Shopping for an e-book reader? At first glance, the task seems daunting as the choices are many.
The good news is that the list of good choices is actually fairly short. The other good news? Prices and features are better than ever.
But to make it easy for you to make the right selection, you need to define your need. Start by asking yourself what you are really looking for in a e-book reader. Do you just want to read books? How about magazines and newspapers? What about browsing the web?
If you are primarily interested in reading books, you are probably going to be fine opting for Wi-Fi-only models. You only need Wi-Fi access when you are buying new books. E-book files are stored on the device – once downloaded, Internet access isn’t necessary.
So, if you are a voracious reader, you can buy a bunch of books, toggle off your Wi-Fi, and work your way through them at your leisure. In fact, many users keep the wireless on their readers switched off most of the time since it significantly boosts battery life.
You have to think about weight of the e-reader. Unlike a laptop, which sits on a table or on your lap while in use, you will be actively holding these readers or tablets aloft. For long reading sessions – say, more than 45 minutes or so – many users will find that their fingers and arms becoming strained.
There are many different ebook readers, but three stands out from the pack: the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Apple iPad. Each has their own pluses and minuses and all are fabulous devices, but it is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the features.
There are two varieties of the Kindle – the Wi-Fi only version, and the Wi-Fi and 3G option.
The Kindle spots a 6-inch E-Ink screen, is much easier on the eyes than your traditional laptop or desktop screen. The smallest and lightest dedicated e-book reader. Unlike the step-up Kindle Touch model, the baseline Kindle includes neither a touch screen nor any audio features.
However, the trade-off is that you get the lightest device – just under 170 grammes.
It has no glare or reflections. It is exceptionally light and sized closer than ever to a mass market paperback book.
It is still not quite as fast as flipping a page in a traditional book, and this is because of the E-Ink screen.
But, in terms of the Kindle, it is their best reading experience yet.
There are actually two varieties of the Nook to choose from – the Nook and NookColour. The standard Nook features a 6-inch E-Ink screen and is most similar to the Kindle. If all you want to do is read, this is a great device.
The NookColour features a 7-inch, full-colour touchscreen LCD screen, and offers enhanced books, magazines, newspapers and interactive kids’ books, and can be used as a media player as well.
The Apple iPad is not a dedicated ebook reader. Rather, it is a computer device with e-book reader functionalities and capabilities. The iPad features a 9.1-inch full-colour touchscreen LCD, and because of its larger screen size you can turn the screen horizontally and have two pages of an ebook open at a time, just like a real book.
Just like the NookColour though, the downside is that it is LCD, so you might not be able to read on it comfortably for as long as you could on a device with an E-Ink screen.
The iTunes store offers you both ebooks and audiobooks that you can download to your iPad as well as your iPhone and iPod.
Sam Wambugu is a monitoring and evaluation specialist. Samwambugu@gmail.com