Picking An E-Reader

There are many good e-readers available, but the best e-reader for you will depend on how you want to use it. Below is a listing of factors to take into consideration when purchasing an e-reader or other device to use to read e-books.

Cost

If you already have a computer, a laptop, a tablet, or a phone, downloading and installing e-reader software is by far the least expensive option. Adobe Digital Editions, Kindle For PC, and OverDrive Read (browser edition) are all free to download and use.

If you are looking for an inexpensive option that is easy on the eyes, you may be interested in a dedicated e-reader such as an Amazon KindleBarnes and Nobles Nook, or Kobo. Many are available for under $100.

E-readers with color screens and some tablet functionality like the Kindle Fire and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook cost between $139-400.

Tablets, like the iPad and Nexus, can do much more than e-books but generally cost between $200-500.

Display

LCD Screens

  • Lit from back, similar to computer and laptop screens
  • Often in color
  • Allows you to read in a dark room without additional light
  • Can cause eye strain after long periods of reading
  • Difficult to read outdoors

E-Ink Screens

  • Not backlit
  • Do not cause eye strain
  • Easy to read outdoors
  • Require light source, such as a lamp, just as a physical book would
  • No color

Portability

Consider how easy it is to travel with your device. Can you easily take it with you? Do you want to fit it into a purse, a briefcase, or backpack? Will you need a case for it? Can you charge it while it is in its case?

Size

Screen size is very important. Are you comfortable reading an e-book on a cell phone screen? Smartphones typically have a diagonal screen size around 3.5". Would you rather use the larger screens found on dedicated e-readers? They usually have a diagonal screen size of 6". Tablets have the largest screen sizes, around 10" on the diagonal.

Memory

Just as print books are different sizes, so are e-books. If you intend to keep many e-books on your e-reader, then you should pay attention to the amount of memory that comes with the e-reader. Most e-readers come with a minimum of 2gb, which is approximately 1,500 e-books. However, if you download e-audio or videos, you will be able to download fewer e-books as multimedia files are larger.

Battery Life

E-ink and LCD screens use the battery quite differently. E-ink devices only uses the battery when something changes, e.g., when you turn the device on/off or turn a page. Because of this, batteries last much longer than LCD devices. It is not uncommon to recharge your device only once every few weeks.

The LCD screens use batteries constantly. Battery life for tablets and devices like the Kindle Fire and iPad is up to 10 hours - with wireless and 3G/4G turned off.

Controls

When you use the device are the buttons, switches, or touch screens easy to use? Do you find yourself constantly pressing the wrong button or inadvertently doing something you didn't mean? Do you have difficulty pressing buttons because of a physical infirmity? Or scrolling with your finger to change pages?

Wireless (WiFi)/3G

Most e-reader devices and tablets need some type of communication so you can set up accounts and purchase e-books. Wireless, or wifi, is very common on current devices. However, that means that you must have access to wifi and not everyone does.

Another option on many devices is 3G or 4G. These types of communications use the cellular network and are not available in all areas. There is also an additional monthly charge associated with them. If you do not live in an area that supports 3G or 4G, then you may not need a device that has it.

If you do not feel your e-reader needs wifi or 3G/4G, then you may consider purchasing one that uses a USB to transfer the e-books.

Special Needs/Accessibility

Do you have any special needs that should be addressed?

  • Can you easily operate the controls?
  • Can you download and open an e-book?
  • Can you move from page to page?
  • Can you jump to another chapter?
  • Can you turn the device on and off?
  • Can you increase or decrease the text size?
  • Can you change the font used?
  • Can you listen to an e-book?

All current devices allow you to increase text size. Some will allow you to listen to the text of an e-book. This is called "text-to-speech." This is different than listening to an audiobook, in which a performer reads the text of a book. When listening to an e-book using text-to-speech, you will hear a computer-generated voice.

E-Audiobooks

Most dedicated e-readers do not support listening to e-audiobooks, even if they have text-to-speech capability. If you want to do more with your e-reader than just read books, you will want to consider tablets or tablet-type e-readers like the Kindle Fire or Galaxy Tab 4 Nook.

If you want to be able to play games and run applications similar to those on a computer, then an iPad or Android tablet is the best choice.

Borrowing E-Books From The Library

If you plan to borrow e-books from a library, you will probably need a computer. Most sites require you to download the e-book file to a computer first and then copy it to your e-reader via a USB cable. If you have a Kindle, you might be able to download the e-book file directly to your e-reader, but this depends upon the publisher of the e-book.