eBooks are becoming increasingly popular, in fact Amazon are selling more eBooks than physical Hardback books, clearly being able to carry all your book collection around on a small, portable device is a welcome and convenient option to many people these days.
So with that in mind, which are your best options for an eBook reader? Well to determine a list of the very best e-readers, it is imperative to understand exactly what factors contribute to the overall experience of using an e-reading device.
There are of course the obvious, such as size, weight and ergonomics, however it is important to consider other aspects too, such as the screen contrast, reflectiveness and any additional software features a device may have.
There’s also other individual quirks and qualities to consider on an individual basis, but I will pick up on those as I go along. So here we are, in my opinion the top 5 e-book readers on the market today.
5. Apple iPad
It was a real wrench for me to include this in the list, but bear with me on this one, as I know that the Apple iPad cannot possibly be described as a dedicated e-reader due to its enormous price tag and lead-like weight in comparison, not to mention its multitude of other, more important, features.
However, the simple fact that the iBook store will no doubt become one of, if not the, most populated official e-book store in the world, in the same way that the App Store is the largest digital software distribution method in the world right now, by far. With the iPad being such a popular device from launch, many publishers will jump at the opportunity to behind iBooks and in time we will see many millions of books become available I’m sure.
Plus, as with everything Apple, its graphical prowess is over and above anything that the other e-readers can boast about. The backlit, colour LCD screen may not be the best way of reading for any length of time, but its size and clarity means that text and images can be properly displayed, with the latter being a much improved experience over a dedicated, black and white e-reader.
So, the iPad makes the list thanks to some excellent software implementation and superb graphics and animations, rather than some quality e-reader hardware, plus it’s also got its own iPad Kindle App which means you’ve got access to all of Amazon’s ebooks too.
Whether or not you agree about how adept it is as an e-reader is neither here nor there, but one distinct advantage the iPad does have is that you will buy an iPad for reasons other than reading: web, mail, iTunes etc. and with iBook functionality so readily available, you may not be so keen to spend another couple of hundred on an extra dedicated e-reading device. With millions of book sales already from the iBook store, it is without a doubt one of the most widely used devices for e-reading.
4. iRiver Cover Story
The second generation of e-reader from a company made famous for their MP3 players and PMP’s, iRiver. The first generation, the Story, features a fiull QWERTY keyboard, however with the update came the inclusion of a full 6-inch E-ink touchscreen and obviously with that, an onscreen keyboard.
Now the Cover Story comes with all the usual features of a traditional e-reader, so for the purposes of this article I will assume you have a fair knowledge of what is expected from an e-reader. So, instead of boring you with the ins and outs, I’ll focus more on what this has that the others may not.
For example, e-mail capabilities over a Wi-Fi connection. OK, so the touchscreen won’t provide you with the greatest typing experience of your life, but for the odd message here or there its an interesting feature to include. In addition to that there is MP3 audio compatibiity, with a battery life lasting up to 11 hours of consistent audio playback, or 11,000 page turns which is more than a credible statistic.
There is an SD card slot, so you can add up to 32GB on top of the 2GB built in to store all of your e-books, which can be in ePUB, PDF, TXT, FB2 or DJVU format, a wider range than some of its rivals. The final notable feature is the inclusion of voice recording, so you can perhaps verbally annotate your books for your studies or simply record MP3 reminders.
3. Samsung E60
Samsung joined the list of manufacturers teaming up with leading book retailer WHSmith to launch and sell their e-reader. The E60 retails for a pretty competitive £199 and features 2GB of internal memory and access to WHSmith’s own e-book store over Wi-Fi.
The design of this e-reader is unique to Samsung, while featuring a 6-inch touch screen, it comes with a slide out set of controls for easier navigation. It is slightly heavier than the iRiver Cover Story, but the physical buttons are probably to blame and they do add to the overall experience, rather than make anything worse, and at just over 300g, it’s hardly heavy.
While you can only access WHSmith’s e-book store on the device, you can still buy ePub’s and other formats from other stores and transfer via USB cable.
2. Sony Reader Touch Edition
The offering from Sony is the best of the rest as far as I’m concerned, as the number 1 seems way ahead of any of the competitors. However, far be it from Sony to give up trying and they have just updated their range of e-readers and lowered the price.
The Sony Readers are arguably the best looking of the bunch in terms of hardware, but historically they have been lacking in quality when it came to the display and the touch screen. However, the updated model brings with it a new ‘glare free – paper like’ display and a new, clearer touch screen with better responsiveness.
The battery life on this thing is impressive, lasting on average for about 2 weeks, so could last you an entire summer holiday on a single charge. It is also 100g lighter than the Samsung offering.
Software wise, the UI is neat and intuitive and there is compatibility with the usual ePub and PDF file formats and various other less popular ones too.
The Sony Reader Touch is available in a variety of colours too, and is priced aggressively at a penny under £160.
1. Amazon Kindle (3rd Gen)
As I already stated above, the Kindle is quite clearly the best e-reader on the market in my opinion for various reasons. Firstly, and the way I see it most importantly, the Kindle features global wireless over 3G, and it’s completely free except for the initial £40 extra for the 3G equipped edition of the Kindle. The basic Wi-Fi only version is priced extremely well for the customer at £109, the cheapest of the serious competitors in the market.
There are several other features unique to the Kindle, which when combined make it by far and away the outstanding player in the field. For starters, there is Facebook and Twitter integration so you can share meaningful phrases from your favourite books with your friends and followers.
The latest update to the model also made some improvements to the already impressive display. The E-ink technology used in the Kindle is probably the best implementation of it in any e-reader, displaying 16 shades of gray now, and contrast improved by a whole 50% over the Amazon Kindle 2.
Hardware wise, there is no touchscreen in the Kindle, but instead you get a full QWERTY and physical navigation controls and that’s to the benefit of the battery life and for typing tasks.
Some other notable features are the inclusion of an experimental web browser, dictionaries, note-taking facilities, adjustable font sizes and the usability in direct sunglight.
Suffice it to say the Amazon Kindle 3 has more great features than any other dedicated e-reader and is by far the best value for money. The Kindle store is also extremely versatile, being available on various platforms including iOS itself.
Anyway, it’s not worth going on about any longer, but if my opinion counts for anything in this world and if you want an e-reader, get a Kindle.