Tuesday, January 25, 2011

EReaders: Here to Stay or Fading Fad?

Happy New Year to all, and welcome to Techie Tuesday. As I said last month, this month, we’ll be talking all about eReaders. I’ll be giving you details, pros and cons, my pick for best eReader, and attempt to answer if getting an eReader is the best thing to do or not.
First of all, what is an eReader? An eReader is, basically, an electronic device that allows you to read books. This is the primary purpose of an eReader: to read. As a result, don’t expect to find large screens or beautiful colors. Most eReaders have a screen size of about a paperback novel and are black and white. But one thing to note is that the black and white is not like it is on an LCD screen. EReaders use a special type of print called eInk.

EInk works like this. The principal components of electronic ink are millions of tiny microcapsules, about the diameter of a human hair. In one incarnation, each microcapsule contains positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles suspended in a clear fluid. When a positive electric field is applied, the white particles move to the top of the microcapsule to become visible to the reader. This makes the surface appear white at that location. At the same time, an opposite electric field pulls the black particles to the bottom of the microcapsules where they are hidden. By reversing this process, the black particles appear at the top of the capsule, which now makes the surface appear dark at that location. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eink)

This is how words are formed on the screen. As a result of it not being and LCD, eReaders can be read in direct light with no distortion or blocking of the text.
Now, many people say that the Apple iPad is a very good eReader. Let me clarify something now. The iPad is, first and foremost, a tablet PC. True, it has more space than your standard eReader, and true, it does colors, and yes, the screen is larger, but it contains your standard LCD screen covered by glass. So, it’s like trying to read on your laptop when you’re outside on a sunny day. Not easy at all. Also, due to the fact that eReaders use eInk, they don’t drain batteries as fast as an iPad. In conclusion to this part, if you want a straight eReader, look for one. If you want a computer that does eBooks, go get yourself an iPad.
Next, let’s look at the different kinds of eReaders out there. I could write multiple pages on this, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, you have a ton of choices. But, keep in mind, an eReader is like a television. You want to buy from a company who specializes in that product. You wouldn’t buy a television made by Maytag or Whirlpool, would you? I didn’t think so. EReaders are the same way. They all work basically the same, but you’re better off looking at, what I call, the big three: the Sony Reader, the Barnes and Noble Nook (and Nook Color), and the Amazon Kindle. So, these are the three I will be comparing.
First off, commonalities. They all utilize the eInk technology. They all can be read in direct sunlight. They all use WiFi. And they all have 16 shades of gray, which leads to better pictures. Now, the differences. First, the Sony Reader. The top pick in that group is the Sony Reader Daily. It boasts a 7” screen, making it 1” larger than the Nook or Kindle. You get 2GB internal memory, which can hold up to 1,200 books, and that’s expandable by the Dual Memory Card Expansion Slots, which can take both SD and Memory Stick Duo cards up to 32GB, which gives you up to 50,000 books. It also includes touch screen navigation, weighs in an 9.6 ounces, and will last between 10 and 22 days, depending on whether or not you have your wireless on. The cost of this unit is $299.99.
Next, we’re going to look at 2. The Barnes and Noble Nook and Nook Color. Both are similar, with the exception of one being a regular eReader and one being in color. Both have a 6” display and free 3G, which basically means you can download your books anywhere. It has 2GB internal memory, good for up to 1,500 eBooks, which is expandable via micro SD card for up to 16GB, or 17,500 eBooks. A unique feature of the Nook is that it has a full color touch screen below the book screen for navigation, and it allows you the opportunity to lend others your books. It also gives you a basic Web browser, good for text-heavy pages like Wikipedia. It weighs in at 11.2 ounces, and lasts between 2 and 10 days, again depending on wireless on or off. It costs $149 for WiFi only, $199 for WiFi+3G, and $249 for the Nook Color, which does WiFi only. And, since the Nook Color is a color screen, expect battery life to be less.
Lastly, the Amazon Kindle. This is arguably the eReader that began a revolution. The latest incarnation of it is the Kindle 3. Like the Nook, it boasts a 6” screen, built in WiFi, and a basic Web browser. But it boasts a 4GB internal storage, or up to 3,500 books. Unfortunately, it does not include any expansion slots, but this shouldn’t be a huge factor, considering who is going to really have 3,500 books to read? It does not have a touch screen, but some books give you a Text-to-Speech feature, which allows the Kindle read to you, so, while you’re driving, you can basically have an audiobook going if you want. Right now, not all books are available to lend, but Amazon is working diligently on making that happen. It’s also the lightest of the bunch, at 8.7 ounces, and lasts between 10 days and 1 month on a single charge, depending on wireless. The WiFi only model is $139 and the WiFi+3G model is $189.
So, of these three eReaders, I choose (and have) the Amazon Kindle 3, and I even included the lighted cover (available for around $60). It just feels right, it’s quick, and it holds so many books. Plus, as the WiFi only Kindle is less expensive than others and is about all you’ll ever need, unless you do a lot of travelling, the Kindle makes perfect sense. Plus it’s backed by Amazon’s top-notch customer service. If anything happens to your Kindle within a year, EVEN IF IT’S YOUR FAULT, Amazon will replace it for free with a full new 1 year warranty.
Now, my last word on eReaders has to be are they here to stay or just a fad? Well, based on what I have seen, I think there is a lot of potential when it comes to eReaders. They don’t deteriorate like regular books, and they are convenient for keeping your whole library in one place. Personally, I think that eReaders are here to stay and are worth getting for anybody who likes to read.
Next time, we’ll be talking about fitness video games, and, hopefully, the month after that, we will be reviewing the new Nintendo 3DS system. Until then, keep techin’ folks!

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