Monday, November 28, 2011

The old Rocket Ebook (updated again)

Did you know about the Rocket Ebook from just before the millennium? As an ereader enthusiast, I just had to have this classic. I found it on eBay for 21 dollars! (with all parts, and working fine, "very good" condition. A lucky buy, the only other one was 90 bucks.)

It's ten years old, and apparently it was well ahead of it's time, for it was a colossal flop, it's amazing how little material there is available on it, and all the related web sites (the manufacturer  library, etc) are just gone.

For all that, apart from the bulk/weight (620 grams/22oz, size of a paperback, really not bad), a bit of jaggies (no grey tones), and not much memory (held less than 15 books), it is surprisingly good. With the backlight on, I find it in some ways better to read on than an e-ink Kindle. And the interface is nice and simple.

OK, like came with the times, you had to have a wired (serial) connection to your computer to transfer files, and special software and such. But for the time, I think it really was very good, and deserved to had succeeded some way.

Haha, it even comes with a serial-to-MacSerial adapter. There has not been a Mac made with a serial port for over a decade. I could get a parallel to USB adapter, but the software of course is for Mac OS 8, which modern Macs won't even run in emulation. Ah well, I didn't really get it for use, more for the historical value.

Hey, I just remembered I have an old HP laptop running XP. What do you know, it has the requisite ports, the software installed perfectly, and it's working! Now just to see if the software still has any valid Net connections to content...
Update: Long story short, of course it doesn't. Sites are long gone.
And it's hard to find books in .rb format. But I realized that probably the reader could read plain old .txt files, so I went to and found a book, Bleak House by Dickens (which somebody recommended recently), and got it transferred to the Rocket. It works!
Unfortunately there are many ugly line breaks. Who puts line breaks in a .txt file??! But anyway, I can fix that on my Mac, but at least now I know that I can get books the Rocket Ebook, and that makes it more fun.

A recommended the Baen Free Library, which (probably due to its ancienity) includes the Rocket format. Thanks, dude.

For those interested, here is a another ebook reader of the time, a big one, the Softbook Reader. The screen was almost as big as the iPad's!


Len Edgerly said...

Congrats on your Rocket Book, Eolake! I bought when when they came out and thought the revolution had arrived. It was a beauty and I'm keeping mine for posterity.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I can't even remember if I heard about them back then. They wouldn't have been sold in Eu anyway.
But I do remember waiting for the Sony ereader and before that something I think was called the GlassBook but which I can't find now, to arrive for sale on this side of the Atlantic. That didn't happen until the Kindle 2 International, about 3 years ago!

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

How much did you use the Rocket Ebook in those days?

TC [Girl] said...

Eolake said...
"With the backlight on, I find it in some ways better to read on than an e-ink Kindle."

Hrmph! I was wishing for that, as I crawled into bed, last night, with my Kindle! Pulled the covers up, snug, against this rotten chilly weather and just didn't want to have to bother reaching back out, to turn a light off, when I was done! It would've been much nicer to have been able to just set it to backlight and go to sleep (like an iPod), in a few minutes, and be off to "slumer land," myself! :-(

Anonymous said...

The Baen Free Library has Ebookwise/Rocket format. Pick up 1632 it is a great read.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Ooh, good tip, thanks.

andrea sfiligoi said... has all books in rb format too.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Cool, thanks.

I wonder what will happen with ebook formats. Will Amazon keep dominating with a closed, proprietary format, or will we end up with a couple of widely used open formats? Which ones?

andrea sfiligoi said...

Compared to the time it takes to write a book and polish it for publication, it takes so little effort to convert it into the various formats that I guess the authors and the resellers will keep all/most the formats up. For example, I sell my ebooks in PDF but Lulu (which prints them on demand) has started to convert them into epubs and upload them in iBooks. They are doing this for free (I don't know if this is a special treatment for my ebooks because they sell well enough to warrant it).

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Yeah, but if sells the iPad and gets a Kindle, one loses the iBooks collection, that's stupid.

FatIgor said...

I bought one of these when it first came out. I thought it was wonderful. Unfortunately I found it rather delicate, about 2 years after I got it I dropped it and broke the screen.

Rob S. said...

With a personal library of hundreds of books for my REB1100. I would just like to find an OS X based converter for RB to anything. *sighs* Or even windows based. Seems ABCRB is no longer to be found.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Hang on, I'll ask my readers on

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

See suggestions here:

... more may come over a couple of days.