Monday, August 16, 2010

e-maginings: Choosing an e-reader

At the OCC meeting on Saturday, a friend asked me for advice on which e-readers to request from Santa. I jokingly said, "If Santa's rich, ask for iPad. But if Santa isn't, any of the e-ink readers should do nicely."

Apple's iPad, of course, is much more than a dedicated e-reader, and it's quite a bit more costly. I'd sure love to have one, but I'll wait. More companies are coming out with table computers and I'm figuring they'll be cheaper than the iPad. (Sheesh, I had just published this post when I read an email about the Pandigital Novel, a "7-inch Color Multimedia eReader" which looks like an inexpensive iPad. It's connected to B&N's e-book store.) Apparently Bed, Bath and Beyond is carrying them, so I know where I'm going this week.)

At the moment, three companies dominate the dedicated e-book reader market: Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble. All make good devices, so how to decide which one is right for you? First, go look at them. I didn't have that option when I bought my Kindle in December 2007. At the time, the only choice was the Kindle or the Sony reader and I chose the Kindle because I wanted the wireless delivery.

You can see and sample the nook at any Barnes & Noble bookstore. Last time I was in, I asked one of the sales clerks to show me and my husband how they work. He wanted to try out the internet browser function of the nook, but not being used to e-ink, he found it sluggish. That didn't bother me, since I've been using a first-generation Kindle since 2007 and I know it takes a while for the little e-ink pixels to reorganize themselves into a new page. I have a couple of friends who have recently bought nooks and love it. If you want a reader that can also substitute as an internet browser, this is your best choice.

The Amzaon Kindle can be viewed at Target though the demos will be Kindle 2. The Kindle 3 has just been announced and Amazon is taking orders now for delivery in mid-September. The new Kindle offers a choice of wi-fi or wi-fi + 3G. If you buy a lot from Amazon anyway and don't object to their proprietary format, this is a good choice. I have an Amazon Rewards card, so I can apply rewards certificates to e-books. The Kindle will also read unsecure Mobipocket, so I can buy directly from my publisher and other e-book houses. The later Kindles also have PDF readers, which my old one does not.

The Sony Readers can be seen at Target, Best Buy and Borders bookstores. If you can get into a Borders, you'll get a better feel for the device as theirs seem to be fully functional, unlike the ones at Best Buy that flip between two advertising pages. I like the Sony Touch, with its touch screen and the ability to rotate the screen from portrait to landscape. I found it to have a more user-friendly interface than the nook, and this is currently my top contender for a new reading device. In addition to the company's proprietary format BBeB, the Sony devices support PDF, ePub, MS Word and other text formats.

So how to choose one reader over the others? It depends somewhat on your reason for buying an e-reader and what you intend to do with it. One friend chose the Sony Touch over the Kindle because she wanted to be able to buy from the eHarlequin store instead of Amazon. She made a very wise choice for her.

Also think about whether or not you want a wi-fi or 3G (cell phone) connection. If not, you can probably save Santa a few bucks. But I warn you, once you're tried a reader with the 3G connection, you'll be hooked. I love that feature on my Kindle and I've updated my blogs and even bought books while riding in the car. But if you don't mind transferring files the old-fashioned way, via USB cable, then look at the Sony models.

There are other e-book readers on the market: COOL-ER, the JetBook, and the Aluratek Libre eBook Reader, sold at Micro-Center. I don't have any hand-on experience with these devices, so I won't make any recommendations.

Which e-book reader do you recommend?

Linda McLaughlin
w/a Lyndi Lamont