eBooks Need Better PR
It's evident that Adobe continues to win the eBook war because they have successfully branded one thing well - .PDF files can be read anywhere. Microsoft and Palm Digital Media could both take a good lesson from this. Based on customer service related questions I handle for Lockergnome's GnomeTomes eBook site, the majority of users believe that Palm Reader only works on Palm OS devices and Microsoft Reader only works on Pocket PC devices.
Microsoft Reader actually works quite nicely on all the recent Windows platforms. If you've got a desktop running Windows, download MS Reader and try it out. Cool features like having the text read aloud, and ClearType fonts make MS Reader a solid choice for many types of eDocuments. In addition to a desktop version, and the Pocket PC 2002 version, there's also a version optimized for the Windows Tablet PC platform. The reader is free on every platform, and despite some seriously annoying DRM features that could be in play; MS Reader's .LIT file format is a healthy alternative to .PDF.
I've mentioned the pervasive nature of the .PDB, or Palm Reader format, several times before, but in this context it bears repeating. .PDB is the most natural competitor to .PDF, because like .PDF, it can be read virtually anywhere. Windows, Mac, Pocket PC, and Palm OS devices each have their own Palm Reader application. If you don't want to use the official Palm Reader, there are a zillion other readers that recognize the .PDB format. To Palm's credit, Palm Reader Pro, an upgrade with more font options and some customizable background choices, has embraced the concept of skinning, letting the user choose their own reading interface or create their own.
Both Microsoft and Palm have made the eBook presentation process more visually appealing; by making it easy for content creators to fully customize their offerings, although MS Reader is guilty of unnecessary file bloat. Palm Reader, on the other hand, does a nice job of keeping files slim and trim; presumably because Palm devices don't use Compact Flash media, which is growing in capacity by the day. If you haven't tried either format, download both readers and some of the available free files, on your PC, not your PDA, and enjoy an eye-catching alternative to .PDF.