Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ebook Nostalgia

RCA REB 1100 is probably the oldest mass-market Ebook reader (its immediate predecessors, to my knowledge were not spread widely). It was also not a very commercially successful device. However, as the first, and, for quite a long time the only open (read: amenable to firmware modifications and upload of user-generated content), it has acquired quite a cult following.

My family owns quite a few of these devices and until today, whenever we needed to put a new set of ebooks on them, we used the old (distributed with the device) program Ebook Librarian. The latter has one nasty feature: it does not work under Vista. In fact, it does not even install an executable under Vista. I have not tried it, but I am assuming that neither will it work under Win7.

Turns out there is a way out of this conundrum. REB 1100 has a SmartMedia card slot, and it is supposedly good for cards of up to 128 Mb. Not too much by current standards (of 64Gig SD cards), but sufficient to put a few dozen books in RB format on. The instructions for how to do this are quite scarce, so here is my straightened version:

  1. Plop the SmartMedia card into your PC's card reader. (on my machine it coinhabits the xD card slot).
  2. Create a directory called Books on the card.
  3. Transfer the books in the RB format into this directory.
  4. Power REB 1100 down.
  5. Insert the card into the card slot for REB 1100.
  6. Power REB 1100 up. You should see a message saying "Reading titles from memory card" or something to that extent.
  7. Wait. At some point the message disappears and you are all set.

  8. To take the card out, power the device down, remove the card, power it up, then power it down again. This way, REB 1100 establishes that it no longer has the card.

The really good news is that there is no longer any need to hold onto the old, and almost broken, WinXP laptop that we have.

PS. Most of smartmedia cards run anywhere between $25 and $40 on Amazon etc. However, Amazon did have a place that sold me a 32Mb card for $7.99 + $1.99 s&h. Very decent, all other things being equal.

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