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How To Get EBooks On Your Palm

So you want to read your favorite authors on your Palm Pilot or Sony Clie? But your favorite author hasn’t released an ebook version of their work. So do I, and I have a way for you to do it at no additional cost (I’m assuming you have bought the book, otherwise its theft).

You’re going to need a few different bits of sofware, but they’re free. First grab yourself GrabIt.

Next get your hands on Interparse.

And finally, download DocReader.

Thats all you need to get ebook versions of your favorite novels. I’m assuming for this that you already have ebook sofware on your Palm PDA. If not, well, thats another article entirely.

Once you’ve installed GrabIt, you need to enter some information about your usenet news-server. You need the host name, usually its something like, your username and your password. Check your ISP’s help pages for the exact details, but generally its the same username and password as for your mail. If your ISP doesn’t give you usenet service. Get a better ISP.

For those not familiar with usenet. Its essentially a huge discussion forum split into many different topic groups. Instead of being web based (it pre-dates the web) it works on a system somewhat like email. You download messages, and can post responses using newsreading software.

GrabIt is special though, it is designed to download from the binary newsgroups. These groups are made up of posts of specially encoded binary files (software, pictures, sound files etc.) Due to the size of these files and the encoding method, they are generally split ove several posts, which can make re-constructing them a bit of a nuisance. GrabIt has been designed to gather all the relevent posts, download and unencode those posts for you so that all you have to do is select the post and GrabIt.

You can find detailed instructions on configuring and using GrabIt on its site, so I’m not going to re-create the wheel. Let me point you in the right direction though.

For ebooks here are some groups to look into:


All of these groups are active and regularly have new and old books posted to them. If its by a popular author, you’re going to see it here eventually. Even a lot of less well known authors pop up. Particularly if you post a polite request.

The Palm newsgroup is the easiest to work with as generally things in there are already in a suitable format to read on your Palm. Just download it and install. If however the book you want is on one of the other newsgroups, well thats where Interparse and DocReader come in.

DocReader is a simple to use program that can take a plain text file and convert it into a Palm pdb file which can then be installed for reading. If the file you downloaded was well formatted, thats all you’ll have to do. Just load it in and then save it out.

Unfortunately a lot of files are in HTML format or just badly formatted .txt with extra line spaces. And thats where Interparse comes in. It has many clever functions that allow it to remove HTML coding. To add or remove extra line spaces. To indent paragraphs, remove extra spacing and take care of non-standard characters in the text. Its all round cool.

Each download tends to have different problems and the best thing to do is just play around with Interparse and take advantage of the undo features to see which order you should do things to fix it best. I’ve found that almost all problems can be fixed with the clever use of Interparse. The more you use it, the more you realise it can do.

One final comment. Most of the books available for download in those newsgroups were written by professional authors. They are copyrighted works that should be paid for. If you’ve bought a paperback or hardback copy of the book, my personal feeling is that you have a right to an electronic copy since you’ve already paid for the work (lawyers may disagree with me on this). If you haven’t bought a copy of the book, there’s really no fair-use argument. You’re stealing.

Lecture over, enjoy being able to carry your entire book library around in your pocket.

Eoghann Irving is amongst other things the creator and Editor of Solar Flare. He has a life long interest in all forms of science fiction and fantasy and a pressing need to share this interest with anyone who will listen. Find out more at his personal website

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