Choosing an eReader
There are many electronic readers available from a variety of manufacturers. Many portable and tablet computers can also function as an eReader. It's a confusing market for those of us less familiar with the technology. This article summarizes the choices and make recommendations that will help you get what you need from the popular device.
When using a eReader, there are three basic requirements that must be found in every model.
- Display technology.
- Catalog of books available.
- Physical size.
Most ereaders use one of two technologies for their display. They greatly affect how the pages appear, under what lighting conditions they can be used and on battery life.
The first is called eInk and closely resembles printed paper. In most models, this display is roughly the size of a single page of a paperback book. Just as many colors too: just black and white. This display works in the same lighting that you experience when reading a paper book: bright sunlight to the dim light of a room lit by a single lamp. The font style and size can be changed to settings that are best for any reader. It uses very little battery power and is relatively low cost. For plain text, this is the preferred choice. Examples of these devices include the Sony Reader, the Nook Simple Touch and the Amazon Kindle
The second display technology is the backlit LCD screen. Similar to your flat-panel TV or computer monitor, it display beautiful colors and works under almost any light condition except very bright sunlight including complete darkness. Because the screen is lit up from behind, it uses considerable more battery power. This means shortened battery life. The color technology also causes individual letters to be less clear than with the eInk technology. Some people find this type of display to be difficult when reading for extending periods of time. Examples of these devices include the Nook Color and the Kindle Fire.
There's a third type of product that uses the backlit LCD screen. These products are considerly more powerful and complicated than the simpler eReaders described above. The favorite of this group of products is the Apple iPad. Google markets competitive software called Android to several manufacturers for their devices (Asus Transformer, Toshiba Thrive). Similar to the iPad in features but different in use, these devices all use a backlit LCD screen. With the additional features, come added complexity.
Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble have the largest electronic bookstores with Google not far behind. There's more than 90% overlap but some books are available only in one catalog or the other. Both claim more than a million. Sony and Google their own e-bookstores with similar selections but not quite as large. The delivery of the books becomes the deciding factor. The seemless experience of the Amazon Whispernet technology is my favorite.
There's some choice in physical size and it is a personal choice for each user. They vary in size from only slightly larger than a thin paperback to 8.5-by-11-inch tablets. Smaller devices are more portable, but also have smaller screens. The smaller units are lighter in weight and less tiresome when holding it for extended periods of time. The larger units have the ability to display more test on a single page or a larger font (helpful for us who use glasses for reading) and occasional illustrations. The illustrations are best on a full-color LCD display.
For book reading, I favor the Kindle product line for feature-rich products that are easy to use. The Amazon catalog is second to none and the delivery of books is near seamless. It's very easy to get books into your eReader.
Kindle, 6" E Ink Display This is the most basic and low cost of all the Kindles. It has the same clear display and buttons below the screen for selecting books to read and along the side for turning pages. It lacks the more advanced features but is perfect for reading books. What more could you ask?
Kindle Keyboard, 6" E Ink Display This Kindle has a fixed keyboard below the screen. This is handy in that the others display a keyboard on the display that has to be navigated with arrow keys or touched (with the Kindle Touch or Fire below). It has the same terrific screen that is wonderful for book reading.
Kindle Touch, 6" E Ink Display This model has a modern touch screen for turning pages, searchs and taking notes quickly and easily. There are fewer pysical buttons below the screen and along the side because the touch screen makes them unnecessary.
Kindle DX, 9.7" E Ink Display This is a large screen verson of the Kindle Keyboard described above. This Kindle allows for much larger font size that some people find easier to read. The display is as clear as the other E Ink based Kindles, just 50% bigger.
Kindle Fire This is a feature rich, full-color Kindle with the backlit LCD screen. Besides being an electronic reader, it allows access to a wide variety of media from color illustrated children's books to movies and TV shows available from Amazon. This is much more than an eReader.
I hope you find this survey of eReaders helpful and a worthy addition to your book library.
Do you have a thought and wonder why I didn't mention it?
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