Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/11/2010 (2347 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In the first of a series on popular gadget choices for Christmas, I’ll be examining dedicated eBook readers. They were a hit in 2009 (when e-Books outsold printed books on amazon.com for the first time ever on Christmas day), and the popularity of these devices continues to grow. Portability is tough to beat and adjustable font sizes mean "large print" book choices are virtually unlimited. Technology advances in this generation provide performance improvements, more choices and lower prices for Canadian readers. There are several key points to consider before going digital.
-- E Ink or LCD display. E Ink is currently the standard, with the advantages of a paper-like appearance, readability outdoors and long battery life (typically two weeks). Downsides of E Ink are slower page refreshes and lack of backlighting, so you need a night light -- just like a real book.
-- Kindle or ePub. Amazon is on one side, and everyone else on the other. Buying a Kindle essentially locks you in to amazon.com for buying eBooks. Buying an eReader that supports ePub locks you out of amazon.com eBooks, but there are plenty of other choices and you can also borrow books electronically from the Winnipeg Public Library.
-- Wireless or not. Wi-Fi or 3G let you buy books using your eReader; otherwise you plug a USB cable into a computer to load books. Wireless does impact battery life.
-- Finally, make sure you are looking at the latest models.There are plenty of last year's models still in the retail channel. While you can get some good deals (the original Kobo eReader has been selling for $99, for example), it can be confusing.
Tweaks make Sony solid contender
Sony was once the only eReader seller in Canada and the latest Reader Touch Edition remains a solid choice. Available in red, black or silver, it's 10 mm thick and weighs only 225 g. Its 15 cm E Ink touch screen resolves reflection issues from last year's model, while improving page turn speed and contrast. No wireless, this model requires USB hookup to a Mac or PC to transfer eBooks and to recharge. Supports ePub and PDF with 2GB of memory (expandable by SD or Memory Stick cards) capable of holding 1,200 books. Priced at $249.99.
Chapters gets into the game
Chapters got into the eBook reader game in 2010 and the Kobo Wireless eReader (available in Onyx, Gray, Silver and Lilac) is the second version released this year. Chapters sells eBooks through kobobooks.com; the ePub versions are readable on a range of devices including Sony Readers, the Kobo eReader (naturally) and iPads -- but not Kindles. Wi-Fi means no wires needed to order books. Dimensions are similar to the Sony and it too sports a 15 cm E Ink display, but no touch screen. Onboard memory is 1GB, expandable through SD cards. Priced at $149.99.
Kindle offers Wi-Fi, 3G
The latest Amazon Kindle is advertised at $139, but by the time you get it to Canada, import fees and shipping bring the cost to $167. This version offers Wi-Fi connectivity (a 3G model adds $50 to the price tag). Wi-Fi cuts battery life to one week, although you can turn it off. 4GB of storage should hold a library worth of books. This Kindle uses the latest 15 cm E Ink display for faster response and better contrast than previous models. Locked into Amazon's DRM scheme, Kindle can now handle PDF, but consider amazon.com your sole book seller.
Libre frees you from E Ink display
Aluratek has been one of the few alternatives to the Big Three available to Canadians. While its price advantage has been eroded, it does offer appeal to those who dislike E Ink displays. The Libre uses a slightly smaller, 12.7 cm reflective LCD screen; it's not backlit, so still no reading in the dark without a light, but page refreshes are much faster and it's better than a laptop screen for outdoors readability. Unfortunately, battery life takes a hit, at 24 hours of continuous use. This eReader supports a wide range of formats, including ePub, and accepts SD cards for storage (not included). Priced at $139.99 at Best Buy.