eReaders & You

If there’s one question that burns at the heart of the publishing industry today, surely it must be, “How do people read their books now?”

eReaders are here to stay and being adopted not just by the tech savvy but hardcore readers everywhere. What’s that? You’re thinking of getting one yourself? Well then, you’re in luck, because we Inkpunks have recently been discussing all the eReader options out there. A big part of writing is reading. We read a lot. There’s a wider availability of eBooks than ever before. And with so many of our favorite magazines offering eSubscriptions now, it’s a good time to consider buying an eReader.

What follows is not a hardcore buyer’s guide (you’ll want to hit up your favorite tech blog for that) but a few key points to help you decide which eReader may be right for you. I’m mainly going to be comparing the “Big Three” (primarily on the basis of their larger online catalog). I won’t be making any specific endorsements though. That’s for you to decide.

Which one to get basically boils down to two questions. First, “How much are you willing to spend?” There’s an eReader for every budget. Second, “Do you mind reading off a computer screen?”

Tablet Devices

If you don’t mind reading off a computer screen, you might want to look at the NookColor, the new Kindle Fire, or the iPad (or any of the other tablets running the Android OS.) Though these all come in various sizes, they are essentially LCD screens like a laptop. Some folks don’t like reading from LCD screens for long periods. And most of us read in bed. Some studies have suggested that staring into a computer screen right before we turn off the lights prevents us from getting a good night’s sleep. Your mileage may vary. I read on my iPad a lot and I haven’t noticed this.

The good thing about color and tablet eReaders is that they are all touchscreen. This makes searching, annotation, and (as long as you have a 3G or wifi connection) sharing your favorite passages through social media very easy. There’s a lot of secondary functionality built into these devices, even if you don’t go with a full tablet like the iPad. Angry Birds, surfing the web, checking Facebook and Twitter. Watching movies. You know, all those things that are supposedly killing good old-fashioned reading…

Speaking of shiny, the screens on all of these devices tend to be highly reflective glass, so you may get quite a bit of glare. Reading outside in full daylight is more difficult (though not impossible). Because of all the bells and whistles, they suck down battery power pretty quick. You’ll be charging them every day.

(You may already have one of these devices if you own a smart phone, btw. If you are okay reading on a much smaller screen, you’ll also have the advantage of accessing the online catalogs of all the different marketplaces. Just pick the app you want to read from…)

Pros: brilliant full color graphics, responsive touch screens, secondary uses like the web, lots of other apps and toys.

Cons: Pricier (from around $199 to much higher with full-featured tablets), possibly harder on the eyes, somewhat shorter battery life, heavier.

eInk Devices

Your other option is to go with en eInk reader. These are typically smaller and lighter than the LCD-based readers. The technology behind the screen creates a static image. It’s not self-illuminated and only displays in shades of gray. But the text is crisp and more like reading from an actual paper book. Most of them (but not all) have touchscreens now. They may not be as responsive or whizbang as the tablets, but they don’t have shiny glass surfaces, either and are perfect for reading outside on a sunny day.

eInk readers do have a few bells and whistles beyond reading. Most have basic internet connectivity and access to apps that look okay in black & white.

They fit better into a pocket or purse and are less fuss to carry around. The batteries last for days, even a week or two if you turn the internet off while you’re reading. (Hint: this is a good idea.) Some even have slots for extra memory cards so you can carry all 500 volumes of your favorite series on vacation with you. Hey, I told you I read a lot!

Pros: Cheaper! (Typically $50-$100 cheaper than the tablet readers), lightweight, easier on the eyes, super long battery life.

Cons: B&W only, limited secondary uses. A little less responsive to navigate on.

Other things to Consider

If you have something like an iPad, you can read books from pretty much any store, but if you get a cheaper (or branded) eReader, you’re choosing the online catalog as much as you’re choosing the reader itself. Amazon has arguably the largest, most diverse selection for their Kindle, but Barnes & Noble is pretty close on their heels. Amazon sells all their eBooks in a proprietary digital format. It’s possible to convert other formats for use on the Kindle, but you’ll have to research which formats before you buy. The B&N Nook reads the industry standard ePub natively, which a lot of third party and independent publishers use. This can offset B&N’s slightly smaller online selection. Weigh these options carefully.

If you have the means to get a full-blown tablet like an iPad or one of the many Android models, you may be able to get a wireless keyboard and have a new machine to write on. I write on my iPad all the time; it’s replaced my laptop in many cases.

One more thing. As with all technology, eReaders are constantly evolving. You can bet as soon as you buy one, within a few months there will be a shinier model. Don’t worry about it. Buy what you’ll be happy with now, and it will serve you well for many years.

Good luck and happy reading!

 

 

 

 

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  • Paul Weimer

    There’s an eReader for every budget.
    I’m not so sure.  For the middle class and above, sure.  But readers who can’t afford paper copies of books certainly will have problems getting into the e-reader revolution.

    • This is true. The bottom rung seems to be about $100 which may still be too much for some, though I have seen some models in the $70-$80 range. I can’t say for sure how well they are supported.

  • I should also add: some eReaders (notably the Nook and Kindle) also allow access to your local library for checking out eBooks.  You may want to see what your local library has available if the thought of buying a bunch of eBooks isn’t in your budget.

  • Louise Marley

    Great article!  That’s a lot of helpful information in one place.

  • Galen Dara

    inkgorilla~ thank you for this, it’s been something i have been needing to jump into but just didn’t know where to start.  By default, I am using the device i already had (iPad) and reading my first ebook! With this info, I feel better about branching out and looking at other options.  Thanks!

    On a tangent… I heard a quote from some publisher on some radio show… (yah, sorry, i am really short on details here)… But the gist of it was that the decreases in traditional book sales are NOT transitioning into ebook sales.  That people are just reading less.  That’s not a topic for this thread, but it is something on my mind.

  • Great info!

    I also think that – if you have the money for it – it’s not necessarily bad to have both a general purpose tablet (iPad) as well as a special-purpose eReader. This would give you the benefit of the eInk for much of your reading and the broader-use tablet for everything else plus reading when you want.
    I have an iPad (of course!) but I could see getting an eInk reader specifically for reading, even though I don’t mind reading on the iPad at all – I’ve read several novels that way.