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2010 eBook Holiday Buying Guide, Part 2

2010 eBook Holiday Buying Guide, Part 2

First up, here are the known Black Friday deals for ebook readers.



Aluratek eReader

Augen (review at Engadget)

Lookbook (review at theDigital Reader)

Sony Pocket

  • Wal-mart: $99 (no touch, old model)

Nook Classic (wifi only):

  • Best Buy: $99

Second, there are three basic types of ebook readers on the market: dedicated eink readers, multifunction (such as the iPhone/iTouch/Blackberry Storm/Droid X/Android Tablet), and the hybrid (enTourage Edge, nookColor, PanDigital, Literati ).

If you aren’t sure which device to buy, take a look at the questions and answers provided last week in part 1 of the Holiday Buying Guide. This part of the guide will provide my opinion as to the best device in each class and along with alternatives.   If you can, I highly recommend taking a trip to Best Buy.   Best Buy has in stock: iPad, Kindle 3, nook, nookColor, Pandigital Reader, Cruz Tablet, Cruz Reader, Samsung Galaxy Tab.   There you can touch and feel the different devices and get a sense of which one might the best for you.

Kindle 3

1. Dedicated eInk Readers. For the money, I think the $139 Kindle 3 is the best in class. It is easy to use with right and left handed functionality.   It is lightweight.   You can use it anywhere there is wifi access. The Amazon store has the most books and the cheapest prices.   Its apps are available on the widest set of platforms and feature the sync capabilities.   You also have the added benefit of emailing yourself content.   The case with the built in reading light that runs off the power of the Kindle itself makes it easy to use at night.

Alternatives: The $139 wifi Kobo Reader is a great alternative. The Kobo Reader views ePub format which allows fans of the digital library lending. On the high end is the Sony Readers. Only the Daily Edition has wifi but they are also the only eink devices that have touch abilities. If you want 3G access, there is the 3G Kindle at $189.   I know that there are a number of nook fans who will probably be irked I don’t recommend the nook Classic, but I find the nook Classic to be heavy and unintuitive and the people that I know that have both the nook Classic and the Kindle 3 use the Kindle 3.


2. Multifunction devices. At $499, the iPad wifi is the best in this class currently. The 16GB iPad with wifi allows you to buy from Borders, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Kindle. It reads secure PDFs and ePubs using Bluefire App (and thus you can use the iPad for borrowing digital books from the library).   The iPad is a mini computing unit.   You can hook up a keyboard and create documents, including editing Word documents.   There are video and audio capabilities as well as numerous games.   What makes the iPad so powerful are the numerous apps that have been developed for it.

Alternatives: Samsung Galaxy Tab at $599 is smaller and runs Android. There are Kobo, Borders, Nook, and Kindle Apps for Android.   Android also runs Flash whereas iPad does not. (Note: Hulu does not work on the Android platform yet).

One of the big drawbacks of the iPad for reading is the size. It is very difficult to read in bed and almost impossible to read with one hand because of the weight and size. Of course, the larger size makes it great for reading PDFs. The 16 GB 3G & wifi Samsung Galaxy Tab without a cellular contract costs $599. A 16 GB iPad with 3G & wifi is $629. The Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with cameras whereas the iPad does not.   The Samsung Galaxy Tab also offers you the benefit of external memory slot and the iPad does not.   External memory is fairly inexpensive these days.   In all, if the 7″ screen is preferable, the Samsung Galaxy Tab might be for you. Review from Walt Mossberg here.

The iTouch is smaller yet and runs nearly everything that the iPad runs. For the phones, iPhone and Android devices like the Droid X are your best bet. Have heard nothing but negative things about the Blackberry Storm.


3. Hybrid devices. This is a much more difficult call because with a hybrid device you are making sacrifices for price but at $250 the nookColor appears to be best in class. I’ll have a more full review of this on Tuesday, but I have tested both the Cruz Reader and the nookColor and the screen and responsiveness on the nookColor is superior. Only the reader can decide whether that is worth the $50 difference. I bought the Cruz Reader for review, but I could barely stand to use it for more than a few minutes because the touchscreen required strong pressure in order for commands like page turns or typing to be recognized. I think readers will be happy having spent the extra $50 to get the nookColor but going to a store like Borders or Best Buy and trying out the Cruz Reader will be helpful in making the decision. Best Buy has both the nookColor and the CruzReader along with the Pandigital Reader and the Literati.

This may not be a big issue but nookColor can access ATT Wifi hotspots but it is not free like the nook Classic wifi access.

Alternatives: Literati (this is a popular Black Friday item) is powered by the Kobo store. You can see a review of it here. The basic drawback of the Literati is the screen resolution and the resistive touchscreen.   The reviews of the Literati have been very poor.   The nookColor, Samsung Galaxy Pad, and iThings all have capacitative touch screens. One of the advantage of the Literati is that it is a cheap wifi color unit. Weirdly, though, despite having a keyboard the Literati doesn’t allow you to take notes.

The Entourage Edge is an interesting as it combines eink on one side and color on the other.

Dear Author

Holiday Buying Guide, Part 1: Device differentiation, which type is right...

The ebook device comparison chart has been updated. I haven’t included the various Android reading tablets like Pandigital or Literati although I can if you think that they would be helpful.

Generally speaking there are three types of devices on the market today for digital readers: a true multifunction device like  an iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or other true tablet device, a dedicated reading device like the Kindle, nook, Kobo, or Sony readers, and hybrid devices such as the Literatti, Pandigital Reader, and Cruz Reader.

In determining which kind of device is right for you depends upon the use of the reader, where you want to shop, where you want to read, and what ebooks you already own.   Here is a series of questions that you can ask yourself in preparing to buy your first or your next ereader.

1.   Where do you want to shop? If you want to shop at different places then you should look at true multifunction device like an iPad or a real Android tablet. When I say real Android tablet, I mean an Android tablet that gives you access to the Android app market.   Tablet like devices that run on Android like the hybrids: Nookcolor, Literatti, Pandigital and Cruz Readers, all have their own little app markets and you won’t find Kobo, Borders or Kindle Apps there.

For the eink reader, most devices will allow you to use secure ePub.   Please note, however, that the nook encryption scheme works only with the nook devices and nook Apps.   This means if you buy an ebook at Barnes&Noble, you will NOT be able to use it on any device (like Kobo or Sony) but the nook, nookColor, or nook Apps.

In summary, if you want to shop around at different locations buy a multifunction device or nook compatible device.   These will give you the most options.   (It should be noted that Kindle reportedly has the cheapest prices by 11% and that most books will be priced the same due to “Agency” pricing).

2.   Do you have access to a digital library lending system? If yes and you plan to use it, you will want a device that accepts digital library loans.   Any iThing (iPad, iTouch, iPhone) can access the digital libraries using the great new app, Bluefire (free).   For eink and hybrid readers, you will need to look for devices that use Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) encryption.   Generally, you will be safe if you stick with nook, Kobo and Sony readers.   Kindles DO NOT work with the digital library lending system.

In sum, if you want to read digital library books, get an iThing or an ePub compatible device.

3.   Will you be reading on more than one device? If you plan to read on more than one device, make sure you go with nook, Kindle, or Kobo; an iPad or true Android table that can run one of those apps; or the hybrid nookColor.   Currently only the nook, Kindle, and Kobo platforms offer syncing between devices and applications.   Thus if you start reading on your device and leave it at home, you can pick up where you left off by firing up the computer program or opening the app on your smartphone.   This is Ned’s favorite feature of his Kindle and he won’t let me buy him books at other places because he reads on both his iPhone and his Kindle.

4.   Will you carry your device with you in your purse? I know we have some male readers, but the majority of the readership here at Dear Author is female and in emails I get, women reference what bags they use to carry their ereaders quite a bit.   One of the reasons I stopped using the iPad as a regular ereader is because of its size.   It’s not really purse friendly.   At 10″ by 8″, most shoulder bags will accommodate the iPad, but at a pound and a half, it can get heavy.

If you plan to carry your ereader with you everywhere, I suggest going with one of the light weight eink devices such as the Kobo and the Kindle, both of which weigh under a half a pound.

5.   Do you need backward compatibility? Many readers who have never bought a digital device still have purchased ebooks and now want to know what reader will accommodate those purchases.   Currently there is no dedicated reading device or multi function device that will read MS Lit books.   For those readers who purchased that format, my best suggestion is to get Convertlit and strip the DRM off those books.    Windows 7 mobile phones will be hitting the market soon and those may be MS Lit compatible.

For those readers who bought mobipocket books, you are also hamstrung.   Mobipocket books can work on the cybook readers (an eink device sold out of Europe) or Blackberry devices.

For those readers who purchased encrypted PDFs, your best bet is to go with an iThing, probably the iPad because the iPad really works well with PDF documents.

If you have unencrypted books, download yourself a copy of Calibre and convert those unencrypted books into whatever format you like (mobi for Kindle devices and epub for everything else).

6.   Do you read outdoors? If you read out of doors, an LCD based screen will make outdoor reading a sad and miserable experience.   If you spend time reading outside on any regular basis, you really need to go with an eink screen.

7.   Do you read at night? I read mostly at night and because of that, I’ve spent more time reading on a 4″ screen than any other device.   I started out reading on my Palm and then moved to the iPaq and then to the iPhone.   I still read on my iPhone at night sometimes even though I have the Kindle with book light built into the cover.   The Sony Touch Edition (the PRS 650) has a cover with a built in light as well.    A backlit device like the multifunction tablets or the hybrid devices make reading at night a lot easier.   Remember, though, that light drains the battery of your devices quickly.

8.   Are you left handed? If you are left handed, a touchscreen device might be the best for you.   While there are matching page turn buttons on the left and right hand side of the Kindle, I have heard complaints by lefties about the rocker placement.   Touchscreen devices such as the multifunction, hybrids or the Sony touchscreens allow for greater customized function for left v. right handed readers.

9.   Do you want to shop from your device? If you want to shop directly from your device, you will want to make sure you get a device that has at least wifi. Wifi means that your device will be able to connect to the online store matched with your device whenever you have a wireless signal such as in your home or at places like McDonalds, Starbucks, or Panera (or any other place that offers free wifi).   A device that has 3G capability means that you can shop for books whenever you can access a cellular signal.   Kindle and nook offer free 3G access but the tablets do not.   The nookcolor does not have 3G capabilities.

10.   How techie are you? If the answer is “not very”, then you want to go with a device that is easy to use.   The easiest device on the market for a reader is the Kindle. With the turn buttons on either side and the always available “buy now” from the device itself, Amazon has done a great job of making the Kindle reader friendly.    Further, Amazon has enabled readers to email themselves content which Amazon converts to make it Kindle compatible.   It is one of my favorite features of the Kindle.

The next easiest device on the market are the iThings: iPad, iTouch, iPhone.   The touchscreen and integrated App store to access the reading apps with a tap of your finger makes it easy for even the most non tech savvy people to use it.

The reason that these devices are so easy to use is because they don’t require any cords or computers.   They are fully functional and useable without any peripheral device.   While the nookColor may also be easy to use, the nook itself is not.   With the touchscreen lcd navigation, the device can be confusing for a reader and the software itself lacks intuitiveness.   This may change overtime.

Hope these 10 questions and answers give you a heads start on making a holiday decision regarding eReaders.   Next week will be on the differences between the three major categories of eReaders:   multifunction/dedicated/hybrid and the top devices in each category.