Read DRMed MobiPocket eBooks On Palm Pre

July 1, 2009

Thanks to Twitter, I was informed about this new eBook development and invited the person to write this guest post. Thanks, Jonathan!

E-book Reading on PalmPre: MotionApps Classic Plus Mobipocket is a Winning Combo

As a longtime PalmOS user, I’ve been very happy using my Palm handhelds as e-book readers. I have (and have read) more than 200 e-books (many from Baen’s free library, others purchased in secure Mobipocket format from Fictionwise) on my Palm T|X (especially after I used the PowerSDHC driver by Dmitry Grinberg to add a 16 GB SDHC card to my T|X). When I received my new Palm Pre last week, courtesy of Palm’s Real Reviewer program, I was skeptical whether I would be able to completely switch from my T|X to the Pre, given how little software has yet been released for the Pre, especially in the e-book reader world (only the Shortcovers online reader is currently available). Happily, one of the very first apps released for Palm’s new WebOS is MotionApps’ Classic (a PalmOS emulator running on the Pre), and I was able to run Mobipocket Reader with little trouble.

While Classic’s emulation is not perfect, and it’s limited to a 320×320 screen (unlike the 320×480 available on the T|X), I was pleased to find out not only did Mobipocket Reader work on Classic, but it even generated its own Secure Mobipocket ID, allowing me to redownload and read my secure e-books from my Fictionwise bookshelf. Installing Mobipocket was a bit of a challenge (since it comes with an installation program rather than simply as PalmOS PRC and PDB files, I had to unpack and install each file separately — which you can find here), but once past that step and after I’d copied my e-books to the ClassicApps\eBooks directory of my Pre in USB Drive mode, I launched Classic, started Mobipocket Reader, and a quick rescan of my library brought my books up.

Classic runs PalmOS apps relatively smoothly, and the issues it still has with animations and sounds do not impact on Mobipocket Reader. Page navigation is a bit clumsy (the Pre’s notifications often bump up against the bottom of Classic’s virtual 5-way navigator, making it difficult to advance pages that way), but after I’d set Mobipocket to accept screen taps as page advance commands, that problem went away.

Classic itself is not cheap (the registered version is $29.99), but it essentially replaces carrying around two PDAs, one for WebOS and one for (most of) the PalmOS apps one still needs. For me, being able to continue reading novels at the checkout counter, doctor’s office and other waiting areas, and to have access to secure e-books even when offline, makes Classic’s price almost worth it for those benefits alone. That it can run almost all of my other PalmOS apps is just gravy. (It also means, by way of shameless self-promotion, that Pre users can read the Mobi version of my new free e-booklet on managing smartphone business/legal risk, Shooting from the Hip, after downloading it here!)

Prof. Jonathan Ezor, Touro Law Center (aka @Prelawyer and @ProfJonathan on Twitter, and Palm Real Reviewer).