Tuesday, 30 November 2010

E-Readers: Kobo, Sony, Kindle, Nook and iPads

The premise of the e-readers is fairly simple: you buy electronic books and download them from your computer on to the reader. Most formats are Adobe PDF and can also be read on a Blackberry, iPhone, or your desktop computer. Some booksellers sell the books in a differing format, so the e-readers are not necessarily interchangable, nor do all e-books work on all e-readers.

Some e-readers have wireless capabilities, others do not. There are also different generations of these e-readers, with each version having more capabilities. For instance, there are some that also give you daily access to newspapers and magazines.

Some things to consider when deciding what to buy:
When comparing eBook readers, these are some of the most critical considerations:
Content: An eReader is of little to no good if you can't, well, use it to read what you want. In this regard, it's important to pay attention to the specs of any eBook reader you are interested in. Many eReaders can display the ePub open e-book format, while some eReaders (including the Amazon Kindle can't). Instead, the Kindle has a proprietary format, but has a vast content library compatible with the device as well as support for PDFs and Word DOCs. It's also important to consider how much content costs.

Display: How big is the device's display? What display technology does the device use? While a small screen may make a device that much more convenient, it may -- of couse -- make it more difficult to read. Displays using e-ink technology make text look just like it would on paper, and is often the preferred technology for eReaders.

Performance: For your basic eReader, performance is important -- but not hugely important. In the eBook reader world, performance often boils down to how fast a screen can refresh (effectively, how fast a page can turn and how quickly you can access menus) and how long it takes to power up. For eReaders built into more advanced devices like the iPad, performance becomes important in the sense that it is important to computers.
Wireless: Many eReaders offer 3G connectivity for downloading content wherever you are, and some eBook readers are also equipped with WiFi. Wireless connectivity is important for eReaders as it is a convenient way to get content on your device. The Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook, for example, offer free 3G wireless -- allowing users to download books, newspapers, blogs and more form virtually anywhere.

Storage space: The storage space, or capacity for content on an eBook reader, is important for obvious reasons. Of course, storage space determines how many eBooks you can store on your eReader simultaneously. It also determines capacity for other files, including music, pictures, and even in some cases (e.g. Apple iPad), movies.

Multimedia: As just alluded to, many eBook readers can display multimedia content beyond just eBooks. Many higher-end eReaders offer a built-in digital music player, and some even offer external speakers in addition to a standard headphone jack. Some eBook readers even offer the ability to store and display pictures, while the iPad (and surely other tablet computers) offer video playback.
Advanced features: Of course, every eReader can display eBooks. Yet, there are a number of other features that some eReaders do offer. Some eBook readers, including the Kindle, offer a basic, built-in web browsers that allows users to browse the web for free over the 3G network. Other advanced features includes music players, the ability to digitally lend books to friends, text-to-speech capabilities and more.

Battery life: Another important factor to consider when buying and eBook reader is the battery life of the device. Thanks to e-ink display technology that only consumer battery life when changing what's displayed on the screen (e.g. turning a page), many eReaders can provide up to an incredible 2 weeks of reading. In most ways, battery life depends on whether wireless is on or off, as well as display technology.
Price: Price is the most obvious factor when considering an eReader. Of course, price is directly related to features offer and the brand recognition of any given device. For a device with advanced features (like the Apple iPad that is more closely related to a computer than an eReader), buyers can expect to pay proportionally more. Source: EReader Leader
As a big fan of books, there are also questions as to whether or not this is the type of tool for you. Certainly some people love new gadgets and that is enough for them. However, if you are a reader of many books, the above factors and others are extremely important.

The Amazon Kindle is probably the best of the e-readers in that it has the wireless capabilities, plays music, and of course accesses the electronic books. Its downfall is that it will only use Kindle specific formats. Therefore there are certain e-books that are not accessible. As well, you can only buy most books that can be used on the Kindle from Amazon.

The Kobo reader, from Chapters (and Barnes and Noble) is a basic model. It does, however, allow access to many formats, not just from Chapters. Having used a Kobo for a number of months its limitations, for a reader such as myself, actually make it a bit of a waste of money. I read a lot, re-read many books and often refer back to them. The Kobo does not allow me to check back into books in an easy way. Page numbers displayed on the Kobo are not the same as in the actual book, you can't highlight or make notes.

The newest versions of the Kindle and Sony E-readers do allow you to highlight text on the screen and to make notes, which make these great devices for students, those who read more than fiction, and those who want to re-read or refer back to the books. I'd like to know more about them, though, to see if they'd really work for me.

For a heaftier price, there is the Apple iPad. Some advantages are that along with being a great e-reader, it has computer functions and the display is in colour. You can highlight, make sticky notes on the page you're reading, the page numbers reflect the book's, making it for easy reference.

I guess that this also means that you get what you pay for.

The smell and feel of a book is something I love, too, however. The crisp cover and uncracked spine of a paperback is enticing. A brand new text is amazing. The well-worn hard cover of a childhood book, read many times over, is just as wonderful. Each new book represents new ideas, ways of looking at the world, and possibility. Each previously cherished book represents lessons learned, history, and discovery. Well, at least that is how it is for me.

So, the question is, do I read enough that owning such a tool would allow me to 'be greener'? When I look at the shelves of books within our house, the answer becomes fairly obvious. I read an average of 3 books a week. Some weeks I read as many as about 5, but other weeks I only get through 1. The books I read are non fiction, fiction, texts...the list goes on. I am also one who re-reads all sorts of books.

Will I also be able to allow a thin piece of plastic and metal, that covers computer chips and data, to take the place of a book.

My Kobo isn't doing 'it' for me. Do I upgrade and continue purchasing e-books? Or, do I revert back to paper only? I need to do some more thinking.

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