E-Reader shoot out
E-readers are the easy way to carry thousands of books with you everywhere. One e-reader device with a large internal memory can hold as many titles as your local library! There are two types; dedicated e-readers with e-ink screens, like Amazon's Kindle, and multipurpose tablets with e-reader apps, like the iPad. So how do you choose which one to buy?
E-ink is a type of screen technology that is perfectly suited to e-books. It's much more like reading an actual printed page and a lot easier on the eyes. It also uses a very small amount of power as it only needs electricity while the page is actually changing. This allows e-ink devices to have extremely long battery lives, of up to 2 months between charges!
E-ink is not perfect however. The screens do not refresh very quickly, so you can't use a dedicated e-reader to watch animations or videos, plus they're mostly black and white so not great for imagery. Faster screens are in the works and some colour models have already been released, but these have not yet taken off to any extent. Finally, as e-ink screens do not give out any light, you cannot use them in dimly lit places, unless you have a case with a light attachment.
Most popular E-Ink E-Readers
- 6” E-Ink touch screen
- Wi-Fi Connectivity
- 2GB internal storage expandable to 32GB
- Up to 1 month battery life
The Kobo e-Reader Touch is available in a range of colours and has a unique soft quilted back which makes it stand out from the crowd. The Kobo eBook store claims to have more titles than Amazon’s store and includes over 1,000,000 free titles. The paid for titles do tend to be a little more expensive than Amazon on average though. The battery life is great and there are fun features like reading awards to encourage you to read more. The awards include things like the Juggernaut award for reading 10,000 pages and the Witching Hour award for regularly reading between 12 am – 1 am. Finally, Kobo is also compatible with the open source ePUB format, meaning you can access books from free online stores like Project Guttenberg.
- 6” E-Ink touch screen
- Wi-Fi Connectivity
- 1.3 GB internal storage expandable to 32 GB
- Up to 100 hours battery life
Like a lot of Sony products, the PRS-T1 has a premium feel with its brushed aluminium accents. It also claims to be the world’s lightest e-Reader with a 6” screen and is available in black, white and red. The high quality feel does come at a price however. The Sony reader is more expensive than Kobo and does not have as many features.
The Sony eBook store is quite well stocked but is not as well integrated with the device. You still need to plug the device into a PC to add books onto it. Like the Kobo, the Sony also supports ePUB files so you can get your eBooks from any free online sources.
- 6” E-Ink
- Wi-Fi and 3G Connectivity
- 4 GB internal storage
- Up to 2 months battery life
The Kindle is probably the most well-known of all the e-Readers and this is Amazon’s latest and greatest model. It features a built-in keyboard to allow you to quickly and easily make notes and annotations on your eBooks. It also has a massive battery life of up to 2 months.
The killer feature though is the 3G connectivity. The Kindle can connect to mobile networks in over 100 countries worldwide to download new books, magazines and newspapers without a PC or Wi-Fi connection. It also uses Amazon Whispersync technology to synchronise your bookmarks over multiple devices. You can start reading a book on the Kindle and pick up in exactly the same place on your iPhone. And the best bit about the 3G connection is that Amazon will pick up the bill. There is no mobile contract or monthly subscription to pay for. It is all included in the initial purchase price. However, the Kindle 3G is the most expensive of the 3 e-Readers here.
The Kindle Keyboard 3G does justify its price tag with all the extra features but if you just want a simple e-reader, Amazon also do a model without 3G or a keyboard for almost half the price, making it cheaper than the Kobo and the Sony.
Tablets with e-reader apps
You do not need to use a dedicated e-reader to access e-books. There are now many different multipurpose tablets available and almost all of them have access to some sort of e-reader application. The advantage of a tablet is that you have access to a whole range of multimedia content in addition to your e-books. You can view digital photos & videos and listen to music. Plus you can access online services and there are 1000s of games available for most tablets.
The main downside of tablets is the battery life is generally only about 8 hours, due to the touchscreen and internet-enabled applications using up a lot of power. This is fine if you can charge the device every couple of days but could be an issue on a 2 week holiday. Also, the screen can be a lot more tiring on the eyes due to the backlight so it may not be suitable for long periods.
- 7” IPS LCD touchscreen
- Wi-Fi Connectivity
- 8 GB internal storage
- Up to 8 Hours battery life
The Kindle Fire runs Android 2.3 software that has been heavily modified by Amazon. It has a dual core processor and features the same Whispersync technology as the e-ink Kindles. It also has a built-in web browser and can even access your emails.
The Kindle Fire also allows access to the Amazon Prime service. For an annual membership fee, Amazon Prime gives you access to borrow a free e-Book every month as well as unlimited, instant streaming of over 10,000 TV shows and movies.
The Fire only has 8 GB of internal storage but Amazon also include free Cloud based storage for all your eBooks, music, movies and apps. Speaking of apps, the Fire has access to 1000s of the most popular Android apps such as Netflix, Angry Birds and Words With Friends.
Kindle Fire is currently available in the US but should be available in the UK shortly.
- 7” LCD touchscreen
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- 8 GB internal storage expandable to 32 GB
- Up to 7 hours battery life
The Kobo Vox is a very similar device to the Kindle Fire but it also has an SD card slot to give you more storage space. The Vox also runs Android 2.3 but this is Google’s own version of the software rather than the modified version on the Fire.
The app selection is still a little limited compared to the full Android Market available on most Android phones but most of the popular apps are available to download. You also get access to the full Kobo eBook store with over 2.2 million books, 4200 magazines and 2000 newspapers.
- 9.7” Retina touchscreen
- Wi-Fi connectivity, 3G optional
- 16GB, 32GB or 64Gb of internal storage
- Up to 10 hours battery life
The iPad is the device that kick-started the tablet revolution and is by far the most popular in terms of sales. The 3rd version of the iPad has just been released and includes an amazing new screen with a resolution higher than even a 1080p Blu-Ray. This should make it ideal as an e-Reader as the text should be as crisp and sharp as a printed page.
iBooks is Apple’s version of an eBook store and reading application. The iBooks app is free to download and ebook prices are similar to the Amazon store, although it may not yet have the quantity of books available on Amazon or Kobo. However, the App Store has both the Kindle app and the Kobo app available as free downloads meaning that you can buy and read books from all 3 stores on one device.
The sheer quantity of extra applications and eBooks available makes the iPad the most versatile tablet by far but it does carry a large price tag. The iPad is at least double the price of the Fire or the Vox. However, it easily justifies the extra expense if you are going to make use of all the extra features it offers.
So which should you buy? Well that depends on what you need the device to do. If you are just going to be reading e-Books at home with a Wi-Fi connection, the Kobo Touch or the Sony will do everything you need. If you do a lot of travelling, you may be able to justify the extra expense of the Kindle 3G to be able to download new books wherever you are in the world. All 3 of these devices will give you the best reading experience with the E-Ink screen.
If you want a bit more versatility, then the various tablets available offer you a complete multimedia experience, with email, music, videos and games at your fingertips. While the LCD screens are not quite as good as E-Ink for reading text, the backlights mean they can be used in low light conditions. The iPad does justify extra outlay as it offers by far the most polished experience but the cheaper tablets offer most of the features for half the price.