The iPod does not have an ebook-specific reader, or just a text format good for reading ebooks. It's unfortunate, because the style and capabilities of iPods make them perfect for such functions. Sure, you can use the iPod as a portable hard drive to read ebooks on any PC. But if you want to use the iPod itself as an ebook reader, it's certainly possible. Reading ebooks on an iPod consists of just copying the contents of an ebook into iPod Notes, and scrolling through multiple notes in order to read the ebook. But there are limitations.
Each Note can hold no more than 4,012 characters. If an iPod Note contains more, it will still load, but only the first 4012 characters will be displayed. You may see other references mentioning a 4,096 character limit. Looking at the results from an actual cut-and-paste experiment, the limit is actually 4,012.
The iPod can hold no more than 1000 notes.
Assuming each Note is packed to capacity, that's 4,012,000 characters. So any given iPod can hold roughly 2,467 pages of printed text, or enough for eight medium sized books.
To summarize these issues with reading ebooks on an iPod:
With all that said, here's how to place and read an ebook on your iPod:
1) Get an ebook. Make sure it's in "plain text" format.
2) Enable Notes access on your iPod by checking "Enable disk use" in iTunes.
3) Convert your ebook to a format supported by iPod Notes.
4) Read it.
The iPod ebook creator mentioned above will do the trick. If you want a more extensive management system, or want something installed locally, here are some options. Each program will allow you to keep track on many ebooks on your PC, giving you the option to "activate" just the ones you want for iPod reading. The "eBook Hood" link is an online ebook conversion service - no need to download anything, except for your converted ebook file.
Mac OS :
Windows OS :
Using this process, we can read text and ebooks on any iPod with a display screen. The process, unfortunately, requires a bit more hassle than it should. Until Apple decides to remedy this with proper ebook support and features like font adjustment and auto-scrolling, we can make do.
For more information
Learn more about the iPod Notes markup language. Also see user comments at the bottom of the second page for code on compiling your own iPod ebook extractor.
Learn about "Building Interactive iPod Experiences". While the article briefly mentions ebooks, it talks in more detail about the iPod's markup language to run interactive presentations incorporating pictures, sounds and videos.
Mac users may be interested in Text2iPod X, a Mac-only application that copies entire ebooks into iPod contacts, apparently without size limitations. While this is great, I didn't include it in the main article because 1) I wasn't able to test it, and 2) I'd like my "ebooks on iPod" solution to work on all systems.