[Published in the OSALL newsletter of December 2011]
For those of us who are yet to acquire an e-reader, the choice of products seem to get ever wider and the costs ever lower but, as with so many decisions, there is no obvious single winner. Two of the people whose technological decisions I most respect have fallen right up against the same fence, just some distance apart. The first is an early adopter of note and soon owned the first Kindle I had seen in this country. He still swears by it. The second has given the matter some consideration but is not to be rushed ; he is currently awaiting the arrival of the Kindle Fire in South Africa, a choice influenced largely by the extended applications he will have access to from a multi-functional tablet rather than a dedicated e-reader. And then there’s a colleague who is so happy with her Mobi access that she’s not even considering acquiring an e-reader.
When narrowing down which product best suits your needs, there is a mega-list of factors to consider :
e Do you only want to read books, or do your interests extend to newspapers, blogs, magazines, and so on? Do you want to be able to surf too? Do you want access to sound files and videos?
e Are you going to want to read in sunlight and/or at night or in other environments? How will the display cope? Does it have a backlight?
e Do you feel less eye strain using one option compared to another?
e Do you prefer a qwerty keyboard to touchscreen navigation?
e Does the menu layout suit your style or complicate matters?
e Check the battery life
e Compare portability : dimensions including thickness, weight
e Is connectivity through 3G or Wi-Fi or both?
e Where relevant, compare consistency over upgrades. Once you’ve made a commitment it’s going to be harder to switch to a different system down the line
e You are going to have to choose between Kindle (Amazon)’s relatively limited choice of file formats, or the wider options offered with other e-readers
e What content/choice of titles will be available through your chosen product? What are the cost and other implications? Ask questions, lots of them
e Essentially, make sure the product and services are supported in South Africa
The article Comparing the Kindle 2, Nook, and Sony Reader3 provides cogent guidelines. It points out that all three options include bookmarking, highlighting text and a dictionary ; however, only two enable one to borrow or share books and there is a vast difference in storage capacity. If consistency in page numbering between the ‘real world’ and what you see on screen worries you, one option is going to drive you insane. A particular reader can actually read to you. A different one claims to be the only e-reader that allows you to browse books prior to purchase.
The aforementioned Kindle Fire was released in the US on 14 November, costs $199 USD and measures 190x120x11.4mm. It is a tablet rather than e-reader and has a colour touch display. The battery will allow up to eight hours of reading. Rather interestingly, it has an email application that allows various webmail accounts to be merged into one inbox. The Wikipedia entry4 includes a host of interesting specs.
Lots to think about as this year winds down to its natural conclusion. Many of us have experienced recent unseasonal weather which is not the brightest of ways to welcome the holiday season. It doesn’t seem too big a figment of the imagination to see us starting the festive close-down with our noses pressed against windows asking “Can you see the rain, dear”?
But, rain or shine, we can console ourselves with the thought that we are valued for more than our battery life, portability and whether our displays sometimes feel more lead than LED.
Best wishes for 2012, dear e-Reader.
With thanks to Wayne, Kerwin and Collette for comments on their experiences
1 Buying guide : how to choose an e-book reader / Priya Ganapati. 22 May 2009
2 Find the perfect e-reader / Melissa J Perenson. 29 November 2011
3 Comparing the Kindle 2, Nook, and Sony Reader – for dummies
4 Kindle Fire
5 E-Readers : reviews of the Kindle, Nook and other e-readers
6 eReader review : what to look for in an eReader comparison
Opinions expressed in this column are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.