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Please Speak to Me of e-Book Readers!

My sister-in-law is considering buying an e-book reader for our nephew, who is about to go on a student tour of northwestern Europe and who has recently started showing the family love of reading, reading reading, reading. (We were worried about him for a little while there, but he seems to be making up for lost time.)

So - tell me about e-book readers! I want to know about any experiences that you or someone you know well has had with them.

I have (or someone close to me has) an e-book reader (an iPad counts):

No, but I am (or someone close to me is) thinking about getting one
No, but I read (or someone close to me reads) e-books on some other platform (e.g., a smart phone)

If you answered "yes" or "No, but I am thinking about getting one":

I have (or am thinking about getting) a Kindle (Amazon)
I have (or am thinking about getting) a Nook (Barnes & Noble)
I have (or am thinking about getting) a Sony reader
I have (or am thinking about getting) an iPad to user as a reader
I have (or am thinking about getting) some other reader, which I will name in a comment

Please comment on how much you or your friend/partner/spouse likes the reader mentioned above, and please mention any useful or sensible-sounding information you have heard about readers. One thing I am particularly interested in hearing about is experiences with free books, such as those available from Project Gutenburg.

Thank you thank you!


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
My good buddy has a kindle and adores it. She is prone to migraines and visual issues, and loves loves loves the screen. My grandmother, who is 90, just got a Nook because she borrowed one and loved the way she could easily make the print as large as needed. My friend with the Kindle has sent documents to her Kindle for easy reading, quite often.

I plan to get a Kindle one of these days. Oh, and my dad has an ipad and really likes. He is technophobic like whoa, but uses it all the time.
May. 14th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
I have Sony Reader, and I love it. It's small, light and fits into a tiny bag and I love having 100+ books with me at any time - I'm never at a loss for reading material and its more convenient than even dragging a paperback around.

J got one first (we thought we'd share it) but soon discovered we both wanted to use it. It's not backlit so I find it very easy on the eyes and I can read it in bright sunlight just as easily. I love the touch screen. It'll handle images and pdfs as well as SonyStore dl'd books (BBeB) but also epub - no sole proprietory formatting here). It is dmr'd, but you can register multiple devises and keep your library on a backup (which we do). You can get a protective case for it that has a night reading light on it, and that works well, too.

J also has an ipad, which is useful for a few books (there's a kindle app) that aren't available for the reader, but still primarily uses the Reader for reading.
May. 14th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
I love my Kindle to pieces. I got the one with Wifi-- and they're so cheap at Target right now! Cheaper than I paid. I have an iPhone and downloaded the Kindle app, and if I want to read and don't have my Kindle, my iPhone will sync with it and bring me to the correct book and correct page and everything.

A co-worker got a Nook color, and she likes it very much. It does seem neat and is very interactive screenwise, moreso than the Kindle, which does not have touch-screen capabilities right now.
May. 14th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
I think I just lost my comment?? But I have the Kindle and love it to pieces. They're extremely cheap at Target right now, with wifi and everything. I can sync it with my iPhone and go to last read page and everything. I think our library does or will soon have the ability to read Kindle ebooks.

A coworker has the Nook color and she love ist, and it has some very cool interactive touch-screen capabilities, I think. :)

As far as free books, with the Amazon store I just had to type in the name of a book I knew was free and then download it (i.e. Pride and Prejudice, classics like that). I haven't really looked into the free books as I should have. :)
May. 14th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
I use my iPod Touch as an ereader. It's not ideal, but as I already use it for on the go gaming and music, it's handy having books there, too. I use Calibre and ... something I have completely forgotten the name of (software, both) to build a library and send to/from the iPod. Calibre also does batch format conversion, which is great for switching a bunch of PDFs to ePub (for example).

May. 14th, 2011 04:11 pm (UTC)
I started out with a Sony e-reader, which is fab - it's light, has a nice clear screen and stores a ton of books. Then I got given an iPad, and everything changed. The iPad does everything the Sony did, plus it can read Kindle books, and do all the other fun and useful things an iPad does. It's got a gorgeous screen, really easy and intuitive to use, and a nice onscreen keyboard for making notes etc. I love it to bits.

So, I'd rec either of those quite happily, to suit your budget, and I've heard good things of Kindles too. I'd certainly endorse the principle of e-readers in general - having that many books at your fingertips, being able to take a sizeable library on a trip rather than having to choose to fit your luggage limitations - it's a dream come true. :)
May. 14th, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
I use my iPad as an e-reader through the iBooks and Kindle apps. But the iPad is so much more. He should be able to access wifi connections while he's traveling, so the iPad will allow him to access the internet and use email. In addition, he'll be able to use travel apps.
May. 14th, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
May. 14th, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
Personal Addendum: if the person thinking about a reader has weak eyes, or is prone to eye fatigue or has a health problem when working at a monitor for long hours, the eInk devices can't be beaten - which is the case with me. The fact that these devices ALSO allow enlarging the fonts when necessary has made reading ever so much more convenient than books (that, and of course the large number of possible choices to read - all carried along).

I love my Sony - I just bought my second Sony reader, a PRS-650 - but there are some philosophical questions connected to that, too. Many people who want as smooth a shopping experience as possible prefer Kindle, especially in the US, and the price is hard to beat.

I don't like encouraging such a monopoly and the license restrictions and the ability to delete books off your device, not to mention that the thing phones home (otherwise all that nice synchronisation wouldn't work so well, or the wifi-shopping), have made me prefer the less convenient but somewhat safer Reader whose standard format .epub is offered at a number of shops.

But really... everyone has different needs.

Edited at 2011-05-14 04:41 pm (UTC)
May. 14th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
I've got a Kindle -- I get migraines and have trouble staring at a screen for long, plus I like reading outside sometimes, so the iPad and Nook wouldn't work for me. It's really easy to convert documents to read on the Kindle. And loading up pdfs is really easy, though if the print on them is small, they can be a bit difficult to read, even with the software update that lets you enlarge portions.

You can't surf the internet on it, though. But it does hold a charge for a loooooong time if you turn off the wireless connection.

I've heard good things about all the e-readers, though, so whatever you get him, he'll probably love.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - electricpaladin - May. 14th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 14th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC)
I recently got a Kindle and I absolutely love it. I think it will make traveling about a billion times more pleasant and easy, since I won't have to cram tons of heavy books in my suitcase and then not have room for clothes. The battery lasts literally months if you leave the wireless turned off.

I haven't directly downloaded stuff from sites like Project Gutenberg, but I've gotten lots and lots of freebies from Amazon. Many of them are out of copyright works which otherwise would be hard to find or extremely expensive.
May. 14th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
I have a Kobo (dedicated e-Ink reader -- Borders sells them, as well as some big-box stores like Best Buy), a couple of different reader apps on my Blackberry and all of my computers, and my old Handspring Visor PDA.

I'm a big fan of e-reading in whatever form -- dedicated device, portable smartphone/tablet/PDA/netbook, or home computers -- as a supplement to paper books. On mobile devices, dedicated or otherwise, the convenience and portability factor really can't be beat; if you spend a lot of time traveling or commuting on public transit, it is marvelously freeing to just be able to carry one small thing about the size and weight of a digest magazine, and know that you will *never* run out of things to read. They're also immensely useful for fic research, looking up quotes, etc. since they're searchable.

The biggest plus side of the eInk devices, as folks have noted, is that they give you many many hours more of reading life on a single charge -- if someone is facing potentially very long flights/etc. where a smartphone or tablet might run out of juice without having an easy place to recharge, that's a big factor. The lack of a backlight is more of a MMV thing, to my eyes -- while many people report that they get headaches and eyestrain from reading on backlit screens, other people don't seem to be so sensitive to it. I seem to be one of the ones who isn't much bothered, and so I don't find the e-Ink reader to be noticeably more comfortable; and the *lack* of a backlight means that unless you get a case with a light, they're just as unusable as a paper book in poorly-lit environments, like many Metro platforms. If you're likely to be spending a large amount of reading time outdoors in bright sunlight, or other brightly lit environments, OTOH, backlit displays get really hard to view and eInk is vastly superior.

As for reading stuff other than commercially-available ebooks, I've been doing that since back in the '90s on my Visor Prism with fanfic, public domain texts, and other stuff scavenged online. Project Gutenberg (and AO3!) already offer things ready-converted for some of the most popular ebook formats, many of the big bookstores (Amazon, Borders, B&N) offer a lot of the most popular-classic Gutenburg stuff directly on their sites so you can browse them easily on your device or while bookshopping, and some devices like the Kobo even come with a ton of the Gutenburg stuff pre-loaded. Anything else you can find online in plain text or HTML can easily be converted to the format you need. (If you're a stickler about device portability and backups for stuff you've legitimately purchased, it's also not that hard to strip the DRM off something purchased from one dedicated ebook vendor and convert it to work on other devices.)
May. 14th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
A few more potential considerations to think about...

Is this kid's household strongly OS-centric in some particular way? If they're very Mac-focused like you guys, Apple devices might be preferable as they're going to have more familiar software and will be more compatible with the rest of the household hardware. If they're not already long-term users of Apple stuff, OTOH, they might not care for the switch -- I utterly loathe iTunes, for instance, and only use it for purchasing music when I can't find it in any other store, and then I immediately convert the files to MP3 format so they're more portable to other devices/players and I don't have to use the bloated thing just to listen to them.

Where do they do most of their shopping for print books? If they're already regular customers of Amazon, B&N, or Borders, that could potentially be another factor in going for the device linked to the place where they already have an online account, discount/rewards membership, etc.

What does he already have in the way of portable electronics? If he doesn't have a smartphone or tablet/netbook already, or has older ones that are less full-featured, then upgrading one of those multi-function devices might be a better option for a relatively casual reader. While I generally wouldn't want to read on a 2" - 4" smartphone/PDA/MP3 player screen for intensive hours-long stretches, I find them comfortable enough and deeply convenient for snatching a bit of reading time on-the-go while standing in long and slow-moving lines, long and slow escalator/elevator rides, traveling Metro, and so forth. If this trip's going to be keeping him busy enough that he won't have very many huge stretches of free time to just sit and read for hours on end, a reader app on some device he's going to be travelling with anyway, phone or music player or tablet/laptop/netbook, might be a better choice for the kid than a dedicated reader device.

Would anyone else in the household potentially be interested in getting themselves eReader as well? Nook and Kindle both support "loaning" eBooks from device to device for limited periods, so family members could swap titles without having to swap the physical devices back and forth. I don't believe Kobo or Sony have such a feature built in yet, although if you're willing to crack the DRM then book-sharing can also be done across different devices/formats, without the time limits of the built-in lending function.

Are the family regular library patrons? If so, you should check to see if their library system lends out ebooks, and which formats/devices are supported.

Finally, one area where Kindle (or reading via Kindle apps on non-Amazon hardware) has an edge is the ability to give someone a specific ebook directly. With the other vendors, if you want to send an ebook as a gift to someone, all you can do is buy a them a gift certificate; with Kindle, if you know the recipient's email address you can actually just buy them the book directly as a gift.

(Also, these polls really needed tickyboxes rather than radio buttons!)
May. 15th, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
I love my Kindle. The digital ink is so much easier on the eyes than reading a typical computer screen.

For free e-books go to www.inkmesh.com. It lists all the places you can find a particular e-book and what it costs. You can search for books by price, site, type of e-reader, genre, etc. I always check there before I buy a book. Many times I've found a book for sale on one site and free on another.
May. 16th, 2011 12:53 am (UTC)
Another Kindle lover here. I actually liked the (relatively simple) interface/button system more than the other e-readers, which is probably less of a concern with your presumably tech-savvy nephew.

Calibre is a free program that makes converting from one format to another very easy, so I actually have some books that were ahem-ed from one place or another in the 'wrong' format. I get the occasional weird character but it generally works well.

I would lean toward a dedicated e-reader both for the plane (it's much easier than trying to drag out a tablet or notebook) and for the e-ink, which is so much easier on the eyes and to read wherever.
May. 16th, 2011 01:47 am (UTC)
And hell, it's not like there aren't plenty of LEGIT ebooks that the publishers are charging ACTUAL CASHMONEYS for despite their getting seemingly little to no proofing/quality control after they were converted to electronic format...I've seen plenty that had a bunch of recurring glitches. If anything, I've found that the Gutenberg texts often are often cleaner than some of the commercial ebooks, since they're guaranteed to have had actual human proofreaders looking them over before release...
May. 16th, 2011 02:25 am (UTC)
Ao3 files are also quite reliable!
May. 16th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've only snagged a few so far, but they all look good. Back in the day when I was very frequently running .txt/.doc/.html -> PRC conversions for reading on PDA, things always came through quite nicely with at worst an occasional tiny glitch on some special character, and whatever conversion protocol AO3 is using has the benefit of working with a single source of consistently formatted source material. Some of the random non-Gutenberg commercial stuff I've picked up, OTOH, is riddled with the sorts of frequent, consistent errors that pretty much scream "quickie OCR job" -- lots of glitches where the same letter gets dropped/transposed into something a cursory spellcheck won't catch, like the -> tie and then -> ten.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )


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