Decide Which E-reader to Buy?

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There are many good e-readers available, but the best e-reader for you will depend on how you want to use it. Below is a listing of factors to take into consideration when purchasing an e-reader or other device to use to read e-books.

Cost

If you already have a computer, a laptop, a tablet, or a phone, downloading and installing e-reader software is by far the least expensive option. The software is usually available at no charge to you, although there may be a cost in downloading an e-book.

If you are looking for an inexpensive option, look at dedicated e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Sony Reader, and the Kobo. Many cost less than $100.

E-readers with color screens and some tablet functionality like the Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Tablet cost around $200.

Tablets like the Apple iPad and Galaxy Tab, which can do much more than read e-books, generally cost between $400 and $500, but can be more expensive. 

Backlighting

E-readers and tablets which have LCD displays work similarly to computer and laptop displays. That is, the screen is lit from the back. For some people, this type of lighting makes it difficult to read for long periods of time and can cause eye strain. However, backlighting also allows you to read in a dark room without additional light. You'll find backlighting in tablets and in e-readers like the Kindle Fire, the Barnes & Noble Tablet, and the Kobo Vox.

Devices that use e-ink are not backlit, and therefore do not strain the eyes. In order to read in a dark room, you must have a source of light like a lamp as no light is emitted from an e-ink ereader. You'll find e-ink displays in most dedicated e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and the Sony Reader.

Color or E-ink Displays

If you want a color screen, then you will purchase one of the tablet-type e-readers like the Kindle Fire or the Barnes & Noble Tablet or a tablet like the Apple iPad or Galaxy Tab. These devices are backlit, are easy to read indoors, but difficult to read outside.

E-ink devices are only available in shades of gray, although color e-ink is on the way. E-ink devices do not strain the eyes, as light is not emitted from the e-reader, but rather depends on light from the room. E-ink devices can be easily read outside.

Weight

None of the e-reader devices weigh much, however if you are holding it for a long time, it can become heavy and unwieldy. Most dedicated e-readers weigh between 6 and 12 ounces; tablets weigh more, usually around 20 ounces.

Portability

Consider how easy it is to travel with your device. Can you easily take it with you? Do you want to fit it into a purse, a briefcase, or backpack? Will you need a case for it? Can you charge it while it is in its case?

Size

Screen size is very important. Are you comfortable reading an e-book on a cell phone screen? The iPhones have a diagonal screen size of 3.5". Or would you rather use the larger screens found on dedicated e-readers?  They usually have a diagonal screen size of 6". Tablets have the largest screen sizes, usually around 10" on the diagonal.

Memory or, How Many E-books Can I Store?

Just as print books are different sizes, so are e-books. However, if you intend to keep many e-books on your e-reader, then you should pay attention to the amount of memory that comes with the e-reader. Most e-readers come with a minimum of 2gb, which is approximately 1,500 e-books. If you download e-audio or videos, you will be downloading fewer e-books as multimedia files are larger.

Some e-readers, like the Nook and Sony Reader, allow you to increase memory by using their micro SD slots. You can purchase micro SD cards for your e-reader. Once installed, you will be able to store e-books on your e-reader and on your micro SD card.

You may have an opportunity to save e-books "in the cloud" or on your vendor's website so they are not always taking up room on your e-reader, but always close by. By off-loading some of your files, you may not need as much memory.

Comfort with technology

Do want an e-reader that just works without having to know much about the technology behind it? You will want to look for dedicated e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, or the Sony Reader. The Apple iPad would be a tablet that would fit this category.

If you are someone that likes to tinker with your devices or even root them, then consider a device that runs the Android operating system. Android devices include dedicated e-readers like the Barnes & Noble Nook and Touch, the Sony Reader PRS-T1. Other, higher end devices include the Kindle Fire, the Barnes & Noble Color and Tablet, and the Galaxy Tab.

Battery life

E-ink and LCD screens use the battery quite differently. The e-ink device only uses the battery when something changes, e.g., when you turn the device on/off or turn a page. Because of this, batteries last much longer than LCD devices. It is not uncommon to recharge your device only once a week or after 8,000 - 9,000 pages.

The LCD screens use batteries constantly. Devices like the Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Tablet not only have LCD screens, but also use wireless and 3G/4G. If they are turned on all the time, the battery is being used for communications as well. Battery life for tablets and devices like the Fire and Barnes & Noble Tablet is between 8 and 10 hours - with wireless and 3G/4G turned off.

Are the controls comfortable?

When you use the device, are the buttons, switches, or touch screens easy to use? Do you find yourself constantly pressing the wrong button or inadvertently doing something you didn't mean? Do you have difficulty pressing buttons because of a physical infirmity? Or scrolling with your finger to change pages?

Wireless (WiFi)

Most e-reader devices and tablets need some type of communication so you can set up accounts and purchase e-books from their store. Wireless, or wifi, is very common and is on all current devices. However, that means that you must have access to wifi and not everyone does.

Another option on many devices is 3G or 4G. These types of communications use the cellular network and are not available in all areas. There is also an additional monthly charge associated with them. If you do not live in an area that supports 3G or 4G, then you may not need a device that has it.

Special needs/accessibility

Do you have any special needs that should be addressed?

  • Can you easily operate the controls?
  • Can you download and open an e-book?
  • Can you move from page to page?
  • Can you jump to another chapter?
  • Can you turn the device on and off?
  • Can you increase or decrease the text size?
  • Can you change the font used?
  • Can you listen to an e-book?

All current devices allow you to increase text size. Some will allow you to listen to the text of an e-book. This is called "text-to-speech." This is different than listening to an audiobook, in which a performer reads the text of a book. When listening to an e-book using text-to-speech, you'll hear a computer-generated voice.

Listen to e-Audiobooks

Most dedicated e-readers do not support listening to e-audiobooks, even if they have text-to-speech capability. If you want to do more with your e-reader than just read books, you will want to consider tablets or tablet-type ereaders like the Kindle Fire or Barnes & Noble Tablet.

If you want to be able to play games and run applications similar to those on a computer, then a tablet like the Apple iPad or Galaxy Tab is the best choice.

Borrowing e-books from a library

If you plan to borrow e-books from a library, you will probably need a computer. Most sites require you to download the e-book file to a computer first and then copy it to your e-reader via a USB cable. If you have a Kindle, you might be able to download the e-book file directly to your e-reader, but this depends upon the publisher of the e-book.

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