Android: An e-book reader that copies, pastes, and highlights text

As my regular readers know, Debi and I recently bought new cellphones that run the Android operating system. For about three years before that, we were running an old Windows Mobile OS (I think version 5). On our old phones, I had installed an ebook reader that allowed me to copy and paste text from the books I was reading (no DRM, of course) to a word file. The ebooks that would allow that were ebooks I had created myself. This was a necessary feature for me because of how I read books – I copy and paste or highlight text then use that text when I’m done reading the book to write the book review. So, imagine my disappointment when the two most highly rated ebook reading applications in the Android store – Aldiko and Wordplayer – turned out not to have the ability to copy, paste, or highlight an ebook. Wordplayer had the ability to add a bookmark, but that’s as close as I could get. After some lengthy searching, I ended up right back at the application I used to use on my old Windows Mobile phone – eReader.  It turns out the free ebook reading app from eReader.com does have the ability to copy, paste, and highlight text in non-DRM books.  So, here are instructions on how to put an ebook on an Android phone in eReader.

  1. Create an account at eReader.com.  This is free and easy to do.
  2. On your Android phone, click on “Settings” then “Applications”.  At the top of the list should be a checkbox for “Unknown sources: Allow installation of non-Market applications.”  Select that checkbox.  This is necessary because the eReader software is not in the Android Marketplace but downloadable directly from their website.
  3. Using your phone’s browser, go to: ereader.com/android
  4. On that page you’ll see a link to download the software.  Select it.  The software will download.
  5. Once it’s complete, select it and it will try to install and ask for your permission to install.  Give your permission and it should install.
  6. You can now open the application on your phone, but in order to get your custom ebook into the eReader library you need to do a few more things.
  7. Before you can import your ebook, you need to make sure it is in the PDB format (not sure why ebook producers haven’t decided on a universal format at this point, but eReader requires PDB format).
  8. Luckily, there is an amazing piece of software I’ve recently discovered that allows you to convert pretty much any document into any ebook format: Calibre.  I’m really not trying to advertise for either eReader.com or Calibre, but if I were going to advertise for one of them, it would definitely be Calibre.  It’s free and amazing.  It’s a little tricky to use, but basically you can import any ebook format or document (in Word, RTF, PDF, etc.) and convert it into any other ebook format.  It’s really amazing.
  9. So, import your document into Calibre and convert it into the PDB format. (I’m not going to provide directions on how to do this as you can see how on the Calibre website.)
  10. You’ll then need to export your document to a specific location in the PDB format: right-click the book and select “Save to disk” -> “Save single format to disk” -> “PDB”
  11. Calibre will allow you to choose your location.  Once you do, it will export the book to that location.
  12. Now, go back to eReader.com and open your account.  Click on the link at the upper right for “Bookshelf”.
  13. Inside your Bookshelf you’ll see a little box at the upper right that says “Personal Content for iPhone and iPod touch”.  Click on it.  (FYI, this works on the Android, so the “iPhone and iPod touch” line is irrelevant.)
  14. On the new page it will give you directions for uploading a PDB file.  You just have to choose the file that you just exported from Calibre and upload it.  It takes a few minutes, but once it’s uploaded, it is added to your list of files. (This information came from this page.)
  15. Now, how to get these files onto your Android device?  Open up the eReader application.  Select “Menu” then “Online Bookshelf.”  You should see your newly uploaded book on your Online Bookshelf.  Select it and it will download.  Et voila, you now have a custom made ebook on your Android device that you can highlight and copy and paste text from.

For the average user, of course, you’re probably just going to buy books from various online marketplaces, like Amazon (using the Kindle app) or from eReader.com.  So, the above will likely be unnecessary.  But given the specific requirement of someone creating their own ebook that can be annotated, this is the way to do it on Android devices.