How to pick an e-reader?

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A friend of mine, who is less geeky than I, asked me for some info on picking up an e-reader. I, still being an e-reader luddite (give me my dead-trees!!) turn here for advice to give her.

Here are some questions that she has:
1 - How many books are available on the various platforms?
2 - How easy is it to use?
3 - How is the transport?
4 - How difficult is it to add books to the device?

I have a Kindle 2.

The answers are:
1) Loads. Mainly, though, they're either really really popular, or really really obscure. There's not a lot of middle ground yet. But just about everything I've wanted has been available.
2) Easy... like, if you can use the internet, you can buy books. It's actually too easy to buy books on. The thing is like a direct siphon from my checking account.
3) You mean transportability? It doesn't weigh a significant amount and the battery lasts me ~3 weeks between charges. I read an hour or two a night.
4) See 2. It's easy.

I used to have an old Rocketbook. That wasn't as easy to add books to, but it too was pretty good.

You might enjoy perusing this thread, over in Everything Else, which compares/contrasts the Sony and Amazon readers.

Your thread is in the right place; I'm not sure why that one didn't get moved over here.

If you're a Mac user, you might also want to consider that it appears Apple will be coming out with a tablet computer soon, which — while not using e-ink — could also be used as a reader, I'd imagine.

If you want to carry around a keyboard to read a book, get a Kindle. If you don't, get a Sony.

LeapingGnome wrote:

If you want to carry around a keyboard to read a book, get a Kindle. If you don't, get a Sony.

The market is actually starting to open up. If your friend doesn't need it right this minute gotta have it now, waiting until Christmas will bring about a slew of polished competitors with various pros and cons, trading around features such as expandable memory, removable battery, wireless, compatibility with ebook services such as Fictionwise, formats, battery life, content management and user interface differences, and button layout.

iRiver Story

iRex DR800SG

Sony Daily Edition

Bebook Mini / Bebook One

The thing is, besides features like wireless and format compatibility, they're all pretty similar devices because they're the same exact screen (which there are different generations of with different greyscale levels). The iRiver even looks like the Kindle 2, although the interwebs has been quick to ignore that and cry "Apple", which was a cry originally thrown at the second Kindle.

The Amazon store with built-in wireless is definitely a big selling point (and currently offers the largest selection of ebooks), although Sony and B&N can't be far behind in offering content. Any reader that's compatible with ePub puts the immense selection of books Google just made available at its disposal. Sony Readers are compatible with common library ebook lending systems such as Overdrive.

The Kindle is not natively compatible with ePub or Overdrive. Still, it's pretty feature rich, and despite complaints about the price, most of the newly announced readers are either at the same price point or higher. The few that are cheaper, such as the Sony Reader Pocket, have had basically every feature possible removed. A refurbished Kindle 1 will cost you $150, and a refurbished Kindle 2 $220, but who knows if they'll drop that price since they recently lowered the cost of the "domestic" Kindle 2 to $259 new.

If your friend doesn't care about touch screens, library checkouts, or ePub (and the literally one million books Google put online), then I'd say the Kindle hands down is the best ereader for the price. But if she wants to read PDF and ePub, check out library books, use wifi instead of Whispernet (the Sprint mobile wireless that Kindle uses), then it's really any device's game.

What I'm unclear about is whether or not other readers are compatible with Overdrive. The news releases are very careful to mention it's a "marketing" agreement, which might mean Overdrive won't explicitly advertise that other readers would work just fine with it, rather than some sort of software/hardware restrictions.

Edit: I just remembered one feature I love, that seems small at first. In-book dictionary lookup. The Kindles all have this, and I think every Sony Reader except the Pocket has it. It's what it sounds like, while you're reading something you can look up a word without leaving whatever you're currently reading.

Kindle all the way.

Bought it, use it multiple times a week, love it.

Have to agree with Lester though. It's almost too easy to buy books on. I believe I've read close to forty books since I got it. But to go along with that... I typically read as many as four or five books on one charge of the battery, depending on how long the books are.

Just started the Song of Ice and Fire series this week.

The problem with the non-Amazon/non-Sony devices is where are you going to get books from? There are some of the third-party readers out there that can use Amazon's DRM, but a lot can't. In that case you are limited to stuff on like Baen, Gutenberg or other places you can find non-DRM books.

Of course, if mudbunny's friend is in Canada as I would assume, then the Kindle isn't currently an option.

Serengeti wrote:

Of course, if mudbunny's friend is in Canada as I would assume, then the Kindle isn't currently an option.

There's a giant blurb up on Amazon's main page about a Kindle now being available with Global wireless. It ends that blurb with "PS. Until now, Kindles have only been available to US Customers. Starting today, international customers can now order a Kindle with international wireless and get their english language books in 60 seconds."

Here's a link to the product itself.

Sony Readers are compatible with common library ebook lending systems such as Overdrive.

This may finally tip the scales for me. Are any other devices going to be compatible or just the Daily Reader?

unntrlaffinity wrote:

Any reader that's compatible with ePub puts the immense selection of books Google just made available at its disposal.

I have a question about Google books. Let's say I'm here at a version of "A Christmas Carol." All I see on the sidebar is a couple of links, one of which is "buy." So if I had an e-book reader, how do I get it from google and into my computer/reader?

Funkenpants wrote:
unntrlaffinity wrote:

Any reader that's compatible with ePub puts the immense selection of books Google just made available at its disposal.

I have a question about Google books. Let's say I'm here at a version of "A Christmas Carol." All I see on the sidebar is a couple of links, one of which is "buy." So if I had an e-book reader, how do I get it from google and into my computer/reader?

Not every book can be downloaded. To see if you can download it for free, click "Overview". If you can download it, there will be an option for PDF or ePub. For items that are still in copyright, or editions that publishers do not wish Google to make available, the "Buy" link will let you either purchase a copy, or in some cases purchase a downloadable copy.

Here's how I've interpreted the Google ebook rules (copy/pasted from an email I sent to my school's library listserv):

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_opens_up_its_epub_archive_download_1_million_books_for_free.php

Google has apparently gone live with the fruits of its massive scanning projects, and over 1 million public domain books can now be downloaded via http://books.google.com/.

However, what I find even more interesting is the unassuming link at the top of the page that says "Google has reached a groundbreaking agreement with authors and publishers."

I believe the general gist is:

For books that are in-copyright and in-print, the "preview" and "purchase" options will be, well, optional. Publishers can turn them on, but they seem to be off by default.

For in-copyright but out-of-print books, preview and purchase will be turned on unless the publisher specifically requests they turn the option off. So those options will be available by default.

And for public domain works, it's a free-for-all, as it was previously.

Another fascinating aspect is the creation of a "Book Rights Registry" which can help locate and identify rights holders.

There's also some university and library specific terms, tools, and services.

A fascinating precedent. Another interesting development is how this might affect Amazon vs. Sony in regard to eBook readers. Sony has to a certain degree "opened" up its reader to competing formats such as ePub, which is the format the Google books are in, while Amazon has limited support for other formats such as PDF and ePub (although the DX can read PDF natively.)

Thin_J wrote:
Serengeti wrote:

Of course, if mudbunny's friend is in Canada as I would assume, then the Kindle isn't currently an option.

There's a giant blurb up on Amazon's main page about a Kindle now being available with Global wireless. It ends that blurb with "PS. Until now, Kindles have only been available to US Customers. Starting today, international customers can now order a Kindle with international wireless and get their english language books in 60 seconds."

Here's a link to the product itself.

I mentioned it in the other thread, but the Kindle is global... except for Canada. Bangkok, London, and New Dehli, but not Montreal. To see what I mean choose "Canada" as a country to ship the Kindle to. You'll be denied.

Minase wrote:
Sony Readers are compatible with common library ebook lending systems such as Overdrive.

This may finally tip the scales for me. Are any other devices going to be compatible or just the Daily Reader?

My understanding of the technology is that any ereader that can read the formats Overdrive uses (which I believe is ePub), will be able to "check out" library ebooks (or audiobooks). However, Overdrive has some sort of "marketing alliance" with Sony, which as far as I can tell means they recommend the Sony Readers over other ereaders, and in some cases even sell them.

The interesting, and sometimes frustrating, way it seems to work is that:

You library has X number of licenses for the book (let's say 3). Whenever it's "checked out", it's checked out for a set period of time, Y (let's say 2 weeks). Once that "2 weeks" is up, you won't be able to read the book any longer due to the DRM. So as far as I can tell, the technology isn't hardwired to any of the Sony Readers, or any other ereader.

So essentially, "3" people can have it "checked out" at once. Instead of their returning it, the book's loan period simply expires after 2 weeks. It doesn't matter if they've actually finished it earlier, items can't be returned early. Sometimes it's frustrating, because every copy is "checked out", and you just have to visit the website later to see if it's available. On the other hand, there's no late fees, and you don't have instances where some jackass has the book under his couch and is never going to return it.

So digital library books are actually more like digital rentals than they are their traditional, physical format counterparts.

Also, you can actually search and download Google books natively in Sony's store. They added it a couple of months ago and it is done pretty well. Like I just searched for Christmas Carol and got options to download 309 different results, the first is the 1908 Dickens version.

http://ebookstore.sony.com/google-eb...

My understanding of the technology is that any ereader that can read the formats Overdrive uses (which I believe is ePub), will be able to "check out" library ebooks (or audiobooks). However, Overdrive has some sort of "marketing alliance" with Sony, which as far as I can tell means they recommend the Sony Readers over other ereaders, and in some cases even sell them.

Interesting. Looking at Overdrive's site, it looks like you have to have the DRM software on the device or it has to be supported to transfer the rights (either Adobe's PDF (Sony) or Mobipocket's ePub). Removing the hassle factor in doing all of that still makes the Daily Reader look full of win to me, though I'd love it if a cheaper device came out that could do it too.

Minase wrote:
My understanding of the technology is that any ereader that can read the formats Overdrive uses (which I believe is ePub), will be able to "check out" library ebooks (or audiobooks). However, Overdrive has some sort of "marketing alliance" with Sony, which as far as I can tell means they recommend the Sony Readers over other ereaders, and in some cases even sell them.

Interesting. Looking at Overdrive's site, it looks like you have to have the DRM software on the device or it has to be supported to transfer the rights (either Adobe's PDF (Sony) or Mobipocket's ePub). Removing the hassle factor in doing all of that still makes the Daily Reader look full of win to me, though I'd love it if a cheaper device came out that could do it too.

Well, supporting the ePub standard should mean that your device supports its DRM functions as well. Emphasis on should. And you need to download the Overdrive software to download the materials in the first place.

http://www.overdrive.com/resources/mediaformats/eBooks.asp

They have books in PDF, ePub, and PRC. That's why they can be read on "Sony Readers" and smartphones. It's also why I think it's all marketing, because they also indicate that their audiobooks will only work with Zune and iPod, yet there's a picture of a Creative Zen right there in the Fact Sheet PDF. And the one time I've used Overdrive was for an audiobook I transferred to my Creative Zen Vision M, so it obviously isn't a Zune and iPod exclusive deal either.

I do know that the Sony Reader Daily Edition doesn't have some magic compatibility that the other Sony Readers do not. If you have a Sony Reader, you can use Overdrive.

Edit: I see what you mean, they've integrated local library titles into the Sony Store, which can be accessed through the wireless they've included in the Reader Edition. That's interesting.

Barnes&Noble's upcoming eReader.
IMAGE(http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/4/2009/10/500x_2VIEWS_01.jpg)

Interesting. There's a small color lcd touchscreen on the bottom with the rest being a regular e-ink screen.

Made by Plastic Logic.

Kind of a nice compromise between e-ink and a navigation display. This rendering looks a lot better than the earlier versions on Youtube and a few gear blogs.

Hardware looks nice, software/DRM is the key I think.

Link:

On Tuesday, Barnes & Noble announced that the Nook, the company's e-book reader that aims to compete with Amazon’s Kindle, is available for pre-order. It's a very interesting device: the first dedicated e-book reader that is powered by Google’s Android operating system (it runs Android 1.5).

The Nook should ship at the end of November and it’ll cost you $259. That's the same price as the Kindle 2, though an international Kindle 2 that allows wireless access outside of the U.S. costs $279. (The nook doesn’t include an International option at the moment.)

Barnes & Noble's reader has a 6-inch diagonal E Ink display, just like the Kindle 2, but the clever folks at B&N have also added a 3.5-inch color LCD screen below the E Ink screen. That ancillary screen is used to navigate books via a Cover Flow-like interface, display an on-screen keyboard, and generally operate the device. The Nook comes with 2GB of internal memory, which Barnes & Noble says will hold about 1500 e-books, though that can be expanded by using the included Micro SD slot. You can even listen to MP3s on the nook, either through the built-in mono speaker or by plugging in headphones. And should you wish, you can remove the Nook's battery, for fun and profit—and B&N will sell you an extra battery if the 10-day charge without using wireless isn't enough for you.

The Nook, again much like the Kindle, comes bundles with wireless 3G access—via AT&T, while the Kindle uses Sprint’s network—so you can download content wirelessly. The Nook ups the wireless ante by also including Wi-Fi connectivity (802.11 b/g) and access to free Wi-Fi in all of Barnes & Noble's stores (which is a very good idea, though it doesn’t appear that the Nook has a Web browser, as the Kindle does).

An e-reader isn’t of much interest without something to read on it, and Barnes & Noble boasts more than a million titles, though many of those are through a partnership with Google to distribute public domain titles; there are newspapers and magazines available as well. Free samples of all titles will be available and users will be able to access special content when using their nook at a Barnes & Noble store. You can also read your own PDFs on the Nook, something you can’t do with a Kindle 2 without converting the PDF first.

One of the biggest differences between the Nook and Amazon’s Kindle is that you can let your friends borrow a Nook book for up to 14 days. They will be able to read it on their Nook, or using the Barnes & Noble e-reader available for PCs, Macs, the iPhone, some Motorola smartphones, and the BlackBerry. You can also start reading a book on your Nook, and then keep reading where you left off on your Mac or PC thanks to Barnes & Noble’s Reading Now technology, which sounds very much like Amazon’s WhisperSync feature.

If you want to play around with a Nook in person, you’ll be able to do so at any of Barnes & Noble’s physical stores, thanks to special Nook displays that should be popping up in the coming weeks.

LeapingGnome wrote:

Hardware looks nice, software/DRM is the key I think.

For me, this is what it comes down to. Amazon, seems to be the only player out there that will not play with things from other stores, and visa versa. With Sony, the B and N player, they will play any open format, easily. They will show ePub, PDF, .doc, .rtf, .txt, and so forth(common text formats)

It is a process to get PDF, or .doc books onto the Kindle, either with a third party software converter or e-mailing it to your kindle, for a fee.

So if your friend or relative ever expects to go to Google Books, Barnes and Noble, The Guttenberg Project the Kindle makes it difficult, and I feel unnecessarily so. You can drag and drop files onto most other readers.

I feel that this is a pretty big deal for convenience and useability.

The Kindle is to E-books what the iPod was before Apple went open standard, DRM free.

At the end of the day, what it comes down to is which dumb screen will fit within your needs and price range.

The Sony Touch Reader is at the top of my list, because it has what I want, and I do not plan on leaving the Public Domain on it much. So, 300 bucks for unlimited access to free books, good deal.

KingGorilla wrote:

The Sony Touch Reader is at the top of my list, because it has what I want, and I do not plan on leaving the Public Domain on it much. So, 300 bucks for unlimited access to free books, good deal.

You could drop $219 on a refurbed Kindle 2 and install Savory onto it. It converts PDF and ePub "on the fly". Save yourself $100.

I keep waffling, but having gotten my hands on the iPod touch, I am really looking forward to a touch enabled E-reader. Next month I may say I am getting a refurb Kindle. But for someone who won't look for a third party app for other file formats, I cannot recommend the Kindle over another reader.

KingGorilla wrote:

The Kindle is to E-books what the iPod was before Apple went open standard, DRM free.

The analogy doesn't quite work.

Ipod could read the more popular music formats other than its own. Cds and mp3s were fair game.

I keep waffling too. Basically I'm waiting for the devices to evolve more before I plunk down my cash.

trip1eX wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

The Kindle is to E-books what the iPod was before Apple went open standard, DRM free.

The analogy doesn't quite work.

Ipod could read the more popular music formats other than its own. Cds and mp3s were fair game.

The Kindle can read .txt, .mobi, and .doc, arguably three of the more popular text formats that aren't .azw. And many PDFs and ePub files can be converted into .mobi, with no more effort than ripping an audio CD to .mp3 would entail. And since .azw is rumored to just be a DRMed .mobi file, the comparison to Apple's DRMed music and DRM-free mp3s is pretty comparable.

Oh, and it reads mp3s too, including DRMed Audible files. So that's another similarity.

KingGorilla wrote:

I keep waffling, but having gotten my hands on the iPod touch, I am really looking forward to a touch enabled E-reader. Next month I may say I am getting a refurb Kindle. But for someone who won't look for a third party app for other file formats, I cannot recommend the Kindle over another reader.

A Kindle isn't for everyone, it's just a lot cheaper at this point, an aspect of the market that was all-consuming when e-readers first hit the shelves. The Sony Pocket is $200, too. The reviews of the Touch that I've read haven't been very positive.

trip1eX wrote:

I keep waffling too. Basically I'm waiting for the devices to evolve more before I plunk down my cash.

I think that's a fair assessment. I love my Kindle 1, but if I realized how infrequently I'd get to use it (the textbook market didn't take off like I anticipated and the PDFs I have to read from school don't always convert well) I might have waited. Same with the new "touch" mp3 players, or netbooks, or tablets. A year or two more and I'm hoping they'll be a lot cheaper and more feature rich. Hell, the Kindle is already half as expensive.

unntrlaffinity wrote:
trip1eX wrote:
KingGorilla wrote:

The Kindle is to E-books what the iPod was before Apple went open standard, DRM free.

The analogy doesn't quite work.

Ipod could read the more popular music formats other than its own. Cds and mp3s were fair game.

The Kindle can read .txt, .mobi, and .doc, arguably three of the more popular text formats that aren't .azw. And many PDFs and ePub files can be converted into .mobi, with no more effort than ripping an audio CD to .mp3 would entail.

Yeah it's different though.

You had to rip audio cds. You didn't want an iPod to also be an optical disc player. The pdf barrier is artificial.

And a cd is an hour worth of music that you will listen to over and over and over.

A pdf might be 3 pages that will take you 3 minutes to read. Pain in the ass to spend a minute or two converting it.

Yeah, all the "I can't use PDFs" and whatnot kind of went out the window in the spring with Savory: http://blog.fsck.com/2009/04/savory....

I haven't actually used it, but I've read it works flawlessly, and lets you just drag PDFs and ePubs onto the device without any issues. Honestly, I haven't found anything I wanted so bad that I needed to stress about it.

There have been very few books I haven't been able to grab for the kindle, although honestly, I spend at least as much time reading them on my iPhone now as I do on the kindle itself. Having it sync between the two like magic is crazy good.

It's a workaround. I'll have to read more about Savory. But a quick glance gives me a few reservations. Folks want to keep the docs in the pdf format. Problems with pdfs with images too from the looks of it. Bugs too.

And that's only half the problem.

Look at the Amazon reviews on the DX. According to those PDF support isn't ready for primetime and the DX natively supports PDFs.

No zooming in is a big complaint. I imagine (the lack of that) would be worse on the regular 'ole Kindle.

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