A buying guide to eReaders and Tablets.
If you want to enjoy a good digital book, newspaper or magazine (yes even a magazine) an e-book reader is a smart choice. Prices have plunged this year, and the E Ink screens on many of these devices have improved somewhat, which means the options are better than ever for digital bookworms.
E-book readers do not snatch as many headlines as other gadgets, but the market is flooded with options. Some of these models are superb, while many could be classified as atrocious. We will focus first on the industry’s four front-runners, and then have a look at the options that will colour your buying decision.
The Kindle is the best-selling reader, and is part of a whole ecosystem of Amazon-provided e-books and software, so you can read the same books on your PC, smartphone or Kindle. Though expensive in its earlier generations, the latest iteration sports a budget price, great connectivity options and a wide selection thanks to Amazon’s Kindle store.
Flagship model: Kindle 3 (3G)
Supported formats: TXT, AZW, PDF, HTML, Mobipocket
Hidden perk: Amazon has a free service that converts HTML pages and Word documents to a Kindle-friendly format.
Price: $190 (with 3G and Wi-Fi)
Barnes & Noble Nook
B&N entered the e-reading fray with its Nook. Despite mixed reviews of the Android-powered interface, the color touchscreen, large e-book selection and cross-promotions with the brick-and-mortar stores are clear high points.
Storefront: Nookbook Store
Flagship model: Nook Color
Supported file formats: eReader PDB, ePUB, PDF
Hidden perk: Connecting the Nook to B&N’s in-store WiFi grants you an hour’s worth of reading of any e-book title.
Price: $250 (Wi-Fi only)
Sony’s middling e-readers have not exactly been critical darlings, but they are still solid and dependable. Sturdy, compact chassis and daylight-viewable E-Ink displays are the norm across models.
Storefront: Sony Reader Store
Flagship model: Sony Reader: Daily Edition
Supported file formats: TXT, PDF, ePUB, BBeB Book, RTF, DOC
Hidden perk: Protected PDF and ePUB allows users to check out e-books from participating libraries.
Yes, we know the iPad is a tablet, not a dedicated eReader, but it is still a viable option for reading books. On top of launching an iTunes-esque bookstore, Apple has lent the iPad its UI razzle-dazzle, making for one of the most polished e-reading interfaces.
Flagship model: iPad 3G (32GB)
Supported file formats: ePUB, PDF
Hidden perk: iBooks comes with a free copy of Winnie-the-Pooh.
Like the rest of the gadget world, e-readers are in the midst of their own format war. Luckily, it is less contentious than most. While some devices support proprietary and DRM-locked file formats (like Amazon’s AZW for the Kindle), almost all readers also embrace standards like plain text (TXT), Adobe’s portable document format (PDF) and HTML.
Unfortunately, the most popular e-book reader, the Kindle, does not support the most ubiquitous e-book format, EPUB. Almost every other e-reader supports this open standard, but Amazon has balked, preferring to push its own format —, which, of course, no other e-book reader can utilize.
Before deciding on a reader, it is worth exploring its supported formats and the preferences of its associated storefront. After all, spending an arm and a leg on a virtual library you cannot read is pointless.
Connectivity of the 3G variety is the “power door lock” of e-readers. Adding the feature increases the price, but the no-frills day-to-day convenience makes up for it. Being able to browse and download titles sans computer and without a Wi-Fi hotspot grants you true mobility, and the pairing of high-speed throughput with relatively small file transfers means instant gratification. Even the monthly bill has been erased from the equation, as most 3G-ready readers on today’s market include lifetime connectivity in the purchase price.
However, it is worthwhile to consider the reliability of the wireless provider chained to your e-reader of choice. If you are an AT&T subscriber who is experiencing service problems, you are likely to see similar performance in your AT&T 3G-powered Kindle. Remember, wireless connectivity has its share of quirks.
MP3 capabilities usually feel extraneous in anything short of an iPod. However, the feature can add a great deal of value to an e-reader. On top of e-versions of your favourite books, an MP3-capable device can also download audiobooks, or offer old-fashioned music playback. Though this is the norm in high-end hybrid devices like the iPad and Nook Color (which do full-fledged video playback), even modest readers from Sony and Amazon sport some kind of support.
Bookmarks and Annotation
Annotation and reference chops are standard on e-readers, but they are worth exploring nevertheless. If your reader is likely to be used in an academic or professional setting, then being able to highlight, save and annotate passages is incredibly useful. The trend of baking in onboard reference materials like dictionaries has caught on, as well (though they are unlikely to make “Jabberwocky” more decipherable). Each reader handles these tasks and tools in a slightly different fashion, so if your goal is critical reading, be sure to do your homework.
E-Ink vs. LCD
It is not a battle of “peanut butter vs. chocolate” proportions, but the e-reader community is definitely opinionated about the superiority of one tech over another. Here is a quick rundown:
E Ink: This display tech relies on millions of positively and negatively charged microcapsules. Switching the polarity effectively shifts their positions, producing non-backlit, grayscale images and text (think: Etch-A-Sketch). The lack of backlighting is reported to be easier on the eyes, though problematic for night reading. It is extremely low on power consumption, since it draws power only when changing the screen.
LCD: This tech in e-readers is just like on your smartphone or monitor. It’s color, high-contrast, and typically sports much better resolution than E-Ink. It comes with its share of setbacks too. Powering all that sweetness is incredibly taxing in terms of battery life, and long periods of staring at the (constantly flickering) backlight has been known to cause eye strain.
Though we have our preferences (E Ink for novels, LCD for periodicals), we can’t speak for everyone. Our advice is to get your hands (and eyes!) on each type of display, and get a feel for what is most comfortable for you.
Original contribution by Terrence Russell and can be found here: http://is.gd/iEJC5
More proof, if you needed it, that e-Readers are a busted flush.
Borders has slashed the prices of E-Readers Kobo and Aluratek by $20, illustrating just how meh they've become in the tech world. The price drop is nothing new--both the Kindle and Nook, Amazon and Barnes & Noble's market leaders, have seen their prices slashed recently, and they're thought to be the most exciting brands in the sector. Nevertheless, whom does the news bode worst?
Well, on one front, it shows that Borders is in a bit of trouble (not unlike its main competitor, which is closing stores). It's throwing everything it's got at the e-Reader market--with iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry apps for the Kobo, as well as a bunch of freebies for consumers willing to back the Borders e-burro. And it's not just up against B&N and Amazon, which has now partnered with Staples to begin selling the Kindle in stores this fall. Both Apple and Google are also ramping up their assault on the printed word, with Apple's iBook store already on the market, and Google Editions on its way.
But most of all, this news proves that, as my colleague Kit Eaton pointed out a few months back, this is about as good as it gets for the e-Reader. It is not quite dead, but it's looking a bit peaky, like. The reason is, of course, the tablet. We all know about the iPad and at last, some competitors seem to be showing their faces. Moreover, this, of course, renders the e-Reader if not quite chocolate teapot territory, then one of those crappy ones made out of metal that burn your fingers when you pick it up by the handle.
This post was by Addy Dugdale of FastCompany and can be found here: http://is.gd/fOeiX
New York Times best-seller Seth Godin has had it with traditional publishing, and from now on, his works will arrive digitally. More and more evidence backs up his decision: E-publishing is the future.
In a recent interview, Godin made no bones over his decision--"12 for 12 and I'm done." Godin's main gripe is that nowadays it takes a disproportionately huge effort to publish a book in the "traditional" hardback-to-paperback manner.
He likes the people, but "can’t abide" the time it takes to get the whole process to work: "The big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don't usually visit to buy something they don't usually buy" and so on. He is also frustrated by the very medium of dead-tree publishing itself, since when consumers buy a book they are really paying for the author's ideas, a book is “a form that’s hard to spread”, and electronically he can reach "10 to 50 times as many people."
Godin's not completely convinced about how he's going to proceed with his publishing plans, but that's okay by him. We can speculate that he is going to pursue an e-publishing route, through one or several of the new systems that are available. This is perhaps now the easiest and most accessible way to get a publication in front of the public's eyeballs (particularly if you have as big a name as he does, which is effectively its own PR engine).
He could also use his reputation to push sales via a self-publishing route, also using e-reader ecosystems like Amazon's. On the other hand, he could use a more innovative, social-media-esque angle like the one that Neal Stephenson and colleagues are using for the upcoming Mongoliad electronic "book." Given that he is also credited as a "marketing expert" as well as an author, it is certainly the sort of novel enterprise that he could make work.
Godin's decision is also backed up by sales successes like Amazon's Kindle e-reader, Apple's iPad, and even reports like this one that suggest the e-book revolution is redefining the nature of reading itself, and reading e-books means readers are less isolated than if they were reading a physical book. If some other anecdotal data is anything to go by, e-books published via the Kindle ecosystem are selling like hotcakes. However, Apple's e-book efforts have not quite achieved the same success yet, for a number of reasons (including an incomplete international rollout of the iPad and the iBookstore). The fact that the iPad is selling by the millions and transforming the tablet PC market can only be a good thing for authors like Godin, keen to adopt a wholly new style of publishing.
Original post by Kit Eaton of FastCompany and can be found here: http://is.gd/fOiWD
E-publishing pretender to Amazon's crown Barnes and Noble has just launched the "PubIt!" self-publishing platform, designed to bring digital publishing within the reach of more authors. It also promises "no hidden fees."
B&N's press release notes PubIt! is an "easy-to-use platform that offers independent publishers and authors a lucrative way to digitally distribute their works through BN.com and the Barnes and Noble eBookstore." The product is trying to differentiate itself from market-leader Amazon's own efforts in this direction by making things extremely simple.
The words "clear and competitive terms" and "no hidden fees" will be appealing to may self-publishers who are looking for a novel way to access the nascent e-book market. B&N even helpfully notes it's a nice way to get your works in front of "millions of new readers" (while carefully neglecting to mention that you actually have to promote your works, and get them popular in order to actually sell them--just as you would for a paper copy.)
All accepted titles are wrapped into B&N's electronic bookstore ("one of the world's largest digital content catalogues") speedily, within 24 to 72 hours after upload. That is faster than Apple's record of accomplishment of accepting apps into its app store, and will be of great interest to authors who write time-sensitive publications or serialized e-books. You will be able to price your work between $0.99 and $199.99, and receive "a competitive royalty" based on the price, given that B&N has to make a profit itself and will have to cover the costs of hosting and distributing your texts.
Therefore, for books between $2.99 and $9.99, publishers get 65% of the list price, and for cheaper books or those over $10 publishers will get 40%. This isn't as lucrative a deal as Apple or Amazon's 70/30 split, and is definitely intended to shape the price distribution of the expected wave of self-published books to a sub-$10 bracket (with a $3 cut-off so that the majority of books have some price-related notion of "quality"). For their pains, B&N notes "publishers can be confident they will be compensated from the list price they set with no additional charges, regardless of file size."
This last point is interesting, since it is a tacit hint that many self-published texts may be image-heavy, which instantly makes you think of university-level (or even school-level) textbooks. Self-publishing for these sorts of books will make a lot of sense for many lecturers who are keen to turn a small profit on textbooks for their lecture courses, without any of the hassle of finding and persuading a publisher of the benefits of their work.
Then our minds instantly turn to the current problem dogging e-books with textbook publications in particular: The lack of colour displays on the leading e-readers. In B&N's case, this is the Nook--which does sport a colour display, but only for the purposes of browsing titles and controlling the device. Though B&N does have e-reader apps (just like Amazon does) for other platforms like the iPad and Android smartphones, all of which can definitely cope with colour images, the Nook's e-paper unit can only manage grey scale. I believe it is about time B&N one-upped Amazon's Kindle with a Nook that has a full-colour unit? It would be a decisive move right now in a highly competitive market.
However, we understand why it's not quite happening right now: the dedicated e-reader market is all but certain to be squashed by the incoming wave of tablet PCs (led by the iPad) and colour e-paper displays aren't mainstream yet--though Pixel Qi's system is nearing this sort of readiness.
Blog piece by Kit Eaton and can be found here: http://bit.ly/cHctDd
NosaDigital is an online store that provides electronic and audio books. NosaDigital sells fiction and non-fiction for both book formats. NosaDigital also deals in eBook readers as well as MP3 players, and iPods.
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