The Nintendo DS and DS Lite are portable video game consoles but they can also be used to read eBooks. This is especially handy for introducing young people to ebooks, as many of them have a DS already and are comfortable with the screen.
 Hardware Specs
Screens: Two separate 3" TFT LCD, resolution of 256 x 192 pixels, dimensions of 62 x 46 mm and 77 mm diagonal (2 7/16" horiz. x 1 13/16" vert. and 3" diagonally), and a dot pitch of 0.24 mm. The equates to about 105 ppi. The gap between the screens is approximately 21 mm, equivalent to about 92 "hidden" lines. The lowermost display of the Nintendo DS is overlaid with a resistive touchscreen, which registers pressure from one point on the screen at a time, averaging multiple points of contact if necessary. Some readers can take advantage of the dual screens to display a book like environment.
Differences in the DS Lite over the original DS: Brighter, more durable top and bottom LCD screens, with four levels of brightness.
The newest product is the DSi which adds two cameras (one inside and one outside) and a sound system (speakers and mic). It also supports WiFi and a local wireless mode (between DSi units). The screen size has been increased to 3.25-inch diagnonal. An SD card is supported to store the images. Sound supports AAC only. The DSi provides built in software for images and sound manipulation, but eliminates the "Game Boy Advance" compatible slot (Slot 2) limiting the types of "homebrew" hardware that can be used (see below).
There is also an announced DSi XL coming with built in eBook capability.
 The Homebrew route
First, you will need a way to run "homebrew" software on your Nintendo DS. The easiest way to do this is with a special cartridge that combines the ability to redirect the DS to a new location in memory on boot, and memory for an operating system and applications in the form of a MicroSD card. This is known as a "Slot 1" method. (There are also older methods of running homebrew software that use both slots, one for memory, and one for the boot tool, which is located in Slot 2. These are called "Slot 2" methods. They will not work on the newer DSi, as it does not have this slot.) There are a lot of these homebrew cartridges available, and most of them are very similar, but with slight differences. These differences mean that you need to match the operating system, which will probably need to be downloaded separately, to the cartridge you purchase. For a reasonably current list of DS homebrew hardware, see the Wikipedia article on Nintendo DS storage devices. Sources for this hardware constantly change; you will probably need to search the web to find a vendor. You may wish to be cautious and use a method which allows you to check a reputation score for the vendor, e.g. eBay, as there are also "fake" cartridges being sold by unscrupulous vendors.
Note that Nintendo does not support these devices and has changed the DS firmware in the past to try to disable them (2005). However, a Nintendo representative has acknowledged that homebrew cards are legal.
Once you have obtained the hardware, check a resource to find the right operating system software to support your hardware. This is sometimes the most difficult part of the process, but this page has a helpful collection of links and utilities. Many of the cards have very similar names. You may need to check the card for a web address or other identifying information to help match your card to the operating system. No harm will be done if you try the wrong download; simply reformat the card and try a different download.
Once your homebrew cartridge is working correctly, you are ready to install software and files, which is a very simple process of copying the files to the right location on the MicroSD card. Many computers can read MicroSD cards directly, or you may use an adapter to access the cards using the USB port.
For more information, also see this review: If you’ve got a DS Lite, you’ve got an e-reader.
 Homebrew (ebook) Apps
There are many sources of DS homebrew software and related content, including ebook readers and ebooks. You may install more than one ebook reading application if you choose, which may allow you to read a wider diversity of file formats.
An excellent 'shell' for the Nintendo DS is the Moon Shell 1.71 with DPGTools 13. Use it for all the books, comics and movies found on The Moon Books Project website. This website requires free registration to download files.
The ReadMore Alpha homebrew software, with an 8pt font, and holding the screen in portrait mode (i.e. taller vertically) makes a good reading experience. The Nintendo DS Lite is best suited/more comfortable for portrait mode and even feels like you are holding a book.
DSOrganize offers a nice built-in text reader (landscape only) as well as a web browser capable of surfing the MobileRead.com website (it even displays avatars and smilies and allows you to download to the MicroSD card!).
Another excellent ebook reader is DSLibris by Ray Haleblian. Like ReadMore, it provides portrait mode viewing so the DS is held like a book. It supports both ePub (a very common emerging ebook standard) and xhtml, allowing for books to contain bold, italic and underline styles and other html functions (though not images yet). (It does not support just reading plain text files, meaning conversion through OpenOffice, Calibre, Sigil or another tool is necessary.) This application has been verified to work on a Nintendo DSi with the new System 1.4. It can be downloaded at http://sourceforge.net/projects/ndslibris/
Manga and comic books can also be viewed on the DS using applications such as ComicBookDS. This can also be used for other image based documents such as webzines. Some conversion of files may be required so there is also a free program called PictoDS to convert books for ComicBookDS. The site also has free eBooks available already formatted properly.
Note that at the present time there is no eBook reading application for the DS that supports DRM-protected content, such as that sold by Amazon and several other commercial ebook publishers. While there are technical workarounds to this obstacle, the legality of their use is untested. Possibly as ebooks gain popularity a commercial ebook reader will be developed and distributed. A request for Stanza to be ported to the Nintendo DS has been submitted to Lexcycle; Lexcycle has expressed interest, but additional support by potential users would probably encourage its development. This would provide support for the eReader format, used by Fictionwise.com, BooksOnBoard.com, Powells.com, and BarnesandNoble.com. In the meantime, it may be possible to use the Java version of the Mobipocket reader on Linux running on the Nintendo DS with Java.
 Available eBooks
With the creation of ePub capable readers for the DS, there are now a great many sources of compatible books, including Mobileread, Project Gutenberg, Baen Books, etc. Commercial vendors like Fictionwise also provide some content in unencrypted ePub format (see their "multiformat" books).
The Moon Books Projects archived books consist primarily of text files from Project Gutenberg (minus legal preambles).
The file for each Author/Category listed contains multiple texts in a .zip. As of July 2008, the most popular ones (all with over 500 downloads) are as follows:
Archived Books EBOOK AUTHOR/CATEGORY ZIP SIZE D/L's RATING/TIMES =========================================================== Aesop 235.52 kb 821 Not rated Albert Einstein 79.35 kb 1071 Not rated Alexandre Dumas 5.57 mb 652 Not rated Arthur Conan Doyle 3.01 mb 1368 Not rated Atlantis Collection 472.84 kb 508 Not rated Beowulf 61.26 kb 986 Not rated Bram Stoker 938.06 kb 889 Not rated Brothers Grimm 875.81 kb 955 Not rated Charles Dickens 341.54 kb 554 10/1 Dante 272.36 kb 941 Not rated Edgar Allan Poe 1009.66 kb 1313 Not rated Franz Kafka (English) 208.12 kb 630 Not rated H. G. Wells 3.08 mb 4995 10/1 H. P. Lovecraft 1.16 mb 1838 7/3 Homer 781.51 kb 748 Not rated Jules Verne 1.91 mb 1020 10/1 Leonardo Da Vinci 553.74 kb 864 Not rated Lewis Carroll 341.83 kb 733 Not rated Magic and Illusion Collection 797.04 kb 673 Not rated Mark Twain 3.74 mb 996 Not rated Miyamoto Musashi 56.96 kb 704 Not rated Philosophy Collection 620.51 kb 911 Not rated Reference - Computing 2.16 mb 654 Not rated Reference - Sexuality 234.02 kb 857 Not rated Readers Encyclopedia 2.91 mb 503 Not rated Websters Unabridged Dictionary 10.78 mb 977 Not rated Sun Tzu 24.51 kb 782 Not rated William Shakespeare 2.92 mb 744 10/1
They even have old comic books like:
Comics COMIC SIZE D/L's =========================================================== 9 Comics - Miscellaneous 190.71 mb 816 6 Comics - NYC 2123 44.44 mb 2254 85 Comics - Heroes 140.73 mb 74686
It seems that this idea is quite popular or maybe is just a novel idea that warrants a "look-see".
And talk about keeping up with the times, they even have the freely distributable ebooks by Cory Doctorow, science fiction books on the DS:
A Place so Foreign Craphound Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Eastern Standard Tribe EBooks, Neither E nor Books Home Again Home Again Return to Pleasure Island Shadow of the Mothaship Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town Super Man And The Bug Out Overclocked
 Nintendo DSi XL
The Nintendo DSi XL handheld console with a 4.2-inch screen (about 93 percent increase in size from the original DSi's 3.25-inch screen) but resolution remains the same—192 by 256 pixels, which are spread over a 4.2-inch screen, rather than a 3.3-inch one. You also get a much-improved side-angle view, so more than one player can see what's going on. The DSi XL is 6.4-by-3.6-by-0.8-inch (HWD) device, and at a little over 11 ounces, it's 20 percent more hefty than the 7.5-ounce DSi and more difficult to put in your pocket. Another feature that's been enlarged: the two internal speakers, with grilles that have seven apertures each, instead of one. Sound is much more powerful on the DSi XL. A new pen stylus is included as well as the old stylus that fits inside the unit.
It is otherwise the same as the DSi.
 Nintendo 3DS
The Nintendo 3DS is capable of displaying a 3D image using MPO format. No 3D glasses are needed. It is also backward compatible with the Nintendo DS and DSi XL in that it will play games designed for these devices in 2D mode.
The 3DS includes a 3D camera capability using two cameras.
- Size (when closed) 2.9 inches high, 5.3 inches long, 0.8 inches deep.
- Weight Approximately 8 ounces (including battery pack, stylus, SD memory card).
- Upper Screen Wide-screen LCD display, enabling 3D view without the need for special glasses. Capable of displaying approximately 16.77 million colors. 3.53 inches display (3.02 inches wide, 1.81 inches high) with 800 x 240 pixel resolution. 400 pixels are allocated to each eye to enable 3D viewing.
- Lower Screen LCD with a touch screen capable of displaying 16.77 million colors. 3.02 inches (2.42 inches wide, 1.81 inches high) with 320 x 240 pixel resolution.
- Cameras One inner camera and two outer cameras. Resolutions are 640 x 480 for each camera. Lens are single focus and uses the CMOS capture element. The active pixel count is approximately 300,000 pixels.
- Wireless Communication 2.4 GHz. Enabling local wireless communication among multiple Nintendo 3DS systems for game play and StreetPass. Enabling access to the Internet through wireless LAN access points (supports IEEE802.11 b/g with the WPA™/WPA2™ security feature). Recommended distance of wireless communication is within 98.4 feet. This can be shorter depending on the environmental situation. WPA and WPA2 are marks of the Wi-Fi Alliance.
- Input Controls Input controls are the following:
- A/B/X/Y Button, +Control Pad, L/R Button, START/SELECT
- Circle Pad (enabling 360-degree analog input)
- Touch screen
- Embedded microphone
- Motion sensor
- Gyro sensor
- Other Input Controls Other input controls are the following:
- 3D Depth Slider (enabling smooth adjustment of the 3D level effect)
- HOME (HOME button brings up the HOME menu)
- Wireless switch (can disable wireless functionality even during game play)
- POWER button
- Connector Connector includes:
- Game Card slot
- SD Card slot
- Cradle connector
- AC adapter connector
- Audio jack (stereo output)
- Sound Stereo speakers positioned to the left and right of the top screen (supports virtual surround sound).
- Stylus: Telescoping stylus (approximately 3.94 inches when fully extended).
- Power: AC adaptor (WAP-002 [USA]). Nintendo 3DS Battery Pack (lithium ion battery [CTR-003].
- Charge Time About 3.5 hours
- Battery Duration When playing Nintendo 3DS software about 3-5 hours. When playing Nintendo DS software about 5-8 hours. Battery duration differs depending on the brightness setting of the screen. The information regarding battery duration is a rough standard. It can be shorter depending on what functions of the Nintendo 3DS system are used.
- Game Card Nintendo 3DS Game Card. The size is approximately the same as Nintendo DS Game Card.
 eBook reader
There will also be an eBook reader for the handheld console. Nintendo will offer a book store for DS owners. This will be a special cartridge which will include some eBooks.
 100 Classic Books
This is a cartridge for the DS that you can purchase. It does not require any modification to your eBook firmware or any additional homebrew cartridge. It has been available in Europe and Australia for a while and was introduced to the US market in June 2010. (French and German versions are also available.) As the name implies it includes 100 Classic eBooks and was created by Harper Collins. However, it is also a full eBook reader and additional eBooks can be downloaded via the wireless web capability of the DS and then stored on the cartridge itself. There is limited space on the cartridge for downloadable books, likely about 10 can stored.
 The Reader
The built in reader included in this cartridge is pretty capable. It uses the double page capability in portrait screen mode with two pages shown. The touch screen can be used to manipulate the software, change pages, etc. or the buttons may be used. To provide maximum flexibility the software supports turning the unit upside down so that the touch screen can be on the left, rather than the right. In this case the buttons are also reprogrammed to allow the 4 buttons that are now at the bottom to be used instead of the 4 way button.
Books have a cover but otherwise there seems to be no images in the books which is unfortunate, considering the target audience. Page turns are supported with a flick of the finger, a touch on the left or right side, or using the left/right buttons. Page changes are dynamic and emulate the actual motion of a page turning. There are two font sizes available for reading. Up to 3 bookmarks can be set in the book. Closing the DS will cause the unit to go into sleep mode to conserve battery life while allowing you to simply resume reading by opening the unit. The unit keeps track of the book you are reading and can restore your place even if you turn it off but only the latest book is remembered. For earlier books you will need to set a bookmark manually.
There is a library browser built into the application. It allows managing the collection of books and can even help in suggesting a book to read based on your search criteria, which includes child appropriate reading. The collection can be sorted in various ways or just browsed graphically by looking at the spine of the books as if looking at a bookshelf.
This biggest limitation of this solution is that none of the books have images.
 Other features
The software supports background music playing in several genres. Books can be transferred between units that have the software, and a demo copy can be sent to another unit that will last until the unit is turned off.
For more information see: 100 Classic Book Collection on Wikipedia.
Flips is the name coined by EA for a product they have released for the Nintendo platform. This is a cartridge based eBook reader that is coupled with the book. It is intended for young children to teens and includes interactive features for the books. For more information see: Flips - A cartridge usually includes multiple books from a set. There are also downloadable books available. While the format is unique to this platform the eBook contents are the same as are often available from other sources. For example The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan or The Far Away Tree stories which include The Enchanted Wood and 5 other stories by Enid Blyton.
 Browser Based Options
eBooks.TaggedZi.com offers a web browser based ebook solution with free classic books. It is tailored to gaming platforms, including the DSi XL. Users with the browser installed and an available internet connection can connect to the service. At present there are 887 books available from 46 different authors.