To Buy or Not to Buy: The eReader Dilemma
More and more I am seeing people wonder which ebook Reader to buy. My suggestion, if possible, is to wait until September. In September, it is anticipated that the new Apple Tablet will be announced, the Sony Readers will be released into the wild and will be found at Costco, Sams, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, and other various retailers, and details for a new slimmed down Iliad for sub $400.00 should become available.
On the market today, there are a number of alternatives for ebook reading:
- Dedicated eInk Devices (Kindle, Sony, BeBook, COOL-er)
- Netbooks (various brands with screen size from 7″ to 11.5″)
- Handhelds (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm Pre)
I’ve made up a little comparison chart for major features. If you are in the market for an ebook reader, wait to see what Apple announces and take a trip to one of your local retailers to check out the new Sony Readers. I think the Sony 300 could put the eBookwise out of the market unless the backlit LCD is a deal breaker. The clarity of the eink device, though, trumps the eBookwise LCD in my opinion.
Edited: I put the table on a different page. Also, I did not include devices that cannot read a DRM format.
I currently use a Palm T/x and can read eReader, Mobipocket and PDF on it and I can use an SD for more space + it has various other functions that I don’t use. Being in New Zealand is definitely limiting on the device I can buy, and now the geographical restrictions are also limiting my eBook purchases! The only downside to the Palm T/x is the screen size as I wouldn’t mind a device that is slightly bigger.
Kindle 2 and Kindle DX aren’t available outside the US (excluding Hawaii and Alaska, I believe). There are reports Kindle 2 may be available in the UK this Christmas.
JetBook is still available for sale.
Also a range of Netronix ebook readers this year: http://www.netronixinc.com/product_e-book.htm
Er, I can’t see the table fully…
I would probably have a Sony of some flavour in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for geo restrictions. So often, the books I fancy aren’t available in the UK.
Waiting to see how Kindle turns out for us Brits too.
For the moment, I’m managing with my Palm Tungsten T3. It’s okay, and nicer to read on than I expected, but I’d still love a proper reader.
I’m an owner of the CyBook Gen3, and after a year with it, I’m very happy when it comes to how it handles PRC and html files. I’m not so happy with using PDF files since I usually have to flip the pages sideways and scroll more often. But this is a limitation of the PDF format in that most PDFs are not reflowable. Oddly enough Adobe DID make this a new feature recently, but my device does not support that, nor do any of the e-readers currently on the market. I doubt the next crop will support it either, but we shall see soon enough.
I wouldn’t bother with the Apple tablet if it really has a 10″ screen. My e-reader fits in my purse even with the protective cover on, and that’s why I bought it, so I could read on trips without carrying around heavy books. If I bought the Apple tablet, I’d also need a much bigger purse.
I don’t see any reason to upgrade to a new machine in the near future, since there’s not much difference between the e-ink equipped readers. Mostly, you just pick which e-bookstores you prefer to shop at, and then look at what devices are compatible for them. That should help narrow down the list for most folks. Or, that’s my opinion(s) anyway.
This is one of the reasons I loathe the adobe format.
Thank you! Wow, this is really helpful, and in time to send to everyone for my Christmas list!
I purchased a Sony 505 a few months ago when Borders had the $100 off coupon. I love it. It is wonderful to carry around 400 books. The only problem I have, when I try to read in public – I spend more time talking about it and how much I love it to people asking what it is and how it works (I should get a commission from Sony).
I’m not sorry I bought mine now for a few reasons, 1. The 300 looks like a good deal, but I paid $199 for the 505 and I have (and use) the memory card slot, 2. I saw the 700 at Borders and the screen wasn’t as clear as the 505, I would want to see the 600 to verify it is as clear as the 505, 3. Maybe a color screen in e-ink by the time I upgrade??.
@Maili: about the Jetbook, I’m kind of curious to hear from those who’ve used it. I like the red… :-) But I’m probably going to upgrade to the newer Sony 600. Take notes-LOVE that idea.
Best Buy has a HP Mini netbook for $279. I read on my laptop anyway and love going back and forth between online activities and books. My library is almost all pdf, so that netbook would work great. The only downside, for me, is battery life (about three hours), but I don’t read in many places where there aren’t readily accessible power outlets.
The cheap one doesn’t have a widescreen, but I’ve compared them side by side and the difference is negligible for reading purposes. Now all I have to do is convince my husband I need one. LOL
Jetbook from what I know
Supports WINDOWS ONLY
NO DRM support at all
Battery lasts about 20 hours on time.
Oh and that table does not work in Firefox.
I just heard Calibre works with Cool-er which is making that eBook Reader that works natively with Mac OSX and Windows sound even better.
Over here in the UK and Europe there’s the BeBook. I don’t have one, but I’ve had my eye on it for a while. Recently found out that a friend at work has one, so I hope to give it a test drive soon.
Info at mybebook.com
I love my Kindle. So easy to use. I can change the text size. I can download a lot of books or upload books to the device now that I have Calibre Software. I can highlight certain parts of the text. It can even read to you sometimes. I still read some paper books, but my e-reader is great, because I can read it on the train or bus. What a wonderful thing e-readers are.
A work friend has a Jetbook (black) and he seems happy with it. From what I remember, it works with Linux (which is why he bought it), Mac and Windows.
It doesn’t offer DRM support or a program; you just drag and drop an (unDRMed) ebook into Jetbook via a drive in your computer.
When you look at photos of Jetbook on the internet, Jetbook can look huge and chunky, but in reality, it’s surprisingly not like that. It’s smaller and lighter than a Sony Reader. It does look and feel cheap because of the plastic feel, but considering the price (he paid about $150 for it) and the simplicity of its functions, it isn’t that relevant. In a way it makes you feel less nervous about damaging it like you might do with a Sony Reader.
All that from my five-minute pawing a Jetbook a couple of months ago. :D
Edited: Like other ebook readers I tried, Jetbook doesn’t handle PDFs well. Gah.
I can’t wait for the new Sonys 300 and 600 to hit the Canadian stores (and to finally get an idea od the price in Canadian $) because thew 505 and the 700 are 350 and 450 respectively and online on sale online at Future Shop. The Sony store I went to had sold out and couldn’t show me the beasts. *g* And I want to see the screen quality/cripsness of both the 300 and the 600 before making a decision (since I heard that the 700 touchscreen sucks in comparison to the 505).
Oh and @Teddypig, table works fine for me in Firefox, and I use the 3.5.2 version.
All righty, I’m here for the super-dumb question. I don’t have an eReader, but I really want one. Don’t want to spend a pile of money, so I’ve been waiting for the prices to come down.
Could you explain something in the chart?
When it says ‘secure format’ and then PDF is in that column, but not in the ‘unsecure’ column, does that mean if I have books on my computer in PDF format (from epublishers who don’t use DRM) that I cannot read them on a reader with ‘PDF’ listed only in the ‘secure format’ column???
I don’t get it. Could someone please explain?
A cheaper iLiad by iRex? Woo-Hoo! *commencing happy dance*
There’s another new device coming out called the Astak Pocket Pro with a 5″ eink screen. I think it looks interesting because it supports Adobe ePub and PDF as well as up to 20 DRM free formats, including Lit, PDB, HTML, FB2, PRC, MP3 and so on. I also understand they are trying to work a deal with B&N/Fictionwise to put DRM ereader onboard, which would be available as a firmware update down the road. It will have an SD card slot for a card up to 16GB. It is selling for an introductory price of $199. Plus it comes in some fun colors. :)
Oops! Sorry my memory about Jetbook is off. The Calibre guy was having issues getting Jetbook to work in OSX back in May.
Yeah, the major issue with Jetbook is still the lack of any DRM support for any format and that’s why I wrote it off for most people looking. No bestseller list for you unless you *cough*strip DRM*cough*.
They also have an issue making that fact clear to buyers even in their advertisements and manuals and spec sheets. I mean if you have no support for DRM then spell it out.
*sigh* I can’t see the entire chart, either – but I was going to add the same comment as Jane A did about the new Astak reader.
That’s the pre-order price for a eBook Reader from a company that several people have said that their last model the “Astak EZ Reader” for $300.00 was pretty much not quite worth it.
Maybe that will get the prices dropping though.
I think the regular price will be $229. I’d be really interested to know what made the EZ Reader not worth it. Do you happen to know? “Cuz I’m really interested in the Pocket Pro.
Only thing I see missing from your table that is out already and backed by Borders UK is Elonex.
@reader: no, if the format is in the secure column, then the device will read both unsecure and secure versions of that format. So if there is PDF/ePub in the secure column, the device will read unsecured PRD/ePub.
@Jane A: I don’t have a lot of confidence in the Astak. They’ve been promising this product for a long time (over a year ago) & promised release dates have come and gone. It just seems like their handling of the ereaders has been inept and that scares me.
Angela James tried the Astak EZ Reader out and left me a comment on my blog and said she checked it out last month and was not very impressed. The Wired review gave it a shrug of 5 out of 10… no search, no dictionary, and slow response and remember it’s $300.00.
I’m completely smitten with the Kindle but if I can’t get other formats then it’s a waste of money.
I’m definitely not going to preorder it, but it’s supposed to be shipped by the end of August and the promo price runs until the end of September. I figured that would leave enough time for feedback from people on the MobileReads forum. Really, I don’t actually need another ereader. :)
Great chart, Jane. Thanks.
Any chance you could add a column as to what other countries the devices are available in? Or a simple will work in other countries “Yes/No” – LOL.
The Apple Tablet sounds like it will be a giant iTouch. Which is cool, but I think I want an eInk screen which it won’t have. Am I missing something?
Thanks for the feedback, it’s good to know.
I love my iPod Touch as an ebook reader. I don’tneed a separate reader and it’ s small enogh to fit in my purse.
Thank you very much for this information. I’m still trying to sort out all the options and this was a huge help!
iPod Touch FTW! It’s the total entertainment device: music, videos, games, books. Between Calibre, Stanza, and the Amazon Kindle app, which I only use for the free titles since Amazon won’t actually let Canadian residents buy books, I’m all set.
Once the long-promised collaboration between Adobe and Stanza comes to fruition, I might actually read those bloody DRM’d e-books from Harlequin.
I especially love the price…free with my 13″ MBP. (Okay, I had to pay the GST but that was like $13.)
The rumored Apple tablet, while as cool as it sounds, isn’t a practical device for my needs (i.e. writing on the go). At this rate, I might have to hackintosh a Dell netbook.
Thnk you for putting the table in another page.
I have decided if I do buy a dedicated reader it will be a Sony with the SD option. I am quite miffed however, that they can’t read html. It is my favorite format.
I’d love for the Kindle to be available globally, but that seems like a long way off.
For a truly exhaustive comparison of ebook-reading devices I like the very current versions of the MobileRead Ebook Reading Matrixes which even have info on upcoming readers in development:
The MobileRead Forums in general are a font of knowledge about problems and solutions regarding e-books, and if you just want to read them or download public domain e-books, etc. you don’t even have to register.
For example this news ought to be quite relevant for BeBook owners: Mobipocket ebooks useless after firmware upgrade
After my Kindle 2 was stolen and returned I became a little less likely to blithely stick it in my purse. Now when I’m on the go I more often just use my iphone Kindle app (or the Stanza app if I don’t want to load a book through Amazon’s web site) to read ebooks on the run.
The Kindle 2 is going with me to San Francisco this fall though. I don’t think I would like to read on my iphone for a cross country flight. Not to mention finger prints on the touch screen.
@DS: Do you have an anti-glare film for the iPhone? That’ll take care of the fingerprint issue.
What ShellBell said, word for word. I’m exactly the same, although I do use some of the other functions as well. All the same, it’s primarily an ebook reader. And the geographical restrictions drive me insane.
In the tablet, you’ve say Netbooks will read “ALL protected formats but Kindle” That’s only true with Windows based netbooks, not Linux based.
I love my Sony 505, but 700 has a feature I’d kill for- I’d love to have the option of 5 text sizes instead of just three. Otherwise, I love it. Part of the reason I chose it was the Kindle (still version 1 at that time) didn’t handle PDFs very well (the format of nearly all my e-books), and also, I couldn’t “test drive” the Kindle- i.e. I couldn’t walk into borders and ask to see one, to get a feel for it.
I will admit the new Kindles look very nice, but I still love my Sony.
@Ann Bruce– no I have a protective clear film on it but not anti-glare. I will try the anti-glare screen and see how it works.
Also, I went over to Gizmodo to check on the Asus eee Touchtablet. (I’ve had a lot of good luck with Asus computers) and ended up browsing something called the The Crunchpad. I know I’m just being attracted by teh Shiney, but at about $300 its within toy cost. It’s just for internet– no hard drive or keyboard but very attractive 12 inch screen in the pictures.
Here’s an interesting link about apple tablet. I haven’t read any of the other comments, so if someone already linked…sorry.
This is likely a dumb question, but why is it so important to be able to read PDFs? When I think of PDFs, I think of journal articles. Are there ebooks that only come in PDF? Thanks for any help!
@Maili: :-) thank you!
I recently bought a Smartq7. I love it. There’s a bit of talk about it on the mobile read forums under other devices.
I have it running WinCE and was able to load my favorite ebook reading program Alreader.
It’s a 7 inch, very nice for reading, has buttons to turn the pages or can touch screen to, but I like buttons.
I’m not keen on dedicated ebook readers because I think the flash between turning pages on e-ink devices would drive me nuts and I’ve been spoilt with having a backlit device. Doesn’t bother me that it’s no good in direct sunlight as I don’t read outdoors.
Like Ann Bruce I have the ipod Touch with a Kindle App. I got it FREE with my MacBookPro laptop (I needed the laptop for work since I am a content writer but the ipod was a bonus). I LOVE it! And I have other apps (like Pandora Music) that make me happy too. I use it to read in bed all the time since it’s so small and easy to read with. If I was rolling in the dough maybe I would buy something else but an ipod Touch is really multipurpose for someone who has to watch her pennies.
I’m sorry, but I still can’t understand why people would want to spend $200-$300 or more to buy a device on which they can read books that cost MORE than paperbacks, which can be read without any device. Is it simply the passion for electronic toys?
Some of the more common reasons I’ve seen are:
1. Some books are available only in electronic format, so print is not an option.
2. Portability of multiple books.
3. Some print books are heavy and/or unwieldy to hold on public transportation or for people who have arthritis or other wrist/hand problems.
@Jane O –
First, I’m not spending more on ebooks than I do on paper books. In fact, I refuse to buy those ebooks that are overpriced.
Second, I’ve spent far more than $2-$300 in bookshelves for my paper books.
Third, I’m weary of the clutter. At one point, I did a huge purge of my romance collection, reducing my plus thousand book library down to about four hundred. Then I realized I wanted to read some of those books and had to repurchase them. I simply cannot house that many books.
Fourth, convenience. I can have my entire library whenever and wherever I want.
Fifth, travel. Taking the appropriate number of books with me while traveling cost at least an extra $50 per trip because of the weight limitations for luggage. Now, I don’t have those issues.
The savings, for me, have easily covered the initial cost of the reader and all of the benefits outweigh the detriments of ebook reading.
Frankly, I can’t understand why avid readers aren’t a fan of digital books so we are together in our confusion about others motivations.
I think it’s going beyond just having a passion for electronic toys. My nephews in college are now reading text books on e-readers and my ten year old niece just got one so she can read e-books. And I think that whether we like electronic toys or not, it’s going to be the future. If it were up to me, I’d still be writing mss in hard copy and submitting with snail mail. But, clearly, it wasn’t up to me.
@Jane O –
Print size. I can read mass market paperbacks if I have to. I don’t like it. Hardbacks are better, but to be really comfortable reading, I like large print. With an ebook I can get large print with a couple of keystrokes or by pushing a button.
There’s a lot of stuff that either doesn’t come out in LP, I’ll never have access to in LP, or only comes out in LP a year or so behind the regular print. I’m not willing to give up access to all those books, but I want to read comfortably.
Also, I go through periods where I’m reading a lot of fanfiction and less profic, then I circle back the other direction. When I’m reading fanfic, I can either sit at a computer, or put it on an ebook reader and take it somewhere to a more comfortable chair.
I’ve been holding out for a netbook with the Pixel Qi screen. The Sony 300 is sooo tempting though. If Pixel Qi isn’t out by the end of the year, I’ll succumb to the Sony 300.
I bought a Kindle about three weeks ago and I am very pleased with it. I have wanted an e-reader for over a year now. I waffled and researched and read blogs and asked people etc. And in the end I finally went with the Kindle (although that Red Sony was calling my name).
The main thing that made the Kindle edge out the other brands for me was the wireless delivery and it’s connection with Amazon. I have been on Amazon since about 1995. I have a long history with them and pretty much all of my online book purchases have either been through Amazon or their Marketplace. So being able to use the system for my ebook needs just seemed like icing on the cake for me. Because I am an amazon customer, all my recommendations appear when I turn on the ‘Shop At the Kindle Store’ thingy (that is, if they are available via Kindle). Since I have used it in the past online to look up, rate and then order books via regular mail — the ability to do all that instantaneously just gives me a large charge.
There are some downsides to the Kindle — my biggest issue is that you can’t use a folder structure to organize your books (you can only sort by either author or title). But that is a minor thing for me and overall I am happy with it.
And like Grace Fonseca mentioned above, if you have Calibre (a freeware program that converts formats) your options open up dramatically with the Kindle. In just three weeks I have amassed about 70 books on the Kindle. Only about 6 of them were purchased via Amazon for money. The rest were either Amazon freebies or other website freebies (Baen.com offers some of their content for free) or I borrowed some from a friend who has tons of .prc and .lit romance and fantasy. And Calibre formats these beautifully for the Kindle.
And finally, if there is a book I want to read that simply isn’t available at all for the Kindle then I just read the old fashioned way. I still have a love the holding a paperback book in my hands.
It’s not that I’m a Luddite -‘ I dearly love my computer -‘ and I can see where ereaders may be the wave of the future. I can especially see the advantages for students with 100 pounds of textbooks. For myself, however, I think I’ll stick to eyeglasses and my library card, even with arthritis. But then, I also survive just fine without a cell phone.
Not necessarily. You can usually choose from a variety of formats (although not always). But, once you download a format, you are stuck with it unless you want to repurchase the book.
In my case, by the time I got my e-reader, I already had over 100 e-books, all of which were PDF format. So it was very important for me.
Jane O –
I’m not a big fan of cell phones either, but I want an eReader. Why?
I don’t like holding onto books. I hate having them all over my house cluttering up my shelves. I read something once and that’s it. Seems like a waste of paper to buy something I’ll only read one time.
I like to read in bed. It’s very uncomfortable for me to hold a book in bed and read while I lay on my side. After awhile my hand cramps up or I have trouble turning the pages and getting the angle right.
I am one of those people who wants a device that just functions as a reader. I don’t want an iTouch with multi-functions. Most of the time I imagine my future eReader will just stay on my nightstand…making an occasional trip out for a doctor’s appointment or weekend getaway.
I guess your question is about the same as the one I pose to people with shelves and shelves of books…why???????????
The answer is money.
My library card costs me nothing.
My eyes (except for my glasses) cost me nothing.
I do not find it difficult to read a paperback in bed.
I buy only those books I am sure I want to keep, and if I find I have made a mistake, I give them away. Therefore, I do not have an incredible storage problem.
Ergo, I do not want to buy an ereader.
I bought my Kindle not long after they came out. I don’t usually go the early-adopter route, even though I love gadgets, but I haven’t regretted a penny. I read everywhere, so I love being able to keep it in my purse for me to pop out at a moment’s boredom(bus rides, waiting in line at theme parks, the gym). When I traveled overseas last year, I made sure it was all stocked up and I was set for my plane and train rides. I also find it much easier to read in bed since I only need to use one hand.
I’ve been using it to read a lot of fanfic now that I’m jobless and can’t quite justify buying anything. It’s pretty easy to convert html to the mobi/prc format, so that’s never an issue. This way, I’m still able to enjoy the Kindle, even if I can’t afford to buy new things. The only thing I wish it had was a way to sort by genre, in addition to the author/title/last viewed options. But that’s a minor quibble. A really minor one.
If I’m able to, I’m probably going to get my mom one for Christmas. She keeps eying mine, but I’m never able to part with it.
I just took out a year-long membership at the gym. Both yesterday and today I spent a hour on the cross trainer. Yesterday I read magazines they had at the gym, today I read a hardcover. Both were a problem.
– I ran out of articles to read in the middle of my exercise and had to get off the machine to get some more mags. It won’t be long until I’m done with all the magazines they have to offer at the gym.
– The pages wouldn’t stay open enough for me to read comfortably, I had to keep creasing the page near the spine to get the pages to stay somewhat open. To keep the pages from turning, I had to arrange the book behind my water bottle, lower than eye level and that wasn’t the most ergonomic place for it, I would prefer to use the little shelf at eye level (for me). (I might try to rig something with rubber bands to keep the book open… I doubt that will work for long. It also won’t work with paperbacks -I don’t think- since I do not crack the spines.)
Why I want an ereader:
– So I can turn the page with just one hand, at the press of a button, without losing my place and having paper fly every which way.
– So I don’t run out of something to read.
– So I can use my exercise time efficiently and do homework at the same time, just load it onto the ereader and multitask. (I so want note-taking ability on my future reader. There’s the Sony 600 Touch that interests me… And then there’s the frustrating wait for the BeBook 2… Will BB2 have note-taking ability? It’s more important to me than wifi!)
I hope that made sense. I’m too sleep-deprived to be sure.
Since no one’s mentioned it yet (or maybe I’m the only weirdo who does it), but I also read while I’m brushing my teeth. iPod Touch in one hand and electric toothbrush in the other. I could do the same with a paperback book…but I refuse to crack the spines of my books.
It’s also convenient while I walk to work every morning, while I’m waiting in line at the car wash, the grocery store,
confessional… I haven’t doubled my reading since I got the Touch, but it’s close.