In my November 2010 TechnoFiles column "The Trouble with E-Readers," I point out that electronic books are still far too crude to replace ink and paper. But if you've jumped into the e-book world, you'll get more mileage from your money if you’re aware of these tricks.
* Buy the books, not the readers. You can read Kindle and Nook books on your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad or Android phone; you don’t have to buy an actual Kindle or Nook. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have each written e-book reading programs for those machines that work very well—and even synchronize your bookmarks, notes and “where I stopped” among devices.
* Have one million free books. Actually, you don’t have to buy e-books, either. Once a book’s copyright has expired, it’s free and legal to download. You can find hundreds of thousands of such books (Poe, Twain, Austen…) at Gutenberg.org, ready to download for your e-book reader or e-book app.
* Take the Web with you. Try Instapaper. It lets you grab Web articles you encounter through your day, adding them to a Kindle or iPhone-readable "magazine" that you can read later.
* Free audio books. The Amazon Kindle can read your e-books out loud to you, when permitted by the book’s publishers. It’s a stilted synthetic voice, but better than nothing. But the iBooks program (on the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad) can read any book out loud.
To turn on this feature, open Settings -> General -> Accessibility and turn on VoiceOver, Apple’s text-to-speech feature. (Beware the navigation changes when VoiceOver is turned on; for example, you double-tap things instead of single-tapping them, because single-tapping makes the phone speak the name of whatever you’re tapping.)
Then open a book. Tap the first line (to get the highlighting off the buttons at top). Now swipe down the page with two fingers to make the software start reading the book to you, out loud, with a synthesized voice. It even turns the pages automatically and keeps going until you tap with two fingers to stop it.