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