These days, eReaders are everywhere. For die-hard book nerds, eReaders offer the convenience of a full library without having to sacrifice shelf space. Sure, there are the paper buffs who swear that you just can't take an eReader with you into the bathtub, but when's the last time anyone actually did that? Face it, eReaders are convenient and here to stay. But there's a dizzying array of information out there, so what should you look for in an eReader?
Step 1 Figure out what you want
There are a myriad of options out there. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Maybe you can skip buying it and just read books on your phone. Think about it. Do you really need another single-purpose device, when all the major eReader producers also have free apps available for your smartphone? Consider: iBooks, Kindle for iPhone, Kindle for Blackberry, Kindle for Android, Kobobooks, Nook for Android, Nook for Blackberry, etc.
- Do you want an eInk screen? Currently an eInk screen allows you to take the eReader out into the sunlight, and does not have the same type of glare that a laptop screen does. It's like reading a paperback novel. This option is great for people who want the experience of reading an actual book. However, eInk is only available in black and white right now. And, moving to the next page means having to deal with a minor "flash" as the eInk screen fades to the next page. Non-eInk readers generally have LED screens, and can also display color.
- Do you want Wi-Fi or 3G or do you not care at all about connecting to the Internet? Many eReaders now come with a Wi-Fi connection or a 3G connection to the Internet. Such functionality allows you to easily order ebooks off the Internet whenever you want. This may or may not be a good thing for you. Keep in mind that Wi-Fi and 3G access on an eReader comes with a premium - you'll pay extra for a Wi-Fi connection, and probably $50 or more for 3G access. If you want access to an ebookstore at all times, then 3G is probably right for you. If you have a wireless connection at home, and are prepared to buy books before you travel, then you might prefer the cheaper option of a Wi-Fi connected ereader. If you want to go through a few extra steps, and order all your ebooks directly from your own computer, and then transfer the ebooks via an SD or other storage card, the non-Internet connected ereaders may be the best option for you. It also has the advantage of being the cheapest.
- Do you care at all about DRM? Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is a term referring to technologies that limit your access to media. As this pertains to eBooks and eReaders, it means that if you purchase an eReader and buy books with DRM formats, you do not completely own the material. eBooks purchased in Amazon's proprietary Kindle format have certain limitations that prevent you from making copies, trading or lending your eBook purchases to share with other people. The majority of eReaders have some form of DRM associated with their online bookstores where you purchase eBooks.
- Do you really want to just read books on your device? Think about it. You'll be dropping a not insignificant amount of change on a device that only does one thing, when a netbook could also function as an eReader, a gaming machine, and give you access to the Internet for a little bit more. Think long and hard about this one. Maybe what you want is really an iPad.
Step 2 Comparison shop
It's an all-out price war right now. Here are the most current prices & specs on the most popular eReaders:
Specs: Includes free 3G, Wi-Fi, 6" eInk display. 8.7 oz. Battery life lasts up to 1 month with wireless turned off. Stores up to 3,500 books, and can display PDFs. Comes with experimental browser.
Specs: Does not come with 3G. Has Wi-Fi capabilities, 6" eInk display. 8.5 oz. Battery life lasts up to 1 month with wireless turned off. Stores up to 3,500 books, and can display PDFs. Comes with experimental browser.
Specs: Includes 3G, Wi-Fi, eInk display with second smaller color LCD touchscreen underneath. 12.1 oz. Battery life lasts up to 10 days with wireless turned off. Stores up to 1500 eBooks with expandable MicroSD slot. Access free Wi-Fi in all Barnes & Nobles bookstores and AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots.
Specs: Includes Wi-Fi, eInk display with second smaller color LCD touchscreen underneath. 11. 6 oz. Battery life lasts up to 10 days with wireless turned off. Stores up to 1500 eBooks with expandable MicroSD slot. Access free Wi-Fi in all Barnes & Nobles bookstores and AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots.
No Wi-Fi or 3G capabilities, eInk display. 7.8 oz. Battery life lasts up to two weeks. Holds up to 1000 eBooks with expandable SD slot. Comes pre-loaded with 100 free eBooks.
Apple Inc.'s iPad: Starts at $499
9.7 inch LED touchscreen. Wi-Fi model is 1.5 pounds. Wi-Fi and 3G model is 1.6 pounds. Can surf the web for up to 10 hours with the Wi-Fi connection. Can also watch video, display pictures, colors, play games in addition to using the iBooks application.
3G wireless connectivity. 7" eInk display with touchscreen. Battery life lasts up to two and a half weeks with wireless turned off. 12.75 oz. Has slots for Sony's memory stick and SD card up to 32BG.
5" eInk display. 7.76 oz. Holds up to 350 books. Battery life lasts up to two weeks.
Price comparisons via AP.
Prices can only continue to go south. So if you're patient, you may be able to score an eReader that's less than $100.
Step 3 Test drive the ones you want to purchase
Unfortunately the Amazon Kindle is not sold directly in stores, so if you really want one, you'll just have to buy it. Otherwise, see if someone you know has one so you can borrow it to play around with. For the Nook, the Sony Reader and the iPad, you can go into brick and mortar stores and hold it in your hands and test out its features. Maybe you think the Nook is too slow, or you find the Sony Reader too clunky. You won't know until you find out.
Step 4 Decide
Just buy one already.
Step 5 Use it
If you don't use it, you just dropped $100-400 down the drain. Take it with you when you travel, when you commute on the subway, and toss it in a Ziploc bag if you're so insistent on taking it to the bathtub with you.
Trust me, it'll work, even on an iPad.