So Many eReaders, Which to Choose?

About a year ago, I wrote a blog about ebook readers and my decision to purchase a Sony PRS-505. I have absolutely no regrets, and I still love my reader; I can no longer say, though, that I "wouldn't trade it for anything."

First, I'm thrilled, pleased and tickled to death that after decades of owning ebook readers I'm finally using a product that's likely to become part of the mainstream. I've got at least three obsolete devices sitting around for which I can no longer purchase books. I truly believe that ebooks are here to stay this time. You can't read an industry publication these days without seeing at least one article about the evolving ebook market. Ebooks are the only segment of the book industry whose sales have seen a dramatic increase during the recession, and I know at least half a dozen people who are asking for an e-reader for the holidays this year. (Not to mention the fact that I'm frequently seeing others with these devices on the bus; mine is no longer a novelty.)

The technology is changing rapidly, however, and the decision as to which reader to get – and when to get it – has become much more complex. When I was choosing one just last year, my options were really just the Kindle and the Sony e-Reader. Well, now Amazon has two versions of the Kindle available, and Sony has two with a third one due out later this year. In addition, Barnes and Noble's first digital reader, the Nook (where DO they come up with these names!?) is now out and looks incredibly cool, with a split screen and color touchpad. (Some publications are already referring to it as "the Kindle Killer.") Apple, a company which seems to have cornered the market on sleek-looking devices that work well, is touting some sort of yet-to-be-seen tablet computer that they're planning to market as a book reader, too. I've also been using my Apple iTouch to read books via the free apps, and I think it works surprisingly well; I've currently got five different reader apps on the device, including the Kindle Reader and the B&N Reader. If you already own an iTouch or iPhone, it's a great way to see if reading books electronically is something that suits you. (I also know many people who prefer "real" books and find the idea of reading on an electronic device simply abhorrent).

So how do you settle on an ebook reader, if you're thinking about getting one? In all honesty, I don't know of anyone who has regretted their purchase, whether they went with the Sony or the Kindle. I'm sure those people are out there, but I haven't run into one yet, so there may be no "wrong" decision (it's too early to know about the Nook, and I don't know enough friends with other types of ereaders to be able to form an opinion). Whichever ereaders catches your eye, I strongly recommend you find a way to physically handle the devices you're considering, as that may swing your decision one way or the other (it was a major factor in my original decision). It's also a good idea to make a list of the features that are really important to you, and check to see where your chosen device stacks up. For example, if you are dead set that you want wireless content delivery your options are more limited. It's essential that you do your homework; I do know of one person who had planned to check out electronic books from her local library, only to find her Kindle's proprietary format kept her from being able to do that.

Most importantly, though, realize that if you get and ebook reader now, there will be a better one coming out in six months; that's just the way it's going to be for a few years. You could wait, of course, but you could end up playing the waiting game forever, since the technology is constantly evolving and will do so for some time to come (similar to the way PCs improve dramatically every few years). So my advice: Just go for it!

BookBrowse reviewer Kim Kovacs is an avid reader in the Pacific Northwest. All those rainy days give her the opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of books that span many genres. Browse Kim's reviews.



Update: Jan 27 2010: Apple's iPad was unveiled today with a much lower price point than anticipated. At $499 (as opposed to the anticipated ~$1000), the iPad is likely to give dedicated ereaders such as the Kindle and the Nook serious competition, and also significantly impact the market for smaller computers known as netbooks. A range of early reactions to the iPad can be found here

I manage an independent bookstore, and do recognize that through this type of technology, the publishing industry is taking a totally new turn, one that is attractive to most people with busy lives. The convenience of these e-reading devices, as well as the cost (sometimes 'free') of the books available to owners is turning the book world upside down. It can't be denied that this is the way the industry is going. However, I just like it to be acknowledged that the creation and popularity of these devices is so damaging to independent bookstores. Little by little they're vanishing from the scene. Not by the "Kindle Killer" (which you use to refer to the latest of these products) but what we, in the bookselling business call "Kindle, THE Killer". Hopefully the few true bibliophiles out there will continue to crave the smell of the ink when you first crack open a book, the feel of the pages between your fingers while reading, the cozy atmosphere and welcome smiles of independent booksellers. Not to mention the sacrifice of the time they put into reading, perusing and writing blurbs for numerous personalized recommendations, so that when you come and and say "Have you read this yet?" we can gleefully say yes!
Thanks for letting me have my say.
Manager, Lafayette Book Store
# Posted By Linda Grana | 11/22/09 1:15 PM
I have a Kindle 2 for about a year now. As you say no regrets - as I buy most of my books from Amazon and like the wireless feature. I bought it with thinking I would keep for 2 years before making a decision to upgrade & if so which one because as you say much is changing. Since the Kindle is bascially a "book" to me all the other features they keep adding may not be worth it for me as I have other devices that do these things. My old eyes do not due well with reading books on the iphone and itouch but that is how my daughter reads books. If I wanted anyting it would be a better note taking feature on the Kindle. Not sure what a split screen or color would do for me - kinda like the million features on my tv that in never use - sounds good but caasll I care about is to be able to watch a show when I turn the tv on.
# Posted By Beverly | 11/23/09 11:30 AM
I think many folks who try to compare the Sony and Kindle devices are missing a few key points.
- Kindle wants the device to 'disappear' while you read it, enhancing the illusion that one is reading a regular print book (where all you see is the page), and hence made the device plain and unobtrusive.
Sony wants their device to look flashy, and hence made it beautiful, but at the expense is making it a distraction from the page while reading. Kindle got it right.
- Kindle wants page turning to be an automatic reflex, no more difficult than turning a printed page.
They made the long buttons on the edge, where the reader's hands fall naturally, and only a rocking motion of the thumb or other finder(s) is needs to turn a page, regardless of which hand is holding it the moment.
Sony makes you move your fingers from the natural holding position to either touch the screen of press a small button in order to turn the page. Kindle recognizes that a device dedicated to reading will be irritating if the screen has fingerprints and smudges, whereas Sony (on the touch screen version) makes you rub your fingers on the screen to turn pages; if you have any oil, hand lotion, etc; on your fingers the screen will be harder to read through. once again, Kindle got it right.
- Kindle is designed to withstand a drop of 3 feet, should it fall from a table or your lap, or if you drop it while falling asleep while reading. Its cornders are rounded to avoid injuring the reader should it fall onto your face while reading in bed. I can't speak for Sony's attributes in this regard.
- The Kindle 2, with wireless turned off, lasts weeks on a charge (my own experience).
- You can buy new books from Amazon for the Kindle, or download tons of free titles from other services.
Sony's own bookstore pales next to the power of Amazon in this regard.
- Both the Kindle and the Sony use the same kind of screen, from the same company I believe. Both are optimized for natural reading, so they do not produce their own light. This is why they can be easily read in sunlight and in other situations where glare would make a computer type screen hard to read. These screens do not use power except when turning a page. People who want backlit screens for reading should consider getting a web-book portable computer instead, and live with the reduced utlity and shorter battery life.
# Posted By Paul | 12/2/09 3:46 PM
Apple's alleged Kindle-killing ereader appears to be scheduled for a Spring 2010 launch - and some industry watchers are wondering whether Hachette and Simon & Schuster's decision to publish the ebook version of a number of high profile books 4 months after the hardcover version maybe connected with this launch - as Apple's proposed 30:70 revenue split with no exclusivity requirement is much more attractive than Amazon's 50:50 split. More about this at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/12/09/apple_ipad...
# Posted By Davina - BookBrowse Editor | 12/9/09 4:38 PM
Ive been a Kindle owner for about a year,and i think its great.Its self contained,and downloads for my area are 30sec's or less.I love books their feel,smell,but i have so many now that the Kendle keeps me from buying more and Amazon allows me to store them.

Fred San Diego,Ca.
# Posted By fred | 1/16/10 10:45 AM
There's a good article about the Nook here: http://news.shelf-awareness.com/ar/theshelf/2010-0...
# Posted By Davina - BookBrowse editor | 2/2/10 10:00 PM
Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Discuss on Facebook
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Someone by Alice McDermott
Belle Cora