How To Choose an eBook Reader — Information For Beginners

If you’re interested in buying an ebook reader, you might be a little overwhelmed by the choices that are now available and all of the technical information that is shown for each device. It’s not very hard to understand once you know a little about the technology, and you can do all of the research you need just by reading the websites that sell the devices. In this article I will go over the basics of what you need to know.

When you’re looking at a website that sells an ebook reader, you should find a section called “Technical Specifications,” or Tech Specs for short. Some websites might have this under the regular product description instead of in its own section. It will list a lot of technical information, and I’ll explain what it all means below. With this knowledge you can make an informed decision.

Price

When deciding which type of e-reader to purchase, price is an important part of the decision for most people. As of this writing, both the Amazon Kindle and the Kobo eReader are priced the lowest at $139 for the WiFi models.

Size and Weight

When you see these details in the product description, it’s pretty self explanatory. The size will usually be listed as Height x Width x Thickness.

If this is important to you, you can compare this between different devices. Some people prefer smaller devices, and some prefer larger. Most ebook readers are pretty lightweight — between around 5 to 20 ounces. A standard paperback book weighs in at somewhere around 10 ounces, so you can use that as a guide. Also, if you do a lot of travelling the weight of the device might make a difference in your luggage.

Screen Size and Type

A lot of the ereaders available today have 6 inch screens, and a few have 7 inch screens. The type of screen is more important to consider.

Devices like the Kindle, Kobo, Sony Reader, Nook, and BeBook have E-Ink screens. These screens are not back-lit like your computer screen. Instead, they have a matte finish that doesn’t reflect light and reduces glare. E-Ink provides a reading experience that is very similar to reading from paper.

Devices like the Pandigital Novel, the Nook Color, and tablet computers like the iPad, have LCD screens. These are basically the same as your laptop screen or computer monitor. Since they display light, your eyes can grow tired more easily, and they also use significantly more battery power. These devices are also more than just ebook readers, and they tend to be more expensive.

File Types Supported

This is quite important because it determines the types of ebooks that you’ll be able to read with the device. If you know that you want to be able to read PDF files, look for that in the list of supported file types. If you want to be able to buy current popular ebooks from ebook stores, you will need an e-reader that supports Adobe DRM. Look for that in the list as well. This is one case where it’s better to buy an device that is more well-known. The more obscure the device, the less likely that you’ll be able to get the content you want for it.

Some ebook readers can also play MP3 music. If that is important for you, check for that in the product details.

One important note: The Amazon Kindle will only read ebooks that are purchased at Amazon.com. If you want to be able to buy ebooks from other ebook stores, carefully consider this restriction.

Battery Life

The battery life for ebook readers is commonly shown as the number of page turns that can be performed during one charge. For example: if a website shows a battery life of 8000 page turns, and you figure that an average book might have 300 pages, that works out to over 25 books that you could read before you had to charge the battery again.

Memory

EBook readers come with on-board memory, which will be shown in MB (megabytes) or GB (gigabytes). Most also have “expandable” memory, which means that you can put in your own storage card for more storage space. The tech specs for each e-reader will specify how much storage comes with the e-reader itself, and how large of a memory card it can handle. This is important because this is how your ebooks are stored on the device. The more memory, the more ebooks you can put on it. Most of these ebook readers can store thousands of books, which is likely to be more than you’re ever going to own, so the difference between the e-readers becomes negligible unless this is really an issue for you.

Free Content

Some companies are bundling their ebook readers with free content. The Kobo eReader, for example, comes with 100 free classic ebooks pre-installed. If you have a Kindle you can download many free classic books on Amazon’s website. Most other ebook readers will allow you to read just about any free PDF or EPUB file that you download online.

WiFi or 3G

Look out for the terms “WiFi” and “3G”. If a company is giving you a choice between these two types of connectivity, the 3G option will be more expensive. WiFi lets you use your WiFi connection at home to download content directly to the device, without having to use your computer. Depending on the device, you might also be able to browse the internet. 3G is the same type of connection that your cell phone has, which means that you don’t need to be on a WiFi network to download ebooks. Some e-readers do not have either of these capabilities.

Design

Finally, when making your choice between all of the available e-readers, you can consider the overall design of the device. The Sony Readers look more technological than the others, while the Kobo looks more friendly. The Nook has a rounder appearance, and the Kindle displays a full keyboard on the bottom. There is probably an ebook reader that has a design that fits your personality.

I hope that the information covered above will be enough to help anyone who is shopping for an ebook reading device. They are fun gadgets, and reading on them is a pleasurable experience. Good luck!

Michael Riley has been working in the ebook industry for over ten years. He is involved with developing technical support information for ebooks and ereaders, and is an avid reader himself.

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