March 20, 2011
The last time Tech Tips looked at eBook Readers in 2008, it was more for the purpose of checking out just what eBook readers were – a sort of primer. Now in 2011, eBooks and eBooks readers have gotten a tremendous boost thanks to the likes of Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad. It certainly looks like not only are eBooks here to stay, but they now have a tremendous following and look to be the wave of the future. In this Tech Tip we’ll look at some practical aspects of choosing a reader that fits your needs.
Dedicated Reader or App (or both)?
While having a dedicated eBook reader is cool – what could be cooler than adding an e-book reader app to your Smart Phone or Tablet? All the major players in the eBook market have apps available for free download for multiple platforms. This means that you can start getting into the eBook game right this second on your device of choice!
An example of an eReader app is the one made by Amazon – the free Kindle Reading App – available for your iPhone, Windows PC, Mac, BlackBerry, iPad, Android, and Windows 7 Phone. You can not only download the app without owning an actual Kindle eBook reader, but you can download and install to each device. Not only that, but the Kindle app will sync what you are reading across all platforms that you’ve installed it on (for example – you can start reading an eBook on your iPad, resume it on your iPhone, resume it again on your MAC and then finish it off on your Kindle eBook reader).
Trying the app out first is also a cool way to see if eBooks are for you before you splurge for a dedicated reader. And who knows, particularly if you have a tablet, the app on your device may be just be all you need as an eReader. Some eBook manufacturers have taken notice as some readers like the new Nook Color from Barnes & Noble and the Pandigital Novel are actually tablets that have the Barnes & Noble eBook app installed (note that Pandigital recently unlocked the Novel so that it is now a full fledged tablet as well as an eBook reader).
E Ink™ or LCD?
If you do decide on an dedicated eBook reader, one of the first things you are confronted with is whether to get an LCD or an E Ink based reader. Not only do LCD readers typically have a backlight that helps viewing in dim situations, but they also are usually color and oftentimes are touchscreens as well. Some of the drawbacks are they tend to have a much poorer battery life than their E Ink counterparts, tend to weigh more and have problems being read in bright sunlight.
E Ink readers are typically much lighter than LCD readers; can be easily viewed outdoors and have a phenomenal battery life. Some of the drawbacks of E Ink are poor contrast (especially on first generation E Ink); it displays in gray scale (most noticeable, again, on the first generation) and its lack of a backlight. The second generation E Ink (dubbed E Ink Pearl) offered better contrast while the newly introduced color E Ink Triton shows some of the progress and promises that E Ink technology offers for the near future.
Looking To Buy an eBook Reader? – Here are Some Features to Look Out For:
1) How does the reader connect to the “book store”? Do you need to plug it into a PC? Does it have built in Wi-Fi or even 3G?
2) What kind of “book store” is available for the reader? How easy is it to use? How many and what kinds of titles are available? Are subscriptions to magazines and newspapers available?
3) Can you easily read other formats not in the “official” eBook reader format? For example, will it read common document formats such as PDF, DOC, TXT or even HTML formats? Can it handle the DRM (Digital Rights Management) formats well? Is there an easy way to convert to the format if it can’t handle the file type? For example, an eReader won’t help you if you plan to use it for DRM protected PDF version of a textbook if it can’t “read” that format and there is no way to convert it over to a format that it “can read”.
4) Does it do “extra” things such as play music? View videos? View photos?
5) How much storage is on it? Is the storage expandable? How fast does it work? Is it easy to use? How durable is it? What do other people think of the device (professional reviews as well customer feedback reviews are often helpful).
6) Is it widely enough adopted so that I can be assured that it won’t become obsolete in the near future? Can I get accessories for it?
As eBook readers continue to progress and become more widely used, it is very evident that this is the trend of the future. With the prices dropping and cheap eBook readers becoming available as well as the thousands of eBook titles available – it seems that if you haven’t already jumped on board – now is the time if you are looking to buy an eBook reader to pick one up (or download the reader app) and get caught with the wave of the eBook Reader future!