E-book Reader Roundup

In 2005, Sony made very little noise with the introduction of the first e-book reader to use the E ink technology that mimics the type seen in a typical paperback. Following Librie's success in Japan, Sony revamped the device and released it as the Sony Reader in the North American market in 2006. Less than a year later, Amazon hit the scene with the first version of the Kindle and e-books began to buzz. In 2009 and early 2010, over a dozen similar e-book readers have or will be released, including new versions of the Kindle and Sony Reader. If you haven't thought about e-book readers before, here is a little overview for you, with some tips on what to look for in a reader and a peek at what might be coming up next.

First, why consider an e-book reader? If you haven't seen an e-book reader using E ink before, you may be surprised by the clear type and lack of backlighting on the screen. Unlike other forms of computer screens, E ink film uses very little light, so there is no backlight glare on the screen and the device batteries last longer, up to 7,500 page turns per charge. Most also offer the ability to change the type size of the book or playback music files so you can read and listen from the same device. The large storage capacity paired with an extra storage card means most readers can hold hundreds of books at once, very ideal for the traveler or commuter. Plus, just think about how much easier it would be to read a thick, heavy hardcover in e-book form.

One of the biggest drawbacks in the early e-book market is the differing formats that each reader can display and the potential for exclusive deals. There is an effort under way to standardize the e-book format, but for now, both the Kindle and Sony Reader rely on the user to purchase titles at their respective online stores. Both stores have even signed exclusive agreements with certain authors, so your first concern should be what kind of content you wish to read. Fortunately, both Amazon and Sony eBook Store can be browsed online, so you can get an idea of what kind of content is available for each reader. In addition to e-books, many of the readers can display Microsoft Office files, PDFs and plain text files. The Sony Reader can be used to view texts from Google Books while the Kindle can read items from the World Public Library.

Another thing to look at in an e-book reader is the feature set. The Kindle has wireless connectivity and can download several magazines and newspapers as part of a subscription. The latest Sony Reader has a built in book light for reading in the dark and a touch screen if you want to keep the feel of actually flipping a page instead of hitting a button.

But is the future bright for e-books? The cleaner display has made the latest crop of readers much more popular with consumers and the market looks like it will grow, especially considering the newest product ideas. Both Sony and Amazon have come up with new designs for their readers so the features on the Kindle and Sony Reader will be almost identical by 2010. Samsung will be releasing its e-book reader, Papyrus, soon and there are long-standing rumors that Apple will release a reader as well. Apps purchased from iTunes can turn the iPod Touch and iPhone into e-book readers as well. And as for E Ink? Well, they are working on a color version of the screen so cookbooks, decorating books, magazines and graphic novels will look better in electronic format.

If you are interested in reading more about e-book readers and e-books, check out the MobileRead Wiki for device information, where to find free books online and even a complete technical history of e-books.

- Laura N.


  1. Do you think there will be e-book textbooks soon?

  2. They are available already, both amazon and Sony sell texts and some of the free libraries online offer them for check-out.

  3. Which libraries in Mercer County carry ebooks?


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