An e-reader is an electronic device which allows the owner to read books, newspapers and magazines on screen. The key selling feature of any e-reader is the question of space: if you are a keen traveler you can take an entire library of digital books with you and read the books wherever you like on a device that is smaller and lighter than the average paperback book. If your space at home is limited and you need access to lots of books, then an e-reader might be the answer. The latest models allow text to be translated, so that books can be read more quickly all over the globe. Students and researchers have the ability to search the book for key words, to make annotations and notes, and to look up the meanings of words they do not know. The font size can be enlarged or changed to suit your personal preferences and, once downloaded, they can be used by the blind or partially-sighted to have the book read aloud to them. Typically they consume little power and have a lower environmental impact than printed books – which use three times the raw materials and huge amounts of water to produce. Most e-books are cheaper than their printed equivalents and many are free – so once you have made the initial investment in an e-reader you can build up a large library comparatively cheaply. E-books are never out of print and you can buy and read an e-book at any time of the day or night, even if you are abroad and need something new to read. Which one you buy will depend on what you want it to be capable of doing. You might even be influenced by the range of colour options.
What are the disadvantages of e-readers? Technology does not stand still and it is possible that future innovations may render some e-books bought now unreadable if file types and formats change radically in the future. E-readers can be damaged very easily if they are dropped and are much more susceptible than printed books to damp or extremes of heat and cold. The cheapest e-reader discussed in this essay far exceeds the cost of one book and in the UK it is free to borrow books from libraries. The cost of the e-readers themselves are prohibitive to most of the world’s population. Not every book ever printed is available in digital form and it is possible for the authorities to keep a record of every book you download onto an e-reader – which raises interesting problems of privacy and surveillance. Some people might argue that the pleasure of reading a printed book is an aesthetic one – to do with the feel and smell of the cover and the paper; certainly a printed book wrapped as a present can have a visual and tangible appeal which a digital book can never hope to reproduce. Although their production causes less environmental damage than printed books, their disposal, as new technology emerges and they become obsolete, is a problem since they contain toxic substances and are non-biodegradable.
The Apple iPad claims that it is the best way to experience the internet. It has had an extensive advertising campaign and tops the sales of e-tablets. However, it is much more than an e-reader, although that is one of its many applications. The web browser is called Safari. Navigating is easy because you use your finger, the screen display size is big, and the text size is actually readable. By having the internet with you on the go, you can read your favorite magazine, play games, and keep up with the news and weather. The internet connection is high-speed through Wi-Fi. An alternative is to purchase 3G networking service based on how much data you think you will use. In the UK the 3G service offers contracts. Cost for 1 GB is £18 per month up to £25 per month but these contracts include free texts and a certain amount of free calls.
The e-reader program for the iPad is free and is called iBooks. The program has over 150,000 books with more being added every day. Many books are free. You can browse by genre, title, or author. Reading on the iPad is just like reading a book. You can flip the pages, view a single page, and view two pages at once like a real book, and change text size or font. The iBooks program automatically saves your place when you quit using the program. You can even highlight text and make notes which come in handy for students.
Right now the iPad is selling from £439 and offering free engraving and free shipping. The cost increases with the size of the hard drive. The 16GB hard drive with Wi-Fi is £510. In contrast, the 64GB hard drive is £612. The unit price increases if you want to have the option of connecting to the 3G network. Prices range from £541 for the 16 GB hard drive to £714 for the 64GB hard drive. The iPad weighs just 1.5 pounds for the Wi-Fi model and 1.6 pounds for the Wi-Fi plug 3G model. Amazingly, the iPad is only .5 inches deep. The dimensions are 9.56 inches high by 7.47 inches wide. The display screen is 9.7 inches diagonally. For these prices, I might as well purchase a computer. I suppose I am paying for the convenience of having such a light, portable computer. As an e-reader alone, the iPad seems extremely expensive, despite its high public profile and excellent sales. Of course, if you want to be able to e-mail, watch films, listen to music and word-process documents, as well as read a digital book, then you might choose to buy an iPad, but its limited battery life would limit its usefulness for travelers. Furthermore the backlit screen has caused some discomfort – eye-strain and headaches – which some users have found inconvenient.
The Amazon Kindle is receiving attention. Just like the iPad it comes with just Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi plus 3G. The kindle comes in two case colors, black or white. The screen sizes range from 6 inches to 9.7 inches. It is nice to have options in the screen size, color of the unit, and Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi plus 3G internet. Those screen and color options distinguish the Kindle from the iPad. Another area where the Kindle is different from the iPad is price. For example, the white 6 inch display, 3G + Wi-Fi model sells for just £149.95. The same Kindle with the 9.7 inch screen is only £319.95. The Kindle distinguishes itself from the iPad by offering 3G free of charge with no monthly fees. With the 3G wireless service, you do not have to search for Wi-Fi hotspots. The 9.7” Kindle holds up to 3,500 books at one time while the 6” holds 1,500 books. The Kindle can read the books to you. 630,000 books are available compared to the 150,000 books available with the iPad. Books start at just £5-75. In addition, 1.8 million free or out-of-copyright books are available on the Kindle. Just like the iPad, the Kindle has PDF capabilities. The 9.7” screen rotates from portrait view to landscape view automatically. This rotation feature is manual on the 6” screen. The 9.7 inch Kindle dimensions are 10.4” x 7.2” x .38”. The 6” Kindle is 8” x 5.3” x .36”. The Kindle is narrower than the iPad. The Kindle also weighs less and is therefore easier to hold for the hours it might take you to read a book. The Kindle weighs only 18.9 ounces. It is slim, and its grey appearance makes it look very sophisticated. The storage on the Kindle is only 4 GB which is considerably smaller than the iPad. With the wireless service on, the battery will last one week. With wireless service turned off, you can read for two to three weeks. Battery life varies with wireless usage. The Kindle will charge in about four hours. So far, the Kindle sounds like a much better deal than the iPad. The amount of books available for reading is far greater on the Kindle than the iPad. The cost for the Kindle is much less than the iPad. In addition, Kindle users save money each month by taking advantage of free 3G service and the longer battery life makes it much more attractive for long-distant travel. The Kindle screen is not back-lit, thus making the experience of reading a digital book as close as possible to reading a real book.
Since Barnes and Noble is a book store, they are not about to be left out of the e-reader market. They came out with their own version of the e-reader called Nook. Nook now comes in full color touchscreen which is different from the Kindle which is just displays in black and white. The Nook Color offers magazines, newspapers, and interactive children’s books. You can surf the web, link to social media, play games, and listen to music with the Nook. Barnes and Noble advertise over two million books available with the Nook. The Nook screen is 7 inches which is right between the ranges of screen size available in the Kindle. Wi-Fi is built into the Nook. 3G internet service does not appear to be available on the Nook. The Nook can be yours for £259. Nooks come with 8GB of built-in memory which lets you hold up to 6,000 books. The books that you download are yours forever. The books transfer when you upgrade or replace your lost Nook. Most books are £5.99 or less. Many books by popular authors are under £5. More than one million books are totally free. Nooks weigh just 15.8 ounces and are .48 inches deep. Their depth is more comparable to the iPad than the Kindle. Nooks are 8.1 inches high and 5 inches wide.
The number of books and the storage space on the Nook is far greater than the Kindle and the iPad. However, the nook has been criticized for its slowness in page turning and for the design of its user interface. The price is somewhere in-between that of the Kindle and the iPad. One of the few things that sets the nook apart from the iPad and the Kindle is the fact that it allows you to ‘lend’ books to friends for two weeks at a time. So far, I like the Kindle the best because I think it is the best value for the money.
Tesco offers a Sony eBook reader PRS 300 with prices that begin at £44.95 depending on the options you choose. The old saying of “You get what you pay for” is definitely true of the Sony eBook. You can only store 350 books. The display screen is only 5”. No color display here. Only black and white. The hard drive is only 440 MB. One feature that sounds interesting is that with the Sony eReader, you can get books at more places. The choices are: Sony’s eBook reader store, public libraries, Google books, and more. I’m not sure how much of an advantage this is when the storage capacity is so small. A feature of the Sony eReader that distinguishes it from the others is that it comes with a cover and a light at no additional cost. A USB cable is also included. This item is available on the internet and will ship to a store near you for free. Nothing is said about the internet connection or capabilities. Nothing is said about the dimensions of the Sony PRS300 eReader. I would not waste my money on this Sony eBook reader.
The Sony eReader does have PDF capabilities like the other e-Readers. Sony can also process Microsoft Word documents. The battery charge will last for two weeks. It is possible to change the font size on the display.
Out of the four eBook readers I reviewed, the Amazon Kindle sounds like the best product because of the product specifications, price, and capabilities. It certainly is better than the iPad, but if you buy an iPad you obviously want a portable tablet computer and reading e-books is not your priority. The Sony PRS300 puts me off because of its limited storage, but if the initial cost is important to you then you might buy one. The nook gives you more features and capabilities than a Kindle, but at over £100 more does not offer sufficient value for money. I have wanted an eBook reader for a long time. Doing this research on this product has been good for me because it has taught me how to compare products by paying attention to features, capabilities and price.
http://www.apple.com/ipad/ n.p., n.d.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_nr_scat_292565_ln?rh=n%3A292565%2Ck%3Athe+amazon+kindle&keywords=the+amazon+kindle&ie=UTF8&qid=1297049775&scn=292565&h=1c74abd2c09a707611903d7069f35a480320e665 n.p., n.d.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nookcolor/newsstand/index.asp?cds2Pid=35607 n.p., n.d. http://direct.tesco.com/search/default.aspx?search=Sony+PRS+300&confirm.x=54&confirm.y=9 n.p., n.d.