Choose an e-book Reader

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Choose an e-Book Reader

E-book readers have gained popularity lately, largely due to a brewing price war that has carried through the three major manufacturers: Amazon, Sony and Barnes and Noble. While the Amazon Kindle is the most publicized of the e-readers, there are many features offered by the Sony Reader and Barnes and Noble Nook that the Kindle simply lacks.

1. Amazon Kindle

The Amazon Kindle’s popularity lies in brand recognition. Since we mentally equate Amazon with buying books online, it seems like the natural place to buy an e-book reader. Amazon’s print catalog is impressive—there are very few books that cannot be found through Amazon’s network of used book sellers and their own catalog. Their e-book catalog boasts over half a million titles, with more titles added daily.

The Kindle has major pros: once books are purchased they can be viewed anywhere at any time, all synced to the very last page you finished reading. There is a Kindle App for the iPhone, Blackberry and Android, which for mobile phone users means always having a library of e-books available to read while waiting in dentist offices or riding the subway. Kindle books can be read on computers and other mobile devices as well.

There are also major cons with the Kindle. For one, it is all one piece, which means the battery cannot be replaced without sending the Kindle to tech support.

The biggest drawback is that Kindle books cannot be viewed on another e-book reader. So, if you buy the Kindle and hate it, your book investment is completely lost when you replace it with another e-book reader.

As far as features go, the Kindle has a paper-like reading screen (as do most e-book readers) that is not backlit, so to read in the dark, you must purchase a light (this is also true for most e-book readers, including the Nook and Sony Reader. All modern models have 3G and WiFi connectivity. The Kindle is light weight and has adjustable text size. Besides Kindle e-books, Kindle will read PDFs. Technically, this means the Kindle will read books from Project Gutenberg and any other site that saves books in PDF format—but not other formats, like e-Pub, commonly used with eBooks.

Kindle’s latest price drop means an entry-level model with a 6 inch screen and 3G costs $189. The larger 9.5 inch DX model is $379.

2. Barnes and Noble Nook

The Nook’s latest models have touch-screen navigation, but still lack the touch capability for turning pages and Web navigation. The touch-screen navigation is full color, with brightness adjustments. The e-book text can be adjusted from torturous extra-small (about 4pt) to extra-large (about 16pt). Besides the approximately 1 million e-books in the Barnes and Noble catalog, the Nook reads PDF files and other e-book formats (including e-Pub and PDB, but excluding Kindle), which means the books from Project Gutenberg and most anywhere else on the net can be read with the Nook. Conversely, Nook’s books can be read on any computer and most mobile phones. This is one way the Nook excels over the Kindle—you are not tied to just one supplier’s catalog.

The best feature about the Nook is the ability to add memory as needed. A standard micro-SD card fits into a slot on the back of the reader, which means nearly endless book storage capacity. The battery is also removable, and thus replaceable. A single charge will keep you reading your favorite novels for up to two weeks, provided the WiFi is disabled.

While the Nook’s books can be read on most any mobile phone, there is no direct App for iPhone, Blackberry or Driod devices. The Barnes and Noble App for iPhone does allow access to books purchased from Barnes and Noble, but not for free books or books downloaded from elsewhere.

There are two models of the Nook: one with 3G and WiFi connectivity, and one with only WiFi connectivity. The WiFi-only model sells for $149; adding 3G will connectivity will cost an extra $50.

3. Sony Reader

The newest model of the Sony Reader has a full touch-screen, with more realistic page turning. Like the other readers, the Sony Reader’s screen is more like reading a paper book than a computer screen.

Sony’s format is very similar to the Nook. The fonts can be adjusted, memory can be added and batteries can be removed (on all but the smallest model). One advantage over the Nook besides the touch-screen model is the choice of sizes. The Daily Edition model is bigger than most e-book readers on the market, and designed to give a more realistic feel for reading magazines and newspapers. The Pocket Edition is 5 inches, and designed to carry everywhere, thus it has less onboard memory, and no way to expand from the original 512 MB.

The Sony Reader starts at $149 for the Pocket Edition, with the Daily edition costing $299 and the Touch Edition $169.

Which to Choose?

While the Kindle makes sense for many people, those who want to view more e-books than just those in the Kindle Store and in PDF format should look closer at the Nook or Sony Reader. Barnes and Noble fans who frequent the store will probably be happy with the added in-store bonuses like free e-books and WiFi, while those who would rather have a touch screen or pocket-sized reader would do better with the Sony Reader. It all comes down to how the reader will be used.

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