Retro Kindle: eBooks on Newton

Newton was the original eBook reader

Depending on who you ask, Amazon.com’s Kindle is a either a hit or a waste of electronics. The free web and book browsing, where you can find it, is a good thing. The outrageously-priced electronic books, however, are not good. And some think the Kindle won’t actually make people read more books, but simply attract those already-book-readers that have been dying to clear some shelf space. At most, the Kindle is a handy “information device.”

For those who aren’t willing to shell out $399 for a eBook reader, you can rely on your Newton to do the same darned thing – for free.

You see, before there was e-ink or Wikipedia, there was the Newton eBook. Every Newton released has the ability to read an eBook: a Unicode-based, read-only electronic document that supports tables of contents, some images, and internal links.

Downloading Newton eBooks is as easy as downloading a “.pkg” file from a site that provides eBooks, like Newton’s Library or StillNewt.org. Matt Howe recently offered the Newtontalk list a free copy of Robert’s Rules of Order for anyone who asked. Even the venerable UNNA.org has a list of available books.

Applications like Newton Press allow you to make eBooks and package them as “.pkg” files for download (here’s a handy tip site).

Now you don’t even need a Newton MessagePad to read your eBooks. Newton’s Library has provided a Firefox extension that allows you to read them on your browser. The effect is pretty cool:

Newton\'s Library Firefox eBook reader

The Firefox extension lets you read Newton eBooks in a little window, and converts the “.pkg” files to readable text.

The Kindle has the ability to seek and find free eBooks as well, as Merlin Mann over at 43folders.com points out (after he did so on the terrific podcast, MacBreak Weekly). Plus Project Gutenberg is a worthy project that is putting its library of 100,000 eBooks (HTML or plain text) into the hands of readers. All they ask is for a donation.

So if you’re looking to dive into the world of eBooks, you have options. Yes, you can opt for the Kindle – a modern, capable book reader that has a steep up-front cost but freebie options available. But this is Newton Poetry, and for more of a “project” or unique feel to your eBook reading experience that’s sure to turn heads, opt for the MessagePad version.

7 comments.

  1. I had no idea about the Firefox plugin for Newton Books. That’s brilliant.

  2. It is, and it works really well. The window to read the eBooks could be a little bigger, though.

  3. [...] Retro Kindle: eBooks on Newton, Netwtonpoetry (blog), 06/26/2008 [...]

  4. [...] mix of spy and war thrillers, science fiction, fantasy and classics”) to the Newton’s easy-to-use eBook format: Some of them are in the public domain and others are books that I own hardcopies of but they have [...]

  5. [...] That means no more Newton eBook Reader on Firefox until the add-on gets [...]

  6. [...] listen to music on one, with a little push and pull, and the Newton’s eBook format is still in use today, with tons of titles available. All before Amazon.com ever [...]

  7. The trouble with Newton eBooks is the lack of full-screen viewing on the Newton. Books I make using the Windows version of Newton Press only offer one resolution size when read on the Newton – or am I missing something in the settings?

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