My take on the eBook Reader debate

As you know — well, maybe you don’t, so this is a look into my dark soul — I am not one for gadgets.  (Heh.  That word will make almost EVERYONE scream in outrage, I’m sure.)  I don’t own a cell phone, or an IPad, and I have not yet purchased an eReader.

However, I occasionally think about getting an eReader (which surprises me greatly, I must say), but can’t make up my mind about which one would be the best for me. I’ve tried reading reviews online, but get lost in the geek speak, which drives me crazy, and also drives me away from actually purchasing one.

So, I decided that I would talk to people I know who own eReaders, and find out what they think about the brand they chose. In plain English.

Call it a word of mouth comparison.

The three people I quizzed own these three different brands.  A Sony Touch, a Kindle, and a Kobo.  All I asked them was — what do you like and what do you hate. (Because that’s what I wanted to know!)

Here’s what they said.

(Since I do not want to show favouritism, I went online and found out how much each of these cost (since it was not one of the questions I asked) and found out that the Sony Touch is the most expensive in Canada, or was at Christmas.  $213.00 plus tax.  The Kindle is second at $139 plus taxes — and you still have to get it from the United States as far as I can tell, which cranks up the tax thing considerably. (This is why it is second.)  The Kobo came in third at $149 plus tax. So, that’s the way you’ll see these reviews. I’ll start with the most expensive, and work down to the least.)

Sony Touch — My daughter Jessica received a Sony Touch for Christmas this year from her wonderful, truly dedicated parents. (Heh) This is how she feels about it, after a couple of months:

Good day (morning, evening or whenever you are reading this).  I am Jessica, Eileen’s awesome daughter.  Let’s talk about e-book readers.  More specifically the Sony Reader Touch Edition.  I have had it since Christmas (great gift by the way!). I have read a few books with it and I really like it so far!
It has a touch screen much like an iPad.  The zoom functions aren’t quite the same but it is pretty easy to use, and to be honest I didn’t read all of the directions and I have figured it out quite easily.  The User Guide is on the reader itself so it is always available if there is anything to check.
It also has a built in dictionary that is easy to use.  You just tap on the word and the dictionary appears with the definition.  It is surprising how often I use that feature!
I find that the battery lasts about the length of one book, so as long as I am reading only one book at a time I don’t have to recharge it until I plug it in to get a new book.
That is one of the drawbacks. It is only able to connect to get more books by plugging it directly into the computer.  The other challenge I have with it is that I don’t have a cover for it. And I haven’t been able to find one.  I haven’t tried excessively hard to find one, but I have tried a few stores and haven’t found one yet.
I find that the selection of books available is pretty good!  Sometimes the titles listed on the website that the reader automatically connects to are not available in Canada, but there are always new ones coming out.

All in all I would have to say that I really like this book reader!  On a scale of 1 to 10 I give it a B+.

And now, up to bat for the Kindle, my writing compatriot Ryan McFadden:

E-readers are amazing devices.  I’ve written in the past about how they are far superior to the dead-tree versions.

Yes, they make the reading experience better. Yes, that’s right, I said better.  Built-in dictionaries are essential, and so easy to use (note – you don’t even leave your page to look up the word — it’s perfectly seamless).  The weight is good.  Ever been in bed trying to prop up that 1000-page Stephen King hard cover (or hell, even trying to handle a paperback by Neal Stephenson).  They’re lightweight, easy to hold, and if the buttons are in the correct place, no need to shift to turn pages.

Unfortunately, a perfect e-reader doesn’t exist under $200.  The different models all have some nice features, but no one has put it together into one package.  However, the closest is the Kindle. I have the Kindle 2, which features 3G so it’s always connected online.

What is so great about the Kindle?  It features something called Whispernet, so it automatically syncs my books across devices.  Reading on my Kindle, then switch to my iPhone?  Not a problem, it’ll automatically update my location.

I can talk about memory, and refresh rates, and other technical specifications (and I will in a bit) but really, none of that matters. The Kindle makes it easy.  With the 3G version, you’re always connected to Amazon, and it takes about 30 seconds to download a book.  Find, point, click.  Done.  You have your first book.

Problems – I’d really like a touch screen.  And the ability to use DRM (digital rights management) so I could download library books.

And now, for the Kobo, my sister Jean:

I’ve been using the Kobo since the end of January of this year.  The best things about it: it is not heavy, it’s easy on the eyes, and easy to use.  It’s really easy to hold and turn the pages in bed (which is where I do most of my reading.) I also like being able to change the size of the font.  If my eyes are tired, I just make the font a little bigger. I like that.

The battery lasts for at least a book, and I like that a lot.

I haven’t bought an ebook yet, because it came with 100 classics, so I’ve been reading them.  I do like the fact that  I can get books from the library, though. I’ve read 4 books since receiving the Kobo, and I know this is more than I would have read if I hadn’t had it.

What don’t I like?  I don’t like the fact that I can’t tell what page in the book I’m on.  It tells me what page in the chapter I’m on, but not the book. I didn’t think that would aggravate me, but it does!

Another thing I don’t like is it chastising me if I don’t read enough in one sitting. If I only read for a couple of pages and then stop for the night, the reader reverts to the second last place I stopped.  In my honest opinion, I feel that it’s being judgmental.

So there you have it.  A terribly unscientific review with three more or less regular people, talking about the three different readers they use.

I do want to add a bit of information here, just to keep things as transparent as I can.  Jess received a Sony because that was the brand her parents were able to buy in time for Christmas. She didn’t ask for it specifically.  She asked for a “Kindle or something.”  Just so you know.

Now the question: What did I learn?  EReaders appear to be really easy to use.  Nice to know, because that was one of the big things that held me back from purchasing one, to be honest. I didn’t want another big learning curve around another gadget. I just wanted to read a book.  No one seemed to have a problem in that regard, so now I can no longer use that as an excuse not to own one.

Did this help me make a decision about what kind of reader to buy for myself?  Not really. I still have a stack of paper books a mile high to read, and I probably won’t buy one until I make an appreciable dent in it.  So I get to put off the decision for a while, Luddite that I am.

If you’d like to see another comparison of these three readers, please go to this article in the Vancouver Sun.  I found it quite interesting.  (Not interesting enough to run out and buy one — but he makes some good points, and has lots of links to other reviews etc.) Robert J Sawyer has written a ton about eBooks, and is very informative about almost all the different incarnations. And if this isn’t enough — just google eBook, and have fun!  It looks to me like everyone has an opinion on these, (including me, ha ha) and is quite willing to talk at length about it.

And if you have any questions for any of the interviewees — ask away.  I’ll make certain they respond to you!


12 thoughts on “My take on the eBook Reader debate

  1. Ryan

    One thing I never realized — that the Sony and the Kobo burn through battery life. The Kindle lasts about 3 days of good use, with the 3G turned on (you can get up to a week with it off).

  2. admin Post author

    Re battery life — what both Jean and Jess actually said was that they last long enough to read a book. So I guess it depends on how long it takes to read a book! I will ask them both how long in real time (not “book” time) the batteries last!

  3. Randy McCharles

    I suspect that I will soon take the ebook plunge. 99% probability it will be the Kindle, which I understand you can now order in Canada.

  4. Pingback: My take on the eBook Reader debate – Eileen Bell | Electronic Ebook Reader

  5. admin Post author

    So Randy, the issue around not being able to get library books doesn’t bother you? (That seemed to be the only thing on the minus side for the Kindle that I could see.)

  6. Heather

    I’m not sure about that statement about the battery life on the Sony. If there’s a memory card in the slot, it does burn through the battery faster. But you should be getting at least two weeks out of books – I’ve stretched the life on mine as far as four without needing a charge, but I’m averaging about two to three weeks and doing some fairly heavy reading. I generally keep the battery topped up, though, and I turn it off when it’s not in use.

    You can get library books if your local library offers the service, though the selection is not all that great. For purchasing books, Kobo seems to have the greatest selection, and you can use a Chapters gift card to pay instead of having to use a credit card.

  7. admin Post author

    Heather, thanks for joining! I’ll tell Jess about shutting the Sony off when it’s not in use and see if she can get better mileage out of it. And I will keep that in mind when I finally make my decision about what reader to get!
    Do you have both the Sony and the Kobo? If so, which do you like better, and why?

  8. Heather

    No, I have the Sony only. I have an older 505 and the PRS 600 Touch edition (but not the latest model). But you can get Kobo books and import them into the Reader Library, and now I’ve switched to get my ebooks exclusively from Kobo. They’re forever tweeting coupons, too – there’s almost always some sort of sale going on.

  9. Lynn

    I have held the Kobo and Kindle, and must admit I do like the feel of the Kindle over the Kobo. That said, I believe the Kobo is better for selection of books for Canadian readers. Instead of either, I’ve decided to purchase the new Ipad soon which has a Kindle app, or can purchase e-books from ITunes to read. The downfall of the Ipad is the backlighting for reading. If the world were perfect, I’d purchase the Kobo and the Ipad, and the Kindle! Regardless, authors having their books in e-book format is becoming essential for successful sales, I believe.

  10. admin Post author

    Lynn, after you get the iPad, I do want to hear what you think about it. And I agree about ebook format being essential for writers. It’s that thing to keep in mind, when negotiating with publishers. Make certain that they are fully prepared to get the book out in both print and ebook. No fooling around about this any more.

  11. admin Post author

    Randy, glad to “see you” here! Why the Kindle? Anything in particular that attracts you, or are the TV ads (!) working on you?

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