December 3rd - 2011

Wired Office: What to look for in an e-Reader

The wind is howling and the snow is falling. Safe and cozy indoors with a warm fire roaring in the fireplace, you are curled up in your favourite chair, happily reading your… ebook.

The wind is howling and the snow is falling. Safe and cozy indoors with a warm fire roaring in the fireplace, you are curled up in your favourite chair, happily reading your… ebook.

Electronic books are rapidly increasing in popularity. They now outsell traditional books, according to the National Post. Ebooks are easy to purchase and take up very little storage space. Because they are light and compact, they are great for commuting or travelling. And ebooks cost less than traditional paper-based books.

Before you can read an ebook, you will need an e-Reader -- a place for your ebooks to reside. If you own a tablet, you already have the required hardware. Download a reader app to your tablet, and start downloading ebooks. Smartphones can also be used if you don’t mind the small reading surface.

Several free e-Reader apps are available. Apple has its iBooks app, enabling you to purchase books, newspapers and magazines from the Apple App Store. Kobo and Google ebooks have apps for multiple platforms including iOS (iPad, iPhone) and Android. Each e-Reader app supports a specific ebook format -- which may or may not run on a different e-Reader app. You might want to look for the ebook format with the greatest flexibility. Each app is associated with a company whose online bookstore sells ebooks compatible with its e-Reader app. All have some free books and many offer the opportunity to “sample” books before you purchase.

If you don’t own a tablet and want to purchase an e-Reader, take several factors into consideration while doing your research. What functionality do you want? Do you want a device that is great for reading and only reading? Or do you want a tablet where you can have multiple apps as well as an e-Reader app? The size of e-Readers aims to emulate the average paperback. Most e-Readers are slightly smaller than tablets and easier to carry. Look at the text on the screen. Many e-Readers use a technology known as e-Ink, which closely resembles the appearance of type as in traditional books, which combined with their non-glare screens is easier on your eyes. The font size can be adjusted larger or smaller to suit your needs. The cost of an e-Reader is considerably less than a tablet – prices start at approximately $110, with most e-Readers costing less than $200. A device with a colour screen will cost more than one with a black and white screen.

Consider the reader’s weight (lighter is better), screen size and thickness. How much internal memory does the e-Reader have? (The more memory it has, the more books you can load.) Can you expand the memory by adding SD cards or some other form of portable memory? What is the battery life between charges? How do you recharge the battery – by connecting to a computer or by using an AC power adapter? Is the power adapter included? Would you prefer a touchscreen or keyboard/navigation pad to navigate?

Most e-Readers are Wi-Fi enabled, which means you can download reading material anywhere you can connect to a Wi-Fi network. Some are also 3G-enabled, which gives access to the same network used by cell phones to download ebooks anywhere, anytime. 3G enabled e-Readers are more expensive, and you may pay extra to take advantage of 3G. With the Kindle Touch 3G, Amazon pays for the 3G wireless connectivity.

The rapid growth of the ebook industry does not mean the end of the traditional book. While ebooks are certainly convenient and make it quick and easy to acquire new reading materials, you can’t lend ebooks to friends like you can with a traditional book. And you can’t bend an ebook.

Some of the current key players in the e-Reader and ebook world are:

Kobo – Started by Indigo Books & Music. Available online or at Chapters Indigo stores. The Kobo app is free.

Kindle – Amazon. Order through its website: You will be re-routed to with Canada selected. The Kindle ships from the U.S. and is also available at various Canadian retail outlets, including Walmart and Future Shop.

Sony Reader – Available online or under Consumer Products or in stores such as Sony Store or Future Shop. 

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