Archive | November 2011

eReader Gift Buying Guide

For the past few years, eReaders have become more and more popular in the holiday buying season, so I wanted to put together a small guide for people who are interested in buying an eReader but don’t know where to start. So this is structured in FAQ format and written with the newbie in mind. (I suppose I should have put this post together before Black Friday, but hey, there are still 25 more shopping days before Christmas … )

What is the difference between “ebook” and “e-reader”?

“ebook” refers to the digital content that goes on the e-reader. “e-reader” is the physical device itself.eReader Gift Buying Help

What is the most important thing to look for when buying an eReader?

In my opinion, the hardware and software of each eReader is similar enough that it’s not anything to base your decision on. The more important question to ask yourself is: Where do I want to buy my ebooks?

If you want to buy all of your ebooks at Amazon, you should get a Kindle.
If you want to buy all of your ebooks at Barnes & Noble, you should get a Nook.
If you want to buy all of your ebooks at Kobo, you should buy a Kobo eReader.
If you want more flexibility, you can get an eReader that isn’t so tied to a specific store, like a Sony Reader, BeBook, Cybook, or others.

You can also consider the ebook apps that each company provides. For example, companies like Amazon, B&N, and Kobo provide apps for other devices like iPad, smartphones, and Android tablets, so that even if you buy an ebook for your eReader, you can also read it on your other devices via their app. Also keep in mind that ebooks that you get from independent ebook stores can be read in third-party apps on your other devices, too.

What’s the difference between the eReaders that display in black & white vs color?

The eReaders with black & white screens display something called “e-ink”. This is a type of technology that was created to display text just like printed ink on paper. These screens are matte (instead of glossy) which means they don’t reflect light, so you can easily read them while sitting next to a lamp or even outside in the sun. These devices are basically only for reading — because of the screen type (and other hardware factors) they don’t run apps or games. Some can play MP3s.

How will I know how to use an eReader?

Most eReaders come with a manual, either printed or onboard the device. They’re very easy devices to use and you should be able to just pick up one and start using it. The eReaders that run on the Android operating system operate very similarly to a smartphone.

Once you buy some ebooks, the store where you bought them should give you specific instructions on how to load them onto the eReader. Some use “cloud” storage and let you download the ebook directly to the device. In other cases, you’ll have to download the ebook to your computer and then transfer to the eReader. It’s not much different than working with any other files and electronic devices.

Are eReaders good gifts for kids?

First of all, kids are born knowing how to use this stuff, so don’t worry that your kids won’t know how to use it. I think they’re great gifts for kids since they can make reading more fun. Something to consider is whether you want the child to have access to other apps. The tablet-style eReaders have the ability to run games and a variety of other apps, many of which access the internet. The E-Ink eReaders are not so connected and focus more on books.

Where can I get some ebooks for free?

Project Gutenberg has many public domain titles available for free. Most ebook stores have a selection of free ebooks along with the ones that you have to buy. Probably the best thing to do is just Google “free ebooks” (or any variation on that) and see what you can find for yourself. There are a lot of websites that have free ebook downloads once you start looking around.

What if I upgrade my eReader or change computers?

This is usually fine. If your ebooks are in “cloud” storage, like with Amazon, you can just re-download them to your new device. If your ebooks had to be downloaded to your computer and then transferred to your device, you can usually re-download them from the website where you bought them. Prepare for this eventuality by properly “authorizing” your comptuer and devices if the ebooks are protected by DRM.

Confused about any of the terms used in this post? Take a look at my previous post eBook Terms for Newbies for some definitions.

Do you have more questions? Leave them in the comments!

eBook Terms for Newbies

With all of the work I do on a daily basis involving ebooks and the devices that read ebooks, it can be easy to forget that there are a lot of people out there that haven’t ever used an ebook. If you’re new to ebooks you might be totally confused and overwhelmed with all of the unfamiliar terms that are used. This list will give you an introduction to what you’re most likely to run into in today’s world of ebooks. Some of these terms reference each other, so just look elsewhere in this list for the explanation of terms in italics.

eBooks

Adobe Digital Editions – This is a program developed by the company Adobe (the same company that brought you Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat, as well as Photoshop and Flash, etc etc). This particular program is made specifically to work with Adobe’s DRM system for ebooks. It also lets you view PDF and ePub files. You can download Adobe Digital Editions here, and read more about it on my Adobe Digital Editions post.

Adobe ID – If you’re going to buy PDF or ePub ebooks from a website, those protected by Adobe’s DRM will require that you authorize your copy of Adobe Digital Editions with an Adobe ID. This is the same Adobe ID that you use if you purchase downloadable software from Adobe. It’s best to only use one Adobe ID so that you don’t mix up multiple accounts (doing that will result in ebook licensing errors). You can create an Adobe ID here.

Aldiko – Aldiko Book Reader is an app for ebook reading on Android smartphones and tablets. Download Aldiko here, and see my post about Aldiko here. Aldiko will read ebooks with Adobe DRM, and also plain PDF and ePub files.

Android – Android is an operating system that runs on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. See the Android Wikipedia page for more information.

App – “App” is short for application. This has become a standard word to describe small software programs that are used on smartphones and tablets. This includes ebook apps like Aldiko, Bluefire Reader and iBooks.

Authorize – Reading ebooks that are protected by DRM usually requires that you “authorize” your software with a user account. When working with Adobe’s DRM, you must authorize with your Adobe ID account. Authorization is similar to registering your software. It is the way in which the software recognizes that you are the person who purchased the ebook and legally have the right to use it. It allows you to use your ebooks on more than one computer or device.

BeBook – BeBook is a popular brand of eReader and tablet devices. BeBook models include the BeBook Neo, BeBook Club, and BeBook Live tablet.

Bluefire Reader – Bluefire Reader is an app for reading eBooks on iOS. You can download Bluefire Reader here, and read my post with instructions here. Bluefire Reader will read ebooks with Adobe DRM, and also plain PDF and ePub files.

DRM – DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It is digital security that protects a publisher’s legal copyrights by preventing users from illegally pirating ebooks. Adobe provides DRM that is commonly used by ebook sellers.

eBook – eBook is short for electronic book. eBooks are books in digital format that can be read on your computer or mobile devices.

E-Ink – E-Ink is short for electronic ink. It is the technology used in many eReader devices. These devices use matte screens (non-glossy) that are engineered to display words as if it was ink printed on paper.

ePub - ePub is the current open ebook format that is standardized by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). ePub files come with the .epub file extension and can be read with a variety of different ebook programs and e-reading devices. They are easy to use and create. See my post about the best free ePub readers.

eReader – eReader is short for electronic reader. It usually refers to devices that are used to read ebooks, such as the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and many others.

Format – “Format” refers to the type of ebook. The most common ebook formats nowadays are PDF, ePub, and Kindle. Different eReaders can use different formats, but most can use PDF and ePub. The Kindle can generally only use special Kindle ebooks with the .azw extension. Format also can be used to describe books in print, such as “paper back” or “hard back”. It’s also the same way different music media are described, such as the familiar “CD” or “mp3″. All of these terms describe different formats.

iBooks – iBooks is the native eBook reading app on iOS devices. You can purchase eBooks for iBooks through iTunes.

iOS – iOS is the name of the operating system that runs on mobile Apple devices: the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.

Kindle – The Kindle is the eReader developed and sold by Amazon. It is the most popular eReader available today, mostly due to Amazon’s excellent marketing of the device, and the ease of purchasing and downloading eBooks for it from Amazon.com.

Kobo – Kobo is the company that sells Kobo eReaders, including the original Kobo eReader, the Kobo eReader touch, and the Kobo Vox Tablet.

Nook – Nook is the name of the eReaders sold by Barnes & Noble, including the Nook 1st Edition, Nook Touch, Nook Color, and Nook Tablet.

PDF – PDF is a popular eBook format. PDF eBook files have the extension .pdf. When not protected by DRM, PDF eBooks can be read in generally any PDF-reader software. If protected by Adobe’s DRM, they must be opened with Adobe Digital Editions.

Sony Reader – Sony has released many eReaders under the Sony brand, most of which have model names that start with “PRS”.

Tablet – A tablet is a flat, slate-like electronic device. They are very similar to smartphones, often evening running the same software, just in a larger physical size. Popular tablet models include the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire, Motorola Xoom, and many others. These tablets make excellent eBook reading devices with their larger screens and availability of ebook apps.

Tablet Review Roundup

Like my eReader Review Roundup post, this is a gathering of reviews for tablet devices. There are other tablets on the market besides the ones I’ve chosen to include here, but I picked these because they are either made by eReader companies, or have solid eReading functions, or are the tablets that you typically find major electronics stores. In other words, they are the tablets that you’re most likely to use for eBook reading, in my opinion.

Apple iPad 2 Reviews

Engadget – “It might frustrate the competition to hear this, but it needs to be said: the iPad 2 isn’t just the best tablet on the market, it feels like the only tablet on the market.”

TechCrunch – “Let me sum all of this up in a simple way: the iPad 2, should you buy one? Maybe — it depends on a few factors. Will you want to buy one? Yes. Use that information wisely.”

PCMag – “The clear standout in the ever-widening sea of tablets, the Apple iPad 2 brings a slimmer design, faster processing, dual cameras, and FaceTime video chat to a tablet that already had a leg up on the competition.”

PCWorld – “The iPad 2 remains the tablet to beat, even though its improvements represent just a satisfying aesthetic and spec evolution over its predecessor. “

CNet- “The iPad 2 refines an already excellent product. Its easy-to-use interface, vast app catalog, and marathon battery life bolster Apple’s claim to being the king of tablets.
”

Wired – “Skinnier profile shows mercy to your joints. Big performance boost makes apps, games and web browsing more zippy. Same $500 starting price and 10-hour battery life. Mediocre cameras make still photos look slimy. Thinner body makes physical buttons on the side a little harder to press.”

Nook Color Reviews

Engadget – “So, is the Nook Color worth your hard-earned cash? Well, we’ll say this — if you’re a hardcore reader with an appetite that extends beyond books to magazines and newspapers, the Color is the first viable option we’ve seen that can support your habit. Not only does Barnes & Noble have an astoundingly good selection of e-book titles, the company seems to be aggressively pursuing the periodical business, which is a big deal.”

TechCrunch – This page is specifically for the “Nook Tablet” not the Nook Color. Same basic deal though. Not a full review. TechCrunch doesn’t seem to have a full review on the Nook Color.

PCMag – “More than an ebook reader, less than a full-blown tablet, the Nook Color’s artful compromises make for a compelling, color reading experience that is ideal for both books and magazines.”

PCWorld – “Highlights of this premium e-reader include an intuitive, elegant interface and an LCD screen with minimal glare. “

CNet- “Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color is a very capable color touch-screen e-book reader that offers much of the functionality of an Android tablet for half the price of an iPad.”

Wired – “Nook Color is the only ‘reader’s tablet,’ straddling dedicated e-book readers like the Kindle and multipurpose tablets like the iPad. I was expecting tradeoffs. I wasn’t expecting its advantages.”

Amazon Kindle Fire Reviews

Engadget – “The Kindle Fire is quite an achievement at $200. It’s a perfectly usable tablet that feels good in the hand and has a respectably good looking display up front. Yes, power users will find themselves a little frustrated with what they can and can’t do on the thing without access to the Android Market but, in these carefree days of cloud-based apps ruling the world, increasingly all you need is a good browser. That the Fire has.”

PCMag – “The first easy-to-use, affordable small-screen tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire is revolutionary.”

PCWorld – “The 7-inch, Android-based Amazon Fire will appeal to those who buy books, videos, and music at Amazon, but it will frustrate those looking for a more versatile slate.”

CNet- “Though it lacks the tech specs found on more-expensive Apple and Android tablets, the $199 Kindle Fire is an outstanding entertainment value that prizes simplicity over techno-wizardry.”

Wired – “iPad killer? No, the Kindle Fire is not. And it doesn’t even match the iPad in web browsing, the one area in which its hardware should have sufficient performance to compete. But the press has definitely supercharged Amazon’s product launch with a level of hype and enthusiasm that would make Apple proud.”

Kobo Vox Reviews

This gadget is perhaps too new to have many solid reviews online, but I’ve dug up what I can:

Engadget – This is Engadget’s basic informational page about the Kobo Vox.

PCMag – A “Hands on” post, not a full review. “In fact, the fact that the Vox is an Android tablet serves as a rather stark reminder that Kobo’s strength is its application … inside the Vox’s social Pulse e-reading application, I didn’t want to leave.”

PCWorld – Not a real review. This is more of a news post.

CNet – Again, not quite a real review yet, just information.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Reviews

Engadget – “The conclusion we came to after using the Tab 10.1 Limited Edition mimics the conclusion we’ve drawn here: this is the best Honeycomb tablet to date, and lucky for you, this one’s available to purchase!”

PCMag – “The Verizon version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 takes the thin, powerful tablet and adds blazing 4G LTE speeds, but it ratchets up the price as well.”

PCWorld – “Thin and stylish, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 hits all the right marks. And at 1.24 pounds, this is the lightest 10-inch-class tablet you can buy. “

CNet- “Sleek, sexy, and light, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 gets as close to the iPad 2 as any Android tablet before it.”

Wired – “The trouble is that both hardware and software are rough around the edges. Honeycomb feels like Linux on the desktop before Ubuntu came along, and the Tab 10.1 itself feels like somebody made a toy plastic iPad. The screen stands alone as being quite excellent, but it’s not enough to save the rest.”

Motorola Xoom Reviews

Engadget – “Besides boasting what we consider to be the most complete and clearly functioning version of Android, the hardware which is packed inside Motorola’s tablet is really quite good. The tablet is fast and sleek, and while not exactly being really futureproof, the fact that you’ve got a path to a 4G upgrade is tremendous (and frankly, something no one else in the industry is offering).”

TechCrunch – “Few tablets have met with such widespread anticipation as the recently-announced Xoom. It is the closest anyone has come to an iPad equivalent for the Android set. I was impressed with the speed, design, and quality of the device, and although there are a few caveats, I came away optimistic for the new crop of Honeycomb devices that will follow this one.

PCMag – “The Wi-Fi Motorola Xoom is a solid Android tablet with Flash support, but it doesn’t measure up to the Apple iPad 2 in terms of app selection.”

PCWorld – “The Xoom is well-conceived and well-constructed, but some rough edges, a middling display, and a high price may deter early adopters.”

CNet- “The Xoom’s spec sheet is enough to make any tablet tremble, but the price is high and Google still has some work to do before its tablet software experience is as fleshed out and intuitive as Apple’s.”

Wired – “As Sly Stone said, the nicer the nice, the higher the price.”

eReader Review Roundup

Holiday shopping has (ridiculously) already started here in early November. I’m pretty sure that a lot of eReaders will be given as gifts this year, what with the newly released models and price competition. With that in mind, I thought I’d compile a list of useful reviews about popular eReaders. I will try and do another list about tablet-style devices later — this one is just for the newest E-Ink eReaders. (Update: see Tablet Review Roundup)

Kobo eReader Touch Reviews

Engadget — “For those looking for a device strictly for reading, the new Kobo is a nice little option. It’s small enough to slip into a pocket, can do more with a PDF than the competition, and at $129, it’s $10 cheaper than both the Nook and Kindle WiFi. There’s also nothing in the way of social functionality on the device, but we didn’t really miss it. Ultimately, however, the eReader Touch Edition has one fatal flaw: it’s not as good as the Nook.”

TechCrunch — “Superficially similar to the new Nook, but the Kobo is perhaps even simpler, and the form factor is slightly more book-like. If you don’t need 3G or the other perks of the Kindle ecosystem, and just want a straightforward e-book reading device, this Kobo could be a good match.”

PCMag — “The Kobo eReader Touch Edition brings a nice touch interface and a small footprint to Kobo’s ebook reader line, but its performance and design don’t measure up to its best competitors.”

PCWorld — “It’s rare to find an inexpensive product that also introduces innovation into its category. And yet that’s exactly what Kobo Books’ Kobo eReader Touch Edition does. The company’s third-generation e-reader, this model is the smallest and lightest 6-inch E Ink e-reader currently available.”

ZDNet — “Kobo’s new touchscreen-enabled ebook reader may actually beat the new Nook as the best dedicated ebook reader.”

Wired — “$10 less than comparable Kindle and Nook, making it the cheapest, smallest and lightest e-reading in the pack. Nicely motivates by projecting both the fun and sport of reading. Faux-quilted plastic back sacrifices ergonomics. Touch screen is sometimes slow.”

Nook Touch Reviews

Engadget — “The new Nook is a bit of an enigma, in a sense, simultaneously adding more features while attempting to return to the simple reading experience missing from tablets like the iPad and Nook Color. It succeeds on both accounts. All of the new features enhance rather than detract from the goal of reading, and they’re there when you want them and mostly invisible when you don’t. The social functions are about reading and reading alone — if you’re looking for a place to play Words with Friends, look elsewhere.”

TechCrunch — “After a few days with the new Nook I was hooked. It is a pure reading experience condensed into a device the size of a paperback and with a super-crisp e-ink touchscreen. The Nook is, in short, the best e-reader from a major player I’ve used thus far and is well ahead of its competitors in terms of usability and form factor.”

PCMag — “Thanks to plenty of upgrades and a laser-sharp focus on the reading experience, the second-gen Barnes & Noble Nook Touch Reader is our new Editors’ Choice for ebook readers.”

PCWorld — “I can’t say that the Nook is the absolute best e-reader available today, but it comes close. Nook gets marked down for its terrible button design and inconsistent contrast; and yet, it wins favor for its interface and touch navigation. Those factors, coupled with its light weight and long battery life rating, make Nook a solid choice, as long as you plan to use the touchscreen and not the buttons to page through your books.”

ZDNet — “This is a stripped, bare basics version of the Nook that would be ideal for students and anyone else on a budget.”

Wired — “By now, most everyone in your circle of friends has played with a Kindle and an iPad. Fewer have picked up a Nook. But I’d urge you to give this dark horse a shot.”

Amazon Kindle Reviews

Engadget — “If you’ve ever played with a Kindle, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the fourth-generation is one solid device. The hardware is well made, the processing is snappy and the screen is extremely easy to read. It is, however, sorely lacking in the bells and whistles department, with a renewed, almost one-track focus on reading.”

TechCrunch — (Video) “The first device Jeff Bezos showed off at today’s Amazon event was the diminutive Kindle Touch, a $99 e-ink device that should be on everyone’s Christmas lists this year. The Touch has an 6-inch, IR-based touchscreen and includes all of the features found in the ne Kindle models including the new X-Ray feature that adds research and information to any book downloaded from the Kindle store.”

PCMag — “The new Amazon Kindle rings in at a bargain $79 price, establishes the new class standard for affordable ebook readers, and still features the best ebook store on the market.”

PCWorld — This is a very simple overview for the 3rd generation. I could not find one for the current 4th generation models.

CNet — I couldn’t find a review specific to the newest Kindle models. This link gives you a list of all related Kindle reviews on CNet.

Wired — “Amazon’s new Kindles bring an updated hardware design to its family of popular black and white e-readers. There are different configurations — touch and non-touch, Wi-Fi-only, and 3G cellular data-enabled — all being sold at different prices, and all of them cheaper than the $200 Kindle Fire tablet. They’re made for people who don’t want the tablet; those who just want to read comfortably in a way they’ve grown familiar with, thank you very much.”

Sony Reader WiFi Reviews

Engadget — “There’s a lot to like about this new guy. The WiFi Reader has a lot of compelling functionality, including dual-touch pinch to zoom, handwritten note taking, audio playback and built-in access to public library and Google Books content. At $149.99, it’s also quite reasonably priced for a Sony reader, down $30 from the Sony Reader Pocket Edition (which, it’s worth noting, failed to include WiFi).”

TechCrunch — “Will the T1 do the impossible and overthrow Amazon and BN’s hegemonic hold on the eReader market? In all honestly, probably not, but a functional and stylish alternative can help keep innovation alive and the big guys on their toes.”

PCMag — “Sony finally comes down to earth with the Reader Wi-Fi, a $150 ebook reader that compares well with the B&N Nook Touch and upcoming Amazon Kindle Touch.”

PCWorld — “Price and design are the two biggest factors driving the e-reader market; and in the past, Sony severely dragged its feet on the former. But today the company has rectified the situation with the introduction of the newest Sony Reader Wi-Fi PRS-T1.”

ZDNet — “While there’s no compelling reason to buy it over the Kindle Touch, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is a very solid e-reader.”

Wired — Does not currently seem to have a review of the WiFi T1 model.

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