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Microsoft Reader
August 14, 2000 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Microsoft Reader is out. Did MS finally make a decent product, to really spark ebooks. Or is it more of the same?
posted by owillis (17 comments total)

 
I wouldn't know. I'm on a mac.
posted by tiaka at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2000


Considering how little the thing does (display text) it's an amazingly large download (7 megs). I also have a pet peeve about setup files named "setup.exe" (could we be a little more descriptive?), but that's another matter. The real question is, what does this program add that was previously lacking in the text on screen world? Why not just use PDF, for example. I'm stumped.
posted by Outlawyr at 12:22 PM on August 14, 2000


What it adds (from the publisher's point of view) appears to be controls on copying, printing, etc. Of course, from the consumer's point of view, that seems more like subtration.
posted by harmful at 12:28 PM on August 14, 2000


Did MS finally make a decent product, to really spark ebooks?

Hard to say. I haven't tried the product, although I would if there were some free samples. I doubt I would enjoy reading most books on monitors of today's resolutions, but I can see the usefulness. However, as long as publishers keep charging the outrageous fees they do to download an electronic file (see the BN eBooks listing to see just how expensive they are), I'm not going to be a customer. I'd rather buy the book if the price is the same. Why would I pay $25 for a no-cost-to-the-publisher electronic copy of a book?
posted by daveadams at 1:25 PM on August 14, 2000


Eh, okay. So I downloaded it, as well as the add-in thingy for Word. Opened a longish Word doc and did its export-to-reader thing, which seems to have exported it to html/gif/jpeg and then imported into the reader converter thingy. By default it wants to save to C:\My Library (like the My Music, My Pictures, and My Multimedia folder MS products keep making).

It also brings up a box saying "This document contains formatting that my not render properly in version 1.0 of Microsoft Reader for Pocket PC." That seems pretty stupid, since the whole point is that it's supposed to make things readable on handheld devices.

The end result is something like a PDF, only with all sorts of features for bookmarking and highlighting and annotating and full-screen reading and copy-protecting, and stuff. The point seems to be not to replace or even coexist with PDF, but to provide a platform for the purchase and distribution of secure e-books.

The feature they keep touting is the "ClearType" thing, which supposedly makes type more readable onscreen, but I didn't notice any huge difference, even after running the little "tuning" wizard.
posted by endquote at 2:17 PM on August 14, 2000


There are free books available for the reader, but they were always available on html anyway.
The "ClearType" thing is truly a crock. It looks the same to me, and I also wasted time with the tuning wizard.
posted by Outlawyr at 2:43 PM on August 14, 2000


ClearType only makes a difference on LCD displays. Hook up an LCD display (or use a PocketPC like a HP Jornada) and see the difference it makes.
posted by milnak at 2:59 PM on August 14, 2000


I've been using Microsoft Reader for the past several days to read Slate. The type is more readable on my monitor, but nothing exceptional. The interface is a bit of a mess -- you're constantly being told to "click the title at the top" to do something, and the text of the title isn't underlined or marked up in any way to show it's a menu. Gimme a menu bar any day over unmarked word menus.

I think the software is good for what it does, and there's free publishing software to convert documents into Reader's .lit format. However, it doesn't do much. I'm assuming this version is a trial run for the one that will go into handhelds.

The one thing I have to criticize is the price of books that are currently available for this format. Why should I pay $10 to $25 (!!!) for a Microsoft Reader ebook from Barnes & Noble when the cost of production is negligible compared to print? That price is nuts.
posted by rcade at 4:00 PM on August 14, 2000


Microsoft has made many decent products. Don't be ignorant.
posted by Satapher at 4:20 PM on August 14, 2000


they're hoping it will be the 'acrobat killer'.
posted by alfredogarcia at 7:18 PM on August 14, 2000


Satapher....

Enumerate?
posted by baylink at 8:11 PM on August 14, 2000


Cleartype is a supposedly better algorithm of anti-aliasing screen fonts at all resolutions (if I remember correctly windows doesn't bother anti-alias until above 24 or below 6pt) - this works on CRT and LCD blah blah.

As milnak said CRT monitors can't do the sub-pixel antialiasing that cleartype does. This site is where I learnt a bit about the idea.

Woohaa! or something. Even RiscOS did this.

OT plug: LOGO - Turtle graphics
posted by holloway at 6:02 AM on August 15, 2000


In reply to baylink, microsoft has made a lot of good stuff. The microsoft IDE for one, as well as their XML parser. Internet Explorer is awesome on Mac, way more compliant than netscape. IE was great on PC until version 5.5. SQL server is great for intranet projects as is ASP (microsoft originated that). Visual basic is great for automation software, and C# is a good step forward for C++, utilising some key ideas from java.

Finally, microsoft reader for ppc is excellent. I read slate everyday at lunch on my iPaq and it is actually enjoyable rather than a strain.

Microsoft has produced a LOT of crap, but it would be foolish to disregard the good things they've done just to criticise them. I hate microsoft just as much as the next guy, but sometimes, they get a product just right.
posted by jgooden at 6:49 AM on August 15, 2000


Windows anti-aliases type at whatever sizes the type designer specifies. For example, Gill Sans MT is "smoothed" at 0-6 points, "hinted" at 7-17 points, and "hinted and smoothed" at 18+ points. There is also a tool to hack those numbers in the font file to make things anti-alias at all sizes, but the only time I tried that, I found out they did it that way for a reason, and it looked like crap.
posted by endquote at 8:37 AM on August 15, 2000


I hate microsoft just as much as the next guy, but sometimes, they get a product just right. Kinda like America's love-hate relationship with Bill Clinton, eh?

I can remember when I was a kid, I climbed up the ladder to a slide and there was this other kid in front of me. Younger. Scared. Gripping to the hand rails. He'd never been on the slide before. To him it was entirely new and he was sure he was gonna die.

Me? It was like my third or fourth time ever. I was a veteran. A pro. Still. I had to stand there behind this kid as he fought back tears and his mommy was down there coaching him. I woulda just pushed him but.. well, his mom was watching and I woulda gotten caught.

He tried to go back down. To do so he would have to get through me, and I wasn't budging. I just looked at him. "Slide! Geez!" I rolled my eyes.

He looked back at me with tears welled up in his eyes, and then sat back down. He sniffled a little bit. I stood there impatiently, the way any rambunctious kid strung out on candybars and koolaid would be. Eventually, he did slide. Felt like an eternity but it actually only took him like twenty seconds to get up the courage. By the time I got to the ground, he was already climbing the ladder, laughing. He was so worried about nothing.

Any attempt to make secure ebooks for hardware that doesn't allow free distribution will never fly in the consumer world. We've tasted the apple. We're not going back. It would be like trying to bring Betamax back in style. Anyone remember the original version of DivX? Didn't think so. I wish people would give up this pathetic clinging to the copyright laws like a security blanket, just let loose and convert every possible thing in the human consciousness to html or txt and then people can do whatever they want with it all from there. So if I want to do a search for John Lennon's Imagine, it would become even less of a chore than it is today. They took away lyrics.ch from us, then lobotomized it. That only postponed the inevitable. Others have simply come to take its place.

Wasting time coming up with a suitable business model just makes me have to click five times to find what I need instead of just one. It's slowing down the inevitable. It may not be right. It may be sinful but we have enough things in this world that are illegal. Sharing slices of human consciousness with each other for fun and profit should not be one of them.

SLIDE PEOPLE! Geez!
posted by ZachsMind at 10:47 AM on August 15, 2000


FYI - most of those properties they've added (separately lockable copying, printing, viewing, annotation, etc) have all been part of the PDF standard for years. *shrug*
posted by plinth at 1:33 PM on August 15, 2000


In reply to baylink, microsoft has made a lot of good stuff. IE
was great on PC until version 5.5.


No comment.

SQL server is great for intranet
projects as is ASP (microsoft originated that).


They bought SQL from Sybase; they bought ASP from someone else, but I can no longer find my reference to who.

Visual basic is great for automation software

For sufficiently small values of 'great', I suppose.

You forgot to mention Front Page. :-)

We're back where we always are. The topline architectural people at Microsoft just never have impressed me, and they continue not to. This, combined with their documentable corporate arrogance, pushes them off my shortlist whenever a client doesn't have a gun to {their|my} head.

I just cannot think of *one* thing Microsoft's ever done, created in house *or* purchased, that I thought they got *just* right. Sorry.

This is, of course, topic drift. Anyone who wants to have the R-war with me, please, move it to email, so Jason doesn't get offended. 'k?
posted by baylink at 3:42 PM on August 15, 2000


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