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Dear Jane: What Do You Think of the Android Tablets

Screen shot from BordersI’ve received a number of questions about the Pandigital tablet and the Cruz tablet from Borders. These are Android tablets and within the next few months and the coming year or so, we will be inundated with Android tablets. Reddit crew is keeping a Google spreadsheet of all the Android tablets on the market. Here are some things to look for when determining whether a particular Android tablet would be a good reader for you.

1. Battery life. If you are going to read with the tablet, I feel like you have to have a tablet with a battery life of at least three hours. Three hours is the bare minimum in my opinion. This is because if you want to read a book in one sitting, I think you would like to read on your device without plugging in your device for at least three hours. And remember, the longer that you have your device, the more the battery will degrade meaning that overtime, your device will need to be plugged in sooner and sooner.

2. Screen. Not all Android devices have the same screen and screen resolution can make a difference. The iPad, for example, has a resolution of 1024 by 768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi). The Pandigital Reader and the Cruz Reader both have 600 x 800 pixels resolution. The Blackberry Playbook has a 1024 x 600 screen resolution. (The Blackberry Playbook is NOT an Android tablet).

3. Capacitive v. Resistive. This might just be a matter of preference for individuals but the difference between these two types of screens is response. A resistive screen is responsive to pressure. A capacitive screen is one senses something on its surface (like skin or something skin like) and then sends a signal to the processor of a device. It allows for only light touches and is generally more responsive (sometimes too responsive). The capacitive screen allows for swiping where as a resistive screen is more responsive to pressing. Resistive screens are cheaper to make and thus the lower end Android devices like the Cruz Reader and the Pandigital Novel have resistive screens. As the review of the Pandigital Novel at Engadget notes:

Obviously, we found it more natural to use a finger when reading and, unsurprisingly, we had to press fairly hard to make selections or horizontally drag a finger across the screen to turn the page. Here’s actually where we found the touch experience to be extremely frustrating — repeatedly we couldn’t turn the page of a book by swiping a finger on the screen. To be honest, we’re not sure it’s the screen or the slow processor, but regardless there’s really nothing worse than being in the middle of a gripping novel and having to drag a finger across the page multiple times to get to the next words.

I would highly recommend you try out reading a few pages, if possible, at a Borders or some other retail location so you can test whether the turning of a page on a resistive screen may bother you. The Cruz Reader and the Pandigital Novel don’t have buttons to turn the page and so you really do have to rely on the touchscreen. I am a tapper v. a swiper myself and tapping is a little more responsive on a resistive screen than swiping.

4. Internal Storage. This isn’t a huge deal anymore so long as your Android device has an external memory slot (like a digital camera has or a cell phone may have) because prices of SD cards and micro SD cards have plummeted, but part of what you are paying for is internal memory. A Kindle, for example, has no external memory slot but comes with 4 GB of internal storage. The Cruz Reader comes with 256 MB internal storage but a 4 GB SD card. Essentially you are storing everything on the external storage. The Pandigital device has 1GB of storage but an external memory slot.

5. Weight. If you are using this for reading, you do want to be conscious of how heavy the device is, particularly if you like to read with one hand. I do this at night when I read on my side. I found the iPad to be too heavy for one handed reading. The Kobo weighs only 8 ounces. The Android tablets like the Cruz Reader and Pandigital Novel are twice as heavy. The iPad is a pound and a half.

6. Android OS. This is a hard one to figure out but one of the great things about the iPad is that there are so many reading apps available for a reader. Nearly every major ebook retailing outlet: Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Borders has apps for the iPad. This means that you aren’t stuck with buying books from one store and that the books you’ve bought in the past can be read on your new device.

The great thing for Android users is that there are Kindle, BN, and Kobo apps for Android too. So that means you can get the Amazon, BN, or Kobo apps on your Pandigital Novel or Cruz Reader. Right? Wrong. Unless you are tech savvy, the Pandigital Novel has an Android 1.5 OS and it’s locked meaning you can’t access the Android App Marketplace without hacking and rooting your device. The Cruz Reader offers access only to the Cruz Market which, sadly, does not include any reading apps like Kindle, BN or Kobo but does allow access to FBReader (a reading software for FB formatted books). This good review of the Reader suggests that there are only 14 apps in the Cruz App Market.

It’s hard to tell by looking at the specification sites for the devices as to whether you can access the Android App Market, but if you look at the Google spreadsheet, there is a column for “Market Type”. You really want a device that can access some kind of app market, but hopefully the Android App Market.

For reading, the Kindle, nook, Kobo (and maybe the Sony if the low end ones had wifi) are probably your best bet but if you are looking for something that is more multifunctional, you really are going to want to have access to a large App store. My experience with the iPad has led me to the conclusion that the Apps really make your device worthwhile. The iPad, on its own, is nothing more than a beautiful and expensive digital picture frame. It is the Apps that make the device powerful so don’t limit the use of your device by choosing a tablet that doesn’t allow you the freedom of the App market.

Which brings me to the last thing you will want to consider (well, maybe not the last, but the last I’m going to discuss) and that is processor speed. I think one thing that took Apple’s competitors by surprise was how amazingly fast the iPad was. I don’t think that Microsoft or HP (both whom had prototype tablets leaked) were prepared for the speed. One of the reasons I got rid of my netbook was that the slow processor speed made every program appear as it was laboring to climb Mount Olympus. Watching video on my netbook was nearly impossible. Look for devices with at least 1GHz processor or I think you might be sad about your devices multimedia capabilities.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

13 Comments

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    Oct 10, 2010 @ 04:47:31

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  2. Danielle D
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 06:18:58

    Thanks Jane for another informative blog.

    ReplyReply

  3. Carin
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 08:31:01

    Thank you, Jane! I have a Sony reader, an android phone (with free Kindle app), and an iPad. The thing that struck me in your article was the lack of access to the Android Market. I can’t fathom having a tablet without apps.

    We got the iPad to use as a communication device and educational toy for our preschooler, and it’s incredible for that! We didn’t expect how much we would use it for the whole family. The font size on the readers (Kindle and iBooks) is very big and the display itself is crisp and clear. It’s the apps that make it, though. I’ve got an app the lets me input my kids’ spelling words, then plays hangman with those words or quizzes them on the words. The apps to practice math facts are almost endless. Weatherbug for the weather. Tons of games plus video content. I’m also in love with Scrabble on the iPad.

    During a recent weeklong hospital stay for one of my kids, I used the iPad to post and email updates on the hospital situation. I also downloaded a spreadsheet app and used it both to track lab results and plan a quilt I’m making a pattern for.

    My point here is that the apps make the iPad, so to consider a tablet without app access is crazy. I had no idea how many different ways we’d use the iPad.

    All that said, I read most often on my Sony, followed very closely by my phone. The phone comes into play because of it’s availability. It’s always with me. I rarely read on the iPad. It is big and heavy compared to the other devices, and it’s always in use by someone else.
    (we have a family addiction to the Angry Birds app/game.) like the thought of an android tablet, but there are a lot of details to get right in order for it to be useful.

    ReplyReply

  4. Tae
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 09:25:31

    I bought an iPad a few months ago and I have a Sony 505. I lent my Sony out to a friend who is thinking of getting an ebook reader, and he’s hooked, but I’m not giving up my Sony. If I read one book on the iPad I have to pretty much charge it that night. The Sony I can read at least 5 books before recharging. I don’t even have to be doing anything else like web browsing – just reading drains the battery that much. It’s pretty and shiny, but the battery life and the glare in direct sunlight prevents me from giving up my Sony or switching from e-ink devices

    ReplyReply

  5. Mike Cane
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 10:37:16

    Let me cut to the chase. Of the Android tablets that will be available Real Soon Now, only these are worth your time:

    - Archos 70
    - Arhcos 101
    - Samsung Galaxy Tab

    Pandigital Novel, Cruz Reader, and their variants and brethren, are crap that will steal your money and make you cry.

    And let me just say there will be a new interest in these things — and all things Android-based — because of what I’m currently under NDA about.

    ReplyReply

  6. Sandra
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 10:47:14

    Sort of OT, but maybe not. I had an email in my inbox from Borders for free e-books. (Some of which they wanted to charge me for.) So, I ended up downloading another desktop reader (I already had MS, Overdrive, nook and ADE). Once I got into it, I realized I could have just downloaded the Adobe epubs, instead of the Kobo files.

    Two questions, then:
    1) Where does the Kobo/Borders reader store its downloaded files? All my other readers have their own directory in My Documents, but I can’t find these anywhere.

    2) Is there an easy way to consolidate all these various files for one reader? Right now, I’m limited to reading on my PC, but a nook is on my Xmas wish list, assuming the prices come down a bit more. Most of what I have is epub, either Adobe or B&N.

    ReplyReply

  7. Julie
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 11:33:00

    I have a Pandigital Novel – one that’s been hacked open. And you know what? I love it. It *is* on the slow side, particularly compared to my new Android phone, but I got it for $115 after savings and rebates. I can’t get an iPad for that.

    I also bought one (and hacked it open) for a relative who is disabled and on a fixed income. She’s having a blast with it. For that price she has a Kindle, a Kobo, a Nook, and a couple of other readers.

    Mike Cane does have a point though – there are some cool new tablets out on the horizon. I’ll probably get a newer/faster/better tablet down the road, but since my Novel has been hacked open I can find, other, interesting uses for it. I guarantee it won’t languish in the closet.

    ReplyReply

  8. Michelle
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 12:25:56

    I caved and bought a Pandigital reader. With my Kohls 30% discount, rebate and cash back, it ended up costing about $100. I am not a technophile so I was afraid to hack it. I love the color, and the night reading backlit background. So for me it serves its purpose. It won’t read WMA music files, but there are programs out there that convert those to mp3 files. I also had fun with the photos.

    I have a sony pocket reader which I use for library ebooks which I use more for daytime.

    Anyone know about the Notion Ink Adam tablet?

    ReplyReply

  9. Micah
    Oct 10, 2010 @ 16:03:49

    We were demoing Bluefire Reader on an Android tablet in Frankfurt this week. I can’t mention the device (funny: we had to build a metal box for it so no one could tell what it was) – but pretty standard specs. And it was pretty nice! iOS is of course WAY cooler (fanboy!) but what I liked was the form factor. 7inch. Fit in my jacket pocket. Did not feel fragile or heavy or “glassy”. Now, Apple maybe will fill that size, but while I looove apple hardware, I think of it like really nice shoes. I love them too, but do I wear them camping? nope. If we can have a “kindle” like device in terms of form factor, but with color, video and apps – and shop all over the place for our books, and choose our favorite reader app (hopefully Bluefire more often than not). Hmm. I’m in. But I want my iPhone and iPad too! But hey, my skis that I buy every year (snow geek) will be more expensive than these devices pretty soon….

    ReplyReply

  10. De
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 01:15:01

    @Michelle: Anyone know about the Notion Ink Adam tablet?

    This is the one I’m watching the closest, and that’s mostly because of the screen. But haven’t started my ebook reading on an ebookwise reader, I’m really happy about the shape.

    ReplyReply

  11. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Loungetastic Linkity!
    Oct 15, 2010 @ 02:03:41

    [...] Dear Author shares some thoughts on Android tablets for reading ebooks. [...]

  12. Cotton Comforter Sets ·
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 06:56:33

    educational toys are always helpful to train our kids. kids can really learn from educational toys :`~

    ReplyReply

  13. stream
    Dec 02, 2010 @ 20:23:05

    the cruz tablet needs to be rooted, otherwise it’s trash.

    ReplyReply

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