wide_worlds_joy: (Book)
Joy ([personal profile] wide_worlds_joy) wrote in [community profile] ebooks2010-06-24 10:38

The Nintendo Dual Screen as an ebook reader

This is probably one of the greatest uses of the DS ever, well, except for the games.

Make no mistake about it, the DS (and the DS Lite and DSi) is primarily a game platform, designed to allow you to play the games you have come to love in a palm-top manner. It's not too different from the Nintendo Color, the Nintendo Advanced and many other such palm based games. But just as you can use the PSP that you play games on to watch DVDs, you can use the DS to read your ebooks.

But it doesn't come without some work.

First things first, the DS will cost about $130 or so new. The DS Lite is about the same, and so is the DSi (the difference between these platforms is size and that the lite has a background light so it can be played in the dark, and the DSi is configured for internet hotspots). Used you can probably pick one of these up for about $80 to $90 or so, depending on the various local economic factors.

The next thing you have to get is a cartridge that goes into the "Slot 1" port, where the DS games go. Unless you are VERY lucky, you won't find this card at the same place you buy the DS at, you will have to order it online. There are two that are basically interchangable as far as I can tell. The first is the DSTT card and the other is the R4 DS card. You will also need a MicroSD card up to 4 GB.

At this point, you don't have to do anything else, and you have massively increased the utility of your DS, given that you can download ROMs from various places and play almost any Gameboy Advanced or Nintendo DS game out there. The first game you download and play will pay you back for this investment about twice.

However, for ebook, movies, and MP3s to play, you have to download a multimedia homebrew called Moonshell. You will have to put the MicroSD card into the adaptor for the computer (so you can put games and files on it), and run the Moonshell installer to the SD card. At that point, you can load it up with texts, mp3s and DPG movies to watch them on your DS.

Now, the Moonshell software ONLY renders text files correctly, not PDF, not DOC, not RTF, not any ebook format except Text. Thankfully there are a TON of books out there which are in Text format, and there are many programs to allow you to save your other formats into txt. Text is also preferred since they have the smallest memory "footprint" on the SD card. Currently on my 2 GB MicroSD card I have over 300 books and it only takes up about 50 Megabytes.

The reader format itself is clean. You can change some options so that you can read the text on both screens at the same time. Paging down is via one button or the cross shaped joystick. It will page down one screen at a time or one line at a time. If you choose to have it display on the bottom screen only, the upper screen will have a clock and date view, so you always know what time it is.

Text size is about 12-14 point, so it's very easy to read the text. However, this doesn't render special characters very well, so reading a book like "Lord of the Rings" (which I am reading now and basing this review on) which has a LOT of alternate characters in it, won't show the words properly. Thankfully after a bit, the weird characters blend together and you don't notice it anymore.

The only special feature that Moonshell gives you is 4 bookmarks PER TEXT, so you can be stopped in multiple places in the same book.

So, easy reading, good portability (since you can slip this into your pocket and when the lid is closed it suspends the power to the displays and saves your place), bookmarks, LOTS of room and bonuses of "free" games, music and videos are the pluses, while the minuses are having to convert your ebooks to texts (which can be a PITA), not immediate downloads of books (you have to load them up to the DS ahead of time), and a somewhat confusing and extended download/install of the software initially are what you are facing.

I use it, a LOT. I have to charge this up about every other day. I use it when I go on the bus, and I don't have many new texts on this system since I can't afford the price of the books. But, I use the heck out of it. I rarely use the games anymore, but I have about two dozen on there. I have one movie ("In and Out") on there, but the display of the movie is tiny, you can't read any subtitles at all that way, and you HAVE to convert the movies to the DPG format, which can, again, be a real PITA. Thankfully the DPG format for the movies is pretty small too (195 MB for a 780 MB AVI movie). You can only do one function at a time, either a movie watching, text reading or listening to MP3s, not two.

It doesn't really have as much versatility, but you are using a game platform to read a book. Think about it. It's a cool hack and it gives you a decent ereader. It is up to you.

Daven
wishfulclicking: lucy from elfen lied being happy (elfen lied joy)

[personal profile] wishfulclicking 2010-06-24 17:04 (UTC)(link)
Thanks for this review.