Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday ereader shopping info (just in time for Black Friday)

Are you interested in getting an ereader as a holiday gift? Lots of people are, so I’ve put together a few thoughts about the ereaders I have used to help you as a shopping guide. Of course, these are just my opinions; I could be wrong. Also, I’m not telling you which ereader to buy. That’s your decision. I’m just offering my experience and opinion to help you with your decision.

I’m not going to focus on the technical details, because honestly most people just don’t care about the operating system or platform or resolution or any of those technical details. If you do, then this isn’t the guide for you. Most people want to know, in plain English, how they can use it, if they can borrow library books on it, and if it is going to be easy to use.

Here at Emmet O’Neal Library, we’ve had a fair amount of experience helping people use ereaders to borrow ebooks from our collection. It’s not as simple as purchasing ebooks, but the price is right (free).

Nook, by Barnes & Noble
You can borrow ebooks from the library to read on all the Nooks, but you will have a few extra steps to go through to make that happen. It will involve downloading a program called Adobe Digital Editions onto your computer and setting up an account with Adobe. This is because Adobe manages the “digital rights” to the ebooks you borrow from our library. You will also need to hook your Nook up to your computer to transfer your ebook to your Nook.

Nook Simple Touch ($99) ereader (on sale at Barnes & Noble on Black Friday for $79)
This is a solid ereader that lets you buy books from Barnes & Noble very easily as long as you are connected to a wifi network (which just happens to be a free service at our library). You can read it outside at the pool or the beach. However, you will need some light source for reading in bed (unlike the tablets that are also ereaders). The battery should last a couple of months, which is a pretty nice feature.

Color Nook ($199) ereader/small tablet computer
This is a small tablet about half the size of an iPad. It is easy to use for buying ebooks just like the Simple Touch. It’s not great for reading outside because it doesn’t use eink. It will overheat in the sun, too. The battery life is about 12 hours or so, so you’ll need to charge it every day or so.
It has a Web browser and a few apps, but I thought the screen was too small to really enjoy the the tablet functionality.

Nook Tablet ($249) ereader/small tablet computer
I haven’t played with one of these, but by all accounts it should be just like the Color Nook, with a nicer screen.

Kindle, by Amazon
You can borrow ebooks from the library now to read on all the Kindles. On any of the ones that are available for purchase now, the process is fairly easy and does not require additional software – you just need an Amazon account and a valid library card. The Kindle Fire allows you to borrow without even needing a separate computer. If you get a Kindle with 3G access, though, you can’t check out public library ebooks on the 3G network – you have to use wifi for that (did I mention we have free wifi at the library?)

However, Penguin recently quit allowing its ebooks to be lent on Kindles through library ebook systems. We don’t know yet what impact that will have. Amazon also has its own lending library through its Amazon Prime Membership. That’s got nothing to do with our library, though.

Kindle ($79 or $109, depending on if you allow ads or not)
The Kindle is the latest generation of the original Amazon ereader. You can read it outside easily, but in bed you’re going to need some light to read it. The battery life is supposed to last up to two months.

Kindle Touch ($99 to $189, depending on if you allow ads and/or want 3G access)
This ereader is comparable to the Nook Simple Touch. You can read it outside easily, but in bed you’re going to need some light to read it. The battery life is supposed to last up to two months. You can get a cheaper version if you’re okay with advertisements being displayed on the screen when you’re not reading.

Kindle Fire ($199) ereader/small tablet computer
The Kindle Fire is a small tablet that is primarily designed to deliver any content available through Amazon (ebooks, movies, music, etc.). Of the various ereaders I’ve examined over the past two or three years, it is the easiest to use right out of the box. Amazon sends it to you, you take it out of the box, it knows who you are and sets itself up with your Amazon account all by itself. You can pretty much start reading right away.
However, it does not have 3G capabilities, so you can’t download new content unless you are in range of a wifi network (which, by the way, we have for free at the library).

Apple iPad2 ($499 and up) tablet
The iPad2 is a full-sized tablet (about twice the screen size of the Kindle Fire and the Color Nook) that has several ereading apps available for free (Nook, Kindle, iBooks, and the Overdrive app that is our library’s -book collection uses). The setup for the iPad is relatively simple, but you will need iTunes installed on a computer plus an iTunes account to get it set up right out of the box. You will then need to download the ereader apps before you can use it as an ereader. On the other hand, you can also use it for email, Web surfing, writing (especially if you get an external keyboard for it), taking pictures, making videos, etc. If you don’t want to be tied to a wifi network to make purchases or use interactive content, you’ll need a 3G model, those are about $650.
For borrowing library ebooks, using the iPad is pretty seamless. You don’t have to use a separate computer or be tethered to a computer.

Please note that the prices above were accurate when I wrote this blog entry - they can change at the discretion of the sellers.

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