to a sample before you buy and thus avoid poor narration.

Electronic ink is the future

Audiobooks and eBooks can be used on your laptop and pda, while audiobooks also can be played on most cell phones, iPods and other Mp3-players. But the future also holds dedicated eBook-readers like Sony Reader and iRex iLiad. Both are based on “electronic ink” and therefore a lot easier on the eyes than a regular screen. An alternative for audiobooks could be Playaway. At you can buy a really simple player with earphones for $30. The player is the audiobook, which you can delete or replace, when you are done with it. Instead Playaway suggests that you give it away to friends and families.

I really like the idea behind Playaway, my grand mother, who doesn’t have a computer, can now enjoy an audiobook and a fairly cheap price. Now she just needs to learn English, but I guess that can be arranged too… Read more about the possibilities on Sony Reader, iRex iLiad and Playaway.


If you want the ultimate eBook or audiobook experience I can recommend the following products.


Originally I wanted to say Creative Zen, but everybody knows Apple’s iPod and the accessory list is almost endless. The battery promises up to 20 hours and you can get up to 80 Gb harddrive. Price: from $80

Fujitsu Siemens Stylistic ST 5112

This tablet PC promises 10 hours of battery life and a weight of 1.6 kg (3 lbs). 12″ screen and a safely mounted harddrive ensures that you can use the tablet outside. It also features an Intel Core 2 Duo, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and card readers. All in all an optimal platform for eBook reading. Price: $3000

Dell Axim 51-416

This PDA has a great 3.5″ colour screen with a 240×320 resolution, 64 Mb memory, card reader, Bluetooth and Windows Mobile. It’s a great platform for both audio and eBooks. Price: $410

Sony Reader

If you are American this is a great product. It is based on electronic ink, but because of Sony’s standard and regulations you can only use eBooks from Sony’s Connect-stores and their own eBook-format. On top of that only Americans can buy and download eBooks. Price: $300

iRex iLiad

With it’s 8.1″ big electronic ink screen the iLiad is optimal for long time reading. You can even write on it, adding your own notes. It also features Wi-Fi and 64 Mb memory which can be expanded with memory cards. iLiad can show eBooks in the Mobi Pocket and Adobe Reader format. It can also show various picture formats.

Tips and Tricks

Audiobooks and eBooks are delivered in various formats each with their advantages and disadvantages. Audiobooks first:

MP3: Audiobooks in this format can be played on every Mp3-player and computers without any trouble.

WMA: Requires a WMA-compatible player or a Windows PC. Usually you can’t copy it and it’s very messy to work with. I don’t recommend using or buying this format.

M4P or MP4: Can be played on iTunes and iPod. iTunes usually use this copy protected format (DRM). M4A is the free format, which can be found on iTunes as well. Because it’s used on iTunes this format is more common and therefore the recommended copy protected format.

OGG: Open standard format without copy protection. Unfortunately not many players are OGG or Ogg Vorbis-compatible.

When you buy audiobooks check if the audiobook can be burnt on a cd and how many times it can be done.

eBooks are also available in various formats:

Adobe Reader: The well-known PDF-format can be read on many platforms. The built-in copy protection can cause a few problems.

Mobipocket Reader: Again this can be used on many platform, but it’s interface and text-presentation isn’t optimal.

Microsoft Reader: Very clear text even on small screens and very easy to use. Requires Windows-PC or Windows Mobile (Pocket PC).

When buying eBooks check if you can print it and how many times.


Of course you have a top-notch speakers or earphones connected to your PC or MP3-player, so I won’t tell you to use some good ones, but if you plan on listening to audiobooks on your MP3-player make sure it can resume playback when you turn it off. You might not always get to the end of a chapter, so this way it’s easier to resume the “book”. Also make sure your audiofiles are sorted after name, so you get the story in the right order.

When reading eBooks the size and quality of the screen matters. A PDA with a large backlit screen is preferred and if you can switch it into landscape-mode that’s even better. Of course you can also use your notebook, but a tablet-PC is preferable.

What is your experience with eBooks or audiobooks? Which one do you prefer? Which hardware do you use?

A few offers to get you started. Buy One, Get One Free!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Viewing 3 Comments


blog comments powered by Disqus