E-book Readers

Even though there have been e-book readers out for years now, it was Amazon’s Kindle which really introduced them to the public. Barnes and Noble’s Nook appeared as a catch-up competitor, and the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show has brought innovative new takes on the concept. I’ve been considering getting an e-book reader for a few years now, so hopefully the technology will see a price decrease across 2010.

What I’m looking for personally is an e-book for reading. I’m not a student and therefore don’t need to take notes in the margins (nor did I ever do this with paper textbooks, instead writing all my notes on lined paper to keep them together in a one place in a binder).

I’m also not concerned about color right now, although I know for e-readers to replace newspapers, they will need color to at least compete with newpaper printed color. I don’t read paper newspapers, and don’t plan on reading news stories on an e-reader device, but I don’t doubt there will be something eventually that would entice me toward an e-reader with color support.

Because I am looking for an e-reader, I am not looking for a “tablet”, or any other kind of computer that does everything a laptop does. Ray Kurzweil (of Blio e-reader software) said, “People want to do everything—they want to watch their movies, they want to do all their computing, their e-mail on one platform. They don’t want to take another device.” And I do watch my DVDs, do my computing, and check my e-mail on one platform: my PC. Or, if I’m watching DVDs on the go, it’s on my laptop. But I don’t want to carry my laptop with me when I take the bus to the mall, I want to carry a lightweight book. Except my books end up having their corners get messed up inside my backpack, or the pages are blowing in the wind if I’m reading while I’m walking. Maybe I’m unusual like that?

Another thing I’d like to see is a built-in light. It doesn’t have to be back-lit. Something that shines a very dim light over the page from the edges should allow for comfortable morning/night reading.

Kindle (Amazon)

Kindle has both a $260 device with a 6 inch screen and a $490 device with a 9.7 inch screen. One looks a little small to hold, and the other a little big. I’d lean toward the 6 inch screen based on both size and price.

The button-based keyboard seems unnecessary for my use, although the Wikipedia access sounds nice, and would best have a keyboard of some sort. The build-in dictionary is probably a must-have, yet many readers don’t advertise if they have this.

Cons: Price is a little high still. And the whole “We can remove your books” thing is unsettling.

Nook (Barnes and Noble)

The more I try to read about the Nook, the more complaints I find, the more issues I read about. It’s a bit scary at the moment…

PRS-600 (Sony)

I haven’t read up on this one much. Priced at $300 with a 6 inch touch screen, which apparently can be difficult to read under artificial lighting, requiring adjusting ones position from time to time.

The PRS-900 with its 7.1 inch screen may be a better choice were it not for its $400 price tag.

Skiff (Sprint/Hearst)

Skiff is one of the 8.5″ x 11″ display readers. It uses a Sprint 3G wireless connection.

Cons for me: Size is too large. Not available yet. Pricing unknown.

QUE (Plastic Logic)

The Que is advertised as a business-oriented device. It has a screen size to match a standard 8.5″ by 11″ sheet of paper. There are at least two versions available, one with Wi-Fi support and Bluetooth for $650 and one with 3G wireless included for $750 (or $800). These will also be sold through Barnes and Noble, using the book store chain’s marketshare to get a foot in the door, while not intending to compete with the store’s Nook.

Cons for me: Size is too large, and price is too high.

Alex (Spring Design)

Spring Design‘s offering is a $360 (or $400) device with no cellular connection. It’s foot-in-the-door will be selling through the Borders book store chain. This Android-based reader is a dual-screen device, with a six-inch reader screen on top, and a 3.5 inch touch LCD on bottom. I don’t see use for the “tablet” screen, unless I’m on-the-go and need to look up something on its web browser, such as directions, or a bus route or time schedule. Without using the tablet portion, however, the device boasts two-weeks of use between battery charges. The tablet portion offers 6 hours of video playback battery lifetime.

The Alex actually looks like a very good device, or at least to have the potential to be one. I don’t know how comparable its “electronic paper display” (EDP) is with “e-ink”, but I do wonder if a book couldn’t be read on the tablet portion under the same software as it appears on the top, and if the bottom screen can be dimmed way down for early morning and night reading.

Cons: The price is still too high for me.

Edge (Entourage)

This is a combination e-ink reader and LCD touch screen computing device (running Android). It should make a nice carry-around device for its target student audience, and the $500 price tag doesn’t sound too bad for what it does.

Cons for me: More powerful a device than I need in an e-reader.

Liquavista

The Liquavista readers might or might not be worth looking into. Their web site’s pages are filled with nonsensical gibberish.

Cons: I can’t understand their product pages. I don’t know what their devices are, or what they offer me.

Cybook (Bookeen)

I’ve read that Bookeen showed off their $250 5-inch Opus reader (with an expected drop to $200 soon), and their Orizon 6-inch reader (expected to be $250 when shipping in Spring). Checking Bookeen’s web site, I don’t see the Orizon listed yet.

On their web site, they list the Opus as well as a $350 6-inch Cybook Gen 3 reader (is this the Orizon?)

This looks like it has the potential to be a decent reader, although the price is a little too high and the size may be a little too small.

Conclusion?

There are plenty of others, but this is enough for now. Ones I didn’t include were due to having a bulky design or a low battery life, and I didn’t want to fill my reference list with too many of those. For example, iRiver’s story has a button-based keyboard below the reader screen, which I don’t see any use for (for me, personally, although maybe this would change if I had a reader), so I didn’t include it above.

I don’t know if I’m waiting for an 8″ device or will take a 6″ device. I’m waiting for a decent “reading in the dark” solution, as at least 50% of my potential reading time is also “it’s too dark to read a book” time (with my laptop computer as my reading device).

I want a book reader, not a web browser, not a music player, not a video player. For $100. But I might pay $150. I think $200 would be stretching it.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking over this e-book reader matrix.

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