Sunday, May 9, 2010

Comparing The Top E-reader Devices, From The Kindle and Beyond

First off, let me say (for those who might not already know) there are dozens upon dozens of ways to read electronic books (ebooks) nowadays. You can go to Web sites such as Smashwords and download ebooks directly to your computer. You can use the Stanza application to read ebooks on an iPhone or iPod Touch. Increasingly, you can purchase e-readers, hardware devices specifically made for reading ebooks and other electronic materials, such as electronic versions of magazines and newspapers. Below are basics on some of the more popular of the e-reader devices. Before you purchase an e-reader, make sure to further investigate the particular device in which you are interested, and to do some comparisons online because you might get lucky and find what you want at a cheaper price.

Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6" Display, Global Wireless, Latest Generation)There are actually three different versions of the Kindle, all produced and sold by Amazon. The original Kindle e-reading device hit the market in November 2007. Since February 2009, the original has been supplanted by the Kindle 2 and, since May 2009, the Kindle DX. The Kindle, all three versions, are almost assuredly the best known and most popular of all e-reading devices, at least as of this writing in February 2010. With a Kindle, you can go to the Kindle Store and purchase ebooks, electronic newspapers, magazines, and even some blogs.

So, there's three Kindles. What are the differences between the three? The original is a wireless reading device with a 6 inch screen and enough memory to store about 200 non-illustrated books; this first generation Kindle is no longer being manufactured, though you can sometimes still find them being sold (new and used) by some online retailers from a price of about $259. The Kindle 2 has several improvements over the original, including longer battery life and enough memory to store more than 1,000 non-illustrated books, though the price is also at about $259. The Kindle DX is a larger version of the Kindle with a 9.7 inch display screen and enough memory to store approximately 3,500 non-illustrated books; the Kindle DX is market for those who want a larger viewing screen, and is especially helpful for readers of newspapers and magazine who are more familiar with seeing the print versions of their favorite reading products in a larger venue. The price of the Kindle DX is currently at about $459.

If you don't have a Kindle, there are still other ways to read ebooks available for the Kindle. If you have a iPhone or iPod Touch, go to the iPhone Apps Store and check out the Kindle app. Amazon has even released Kindle for PC software, so you can download Kindle ebooks and read them on your computer.

Why have a Kindle?
Well, it's very popular, if you like fitting in with the crowd. Also, its been around for a few years now, so many of the bugs and glitches have already been worked out. Plus, you'll have access to Amazon's Kindle Store, which has tons and tons and tons of books available. The Kindle devices are relatively easy to use. The downsides are that you can't download ebooks onto a Kindle from any other site than Amazon and the Amazon files are protected so you can't pass them along to friends with a Kindle. My guess would be eventually Amazon is going to have to open up a little more and allow such things, but who knows when that will happen?

The Nook is an e-reader provided by Barnes and Noble. If you are one of those folks who likes touch-screen technology, the Nook could be right for you, because the Nook doesn't have an external keyboard.

The Nook is still a little on shaky ground. Early reviews groused that the software was somewhat flaky, though the Nook slowly seems to be finding its market with a price currently at $259.

The Nook is the first e-reader device to use the Android platform, which is a mobile operating system somewhat akin to Linux kernel.

Apple iPad MB292LL/A Tablet (16GB, Wifi)This Apple device isn't technically an e-reader. It's a tablet computer, which means it uses touch-screen technology without an external, physical keyboard. But the iPad has drawn comparisons to e-readers, mainly because this Apple device, through use of apps like those on the iPhone and iPod Touch, will be an excellent reading device for magazines and newspapers because of its 9.7 inch full color screen. The iPad is scheduled to go on sale in March 2010 and is supposed to have a starting price of $499.

Sony Reader
Sony Digital Reader Pocket Edition - Silver (PRS300SC)Over the last several years, Sony has been selling several different e-reader devices, all called Sony Readers but with slightly different names. As of this writing, Sony is selling the Reader Pocket Edition ($179), the Reader Touch Edition ($299) and the Reader Daily Edition ($399). As you can guess, the higher the price, the more and better features, though I won't go into all of them for purposes of brevity. However, a number of reviews have complained the Sony Readers have glare problems with their screens. Of note, some libraries (including the New York Public Library) have ebooks available, and apparently the Sony Readers can connect with those libraries for you to download those books for free.

The Future
What the future holds for ebooks, publishing and e-readers is anyone's guess. The Kindle still holds sway for the most part, but Spring Design is looking to release the Alex in the next few months, and it's drawing plenty of buzz for its multiple capabilities.

Also, don't forget that just because you don't have or can't afford an e-reader doesn't mean you can't read books electronically. If you have a home computer, or access to a computer, you can go to sites such as Smashwords and download many ebooks for free and other ebooks at relatively cheap prices. At Smashwords, the ebooks even come in multiple formats, from pdf to text to more, so don't worry about compatibility issues.

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