After a discussion in the irc channel about reading ebooks and software that can be used to do it, I thought I'd make a post about one such freely available reader and a format that some may be unfamiliar with.
MS Reader is a free download from Microsoft. It is available in a desktop version as well as a version for Pocket PC. The file format it uses is .lit.
I have both versions and I have to say I enjoy reading ebooks on my Pocket PC more than on my desktop. There is nothing quite like curling up with a good book, and the size & shape of a Pocket PC allows me to have that familiar 'book in my hand' feeling without the dust and ink fumes in the pages to irritate my eyes. It allows me also to read in the dark, in the back seat of the car on a long trip. I can also carry tons of books on one small compact flash card. Books in the .lit format are pretty small.
On the desktop, it is almost as good, and you might want to give it a try.
MS Reader will allow you to do some of the things that you'd do to a print version of a book...and more.
Books can be searched, set multiple bookmarks, make text notes and highlights...you can even doodle in your book in a variety of colors. All of this stuff can be hidden or deleted when you no longer need it.
You can adjust the size of the text to what is comfortable for you, and it has Clear Type text so it's easier on the eyes. You can even sit back with your eyes closed and let it read to you, if you want.
There are a number of titles available for free, and even the ones that are not free are much cheaper than the traditional hard copy versions. You do not have to register your copy of MS Reader with an email address or passport account unless you plan on buying DRM restricted books. It will work perfectly fine unregistered with most public domain and free titles.
Download MS Reader
Download free Encarta Dictionary and translation dictionaries
Download many free public domain works to try with it:Abacci eBooksUniversity of Virgina Free Ebook Library
A Google search
can find even more free titles.
And if you like it and are ready to purchase ebooks, check sites like Amazon.com for the MS Reader format next time you are shopping.
screenshot of desktop version with an excerpt from Agatha Christie's The Secret Adversary
(free ebook file size: 168kb):
I like my text big...it allows me to relax my eyes while reading.
note: if you delete a book from your MS Reader library, you also delete it from your hard drive, so be careful and make backups of whatever you are deleting first!