The Sony Librie is a stunning e-ink ebook reading device with the most print-like book reading experience you can have at this time (the display moves microscopic black and white particles held within spherical microcapsules). For the most part, it hasn’t been a success in the market; Sony crippled it with DRM, and only released in it Japan. But the hackers and tinkerers of the world have taken this device and modded the firmware. Now we’re going to show you how to make non-DRMed ebooks for free…In this HOW TO we’re going to use a PC (Windows XP) to convert text files to the Sony ebook format. This is the first in a series of articles, mostly because of the new demand for these devices and content for them.
Ingredient for this HOW TO:
- Sony Librie
- PC (Virtual PC on a Mac works, sorta). There are also other tools (see end of this HOW TO)…
- Memory Stick, not needed- but helpful
- Ebooks (txt files, pdfs, etc..)
The Sony Librie
What is the Sony Librie? You may never heard of this device, here’s what it is- along with all the specs….
Sony Librie EBR-1000EP
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The 1000EP possesses the following specifications:
- 6-inch diagonal display using E Ink’s electronic paper technology
- Super Video Graphics Array (600 by 800 dots)
- 170 dots per inch
- 300 grams (10.6 oz) with case and batteries (190 grams / 6.7 oz without)
- 126 millimeters (5 in) by 190 millimeters (7.5 in) by 13 millimeters (0.5 in)
- Motorola Dragonball central processing unit
- Sony Linux OS
- 10MB storage
- Memory Stick slot (Memory Stick Pro compatible)
- USB 2.0 port
- Headphones jack
- Monaural speaker
The unit was designed to be about the same weight as the average book on the Japanese market. The E Ink technology is a monochrome (4 level greyscale) display device which changes reflectivity by moving microscopic black and white particles held within spherical microcapsules.
There is a tiny qwerty keyboard at the bottom of the display, permiting a limited form of marginalia, as well as a small roller wheel. Content will be available on a subscription basis only, and the price of the unit is comparable to that of some PDAs. Battery life is also comparable to that of many PDAs because while the electronic ink display does not require any power once it is set to show a specific page, the Motorola Dragonball CPU requires constant power, and read and write operations between the storage and the memory stick also require power.
The Librie can currently only display contents in the Broad Band eBook (BBeB) format. The primary BBeB content provider is Publishing Link, a joint venture between Sony and a number of large Japanese publishers and printers. Using the digital rights management functions of BBeB and the Librie, content from Publishing Link is set to expire and be unreadable after 60 days.
That’s right 60 days, and the tools that were available in Japan to make ebooks weren’t exactly encouraged or widely available. But, now there is an abundance of them- but first you’ll need a Librie.
One note on the physical hardware, it’s as small as paperback book and I mentioned before, it’s stunning- when people see it, they think the screen was painted on it’s so clear.
Where to get a Sony Librie
You can a Librie in Japan, either new or refurbished fot 34,000+ Japanese yen. But, there is at least one importer that has them in stock and I can personally say they’re great (it’s where I got mine). It’s Dynamism, and they have them for $479 and they ship the Librie with the English OS. Why is that important? Well, unless you want to change the firmware yourself, it’s good to have Dynamism to do it for you and they have a Fedex Warranty Rescue Service and Dynamism Technical support included. But, if you want to get it somewhere else or you got one for Japan, here’s how to change the firmware so it is in english.
Modding the Firmware
If you want to update your firmware yourself, we have a full how-to here…
The previous and latest version(s) of the Librie English GUI Firmware Patch includes a HOWTO TXT file, a few folks asked me for some help- so here’s the original how-to with my screenshots and comments…
Let’s assume you’ve picked up a Librie by now and have the english firmware up and running, now you’ll need to make some ebooks. Sony primarily wanted to sell folks DRM’ed ebooks that expired in 60 days, and while you could convert PDFs, the conversion would just display the PDFs as images, so you didn’t get zoom in, zoom out and all the benefits of e-ink.
When you install the Librie software there’s a printer driver that “prints” PDFs, word docs, etc.. to the .lrf (Sony BBeB ebook format) but it’s pretty crappy to sum it up. It never works out and the results are usually really awful. I’ll do another HOW TO specifically about PDFs, but the best results will always come from text files, so I really suggest you use those.
Anyway, some places to get ebooks- Project Gutenberg has over 16,000 free electronic books. I pretty much convert text files for my Librie and luckily there are tons.
You can cut and paste text from web sites, convert PDFs to text or what I did, convert a book from MAKE pal and Science Fiction author Cory Doctorow.
Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town,” a contemporary fantasy about wireless networking, revenge, and secrets.
The text file can be downloaded here. Download it to a folder on your PC.
Removing line breaks, preparing text, etc…
Once you download the files, we’re first going to use a program called the “Librie text Assistant”. Download and install it from here…
There are other ways to make ebooks, but this is the way I’m doing, over time I’ll add more HOW TOs as well…
The Librie text assistant opens text files, opens URLs (web sites) as text and can process text files to remove text returns and can automatically remove headers from ebooks.
Here’s the application, with all the options and commands.
Click open and locate your text file.
Click process to remove the extra returns.
Click Save as and save the file. Now we have a nice clean text file.
makelrf, making the ebooks….
Next up, we’re going to use a tool that makes the ebooks for the Librie, it’s called makelrf, but we’re also going to use a version that a user interface (there is a command line version and you need to do a lot of typing with that).
Download MakeLRFGUI from here. It’s called MakeLRFGUI.zip
Click Open to open the text file you converted.
You can edit the title, author, etc…
Click Create LRF to make the book and save it to your local system.
You may have noticed you can also add images to your ebook, I’ve found converting the images to 800 x 600 works the best (anything large will scale down and not looks so good). The images will only be in 4 color, here’s a 4 color palette for Photoshop. The process is the same as adding text, just select the images and text files. Just make sure your images are GIF files.
Putting the ebooks on the Librie
Once you get the LRF file saved, now it’s time to put it on a Memory Stick or directly on the Librie, depending on how you set up the included Librie software, or if you have a Memory stick reader, you’ll transfer the LFR by simply dragging it to the application. But, you might want to run the application in English mode.
The PC Librie software, english mod…
To run the Librie application in english, just download this EXE and double click it, all the text is now in english. It’s called-
english LIBRIe v2.zip
English version of LIBRIé for Windows executable
Double click LRFMaker to start the application.
The application will display an ebook you have.
I have a memory stick reader on my PC, so I set it to detect it under the tools menu.
Drag the LRF file to the main panel, it will appear in the list. Then drag the file from the list to the memory stick. If you have the Librie plugged in drag it to the same area.
On the memory stick, the ebook has been transfered in the EBOOKBEEBBOOK directory.
The PC application can also display the book as well if you double click it.
Pop the memory stick in and choose the book.
Ebook on the Librie!
In the next week I’ll package up all these files and some sample files so it’s one simple download, stop back later! I’ll also have some other ways to make content for the Librie.