I just finished reading The Financial Lives of the Poets, which will go down in my personal history as the first digital book I’ve ever checked out from a library. All the dozens and dozens of e-books I read previously came from Amazon or from Project Gutenberg or a smattering of other sites that offer free books. The problem was that I had no way to read ePub books. Kindle doesn’t support that file type–yet–and I have been unwilling to shell out dollars for another reader, just to be able to access library books.
Luckily, my long-time web surfing habit served me well this month, when I discovered txtr. From what I can tell, txtr is a German company that is partnering with Adobe Digital Editions, which handles ePub books for both the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. Prior to txtr, I would have had to read any library book I checked out on my laptop, which totally doesn’t appeal to me. But txtr has an Android app that somehow makes Adobe recognize my phone as a supported device. I can then read the library ePub book on my phone.
It seemed to good to be true when I initially read about it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it. I installed the app on my phone, perused the BPL website, chose a book, downloaded it, and then walked through the steps to get the book on my phone. Guess what? It worked! Sort of. I mean, it did work, but it wasn’t the greatest reading experience. The default font size isn’t huge, but there are weird “margins,” so the default font means seeing only a few words on the screen at a time. Since I was reading a book with “poets” in the title, I really did think for awhile that I was reading a long poem. Really. I did.
When I figured out what was going on, I made the font as small as possible and then I was seeing a decent strip of text down the middle of my screen, but I had to squint sometimes to read it. The app doesn’t appear to save your place, the way the Kindle and Google readers do. But it has bookmarks–yay! But the bookmarks don’t work–boo! I basically had to always stop reading at the end of a chapter and use the table of contents to locate my spot.
I daresay I won’t be reading library books all the time using txtr, but I’m watching for app updates. I did send an outline of its problems to the feedback address on the txtr website. I hope the creators find it helpful and we see a really good reader very soon.
txtr does a few other things. It allows file sharing, uploads, and downloads. It lets you clip parts of webpages to save for later. (Similar to Instapaper, if you’re familiar with that.) And it does have a store. You can buy books there, but all the prices are in euros and the text is in German. Handy if you’re in Germany, maybe not so much if you’re anywhere else.