How to Choose an eReader

choices With all the noise about the eReader choices on the market now, how does one make the choice that suits their specific needs the best without getting hopelessly confused in all the technical terms and comparisons?

We here at Free-eBooks.net (and eBookEnvy.com), have decided to consider the four major name players – Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Sony – and give you our best bare-bones impressions of each. We considered the 4 models that had the most basic features in common as follows:

Nook (Barnes and Noble Nook)
Kindle (Amazon.com Kindle keyboard)
Kobo (Kobo touch)
Sony (Sony PRS-350)

What factors do you consider when buying?

For starters, when choosing an eReader, there are a few things you might want to consider:

  • Your current library formats (PDFs, ePUBs, Text, etc.)
  • Look and feel – your new eReader must feel like “home” in your hands – not heavy or awkward
  • Compatibility with all the eBook formats available
  • Price (of course – probably first and foremost)
  • Features
  • Readability settings (font sizes, spacing, etc.)

Let’s dive into these in more detail to see where our 4 candidates measure up.

eBook formats

All four have PDF capabilities. Of all of them, the Sony is the one with the most advanced set of PDF viewing features. There are settings to control navigation (page-like scrolling for multi-column PDFs), custom text zoom and landscape modes to name a few. The PDF capabilities of the other 3 are limited e.g. zooming to a readable font size is likely to introduce page spanning (having to move the page around on screen to read a full sentence).

Of all four, the Nook is the only one that does not do text. Text is the true unformatted format of all the eBook formats. I imagine that makes it better than any of the others to adapt to the individual display requirements of each.

The Nook and the Kindle will only allow their own DRM-encoded eBooks to be loaded. The Kobo, however, will allow Nook DRM titles to be loaded. And the Sony will allow any DRM-encoded titles to be loaded outside of the Nook and Kindle specific titles.

The all allow DRM-free formats to be loaded.

Bells and whistles

The new Nook no longer comes with a headphone jack or speakers and the web browser is not an advertised feature. While it will browse to a specific URL, it is clunky and not very reliable. However, it does have bells and whistles that the others don’t seem to have in as much detail – you can choose a theme for your screen-savers, or upload your own and the font face options are stunning.

The Kindle is the only one of the 4 that has a text-to-speech option and even in its beta and rather robotic form, is quite impressive considering. The Kindle is also the only 1 of the 4 that has a 3G model and the Sony has no network access at all – requiring a cable connected to your computer to upload books.

Neither the Kindle nor the Sony have an expansion slot, but the other 2 have SD expansion slots. Amazon.com claims there is no need for expandable memory since not only is 4GB more than enough for their books (up to 3,500 books at once) and they have now introduced ‘cloud’ storage that allows you to have your extended library at your fingertips.

The Kobo sports a ‘hidden gem’ in the ‘About Kobo’ menu option – a game of Sudoko – and who doesn’t like to break the monotony of reading with a quick Sudoko game? As a plus, if you dislike finger smudges, the Sony touch screens are stylus sensitive

Readability

Frankly, if you aren’t a techie, you may not even notice it – the Kindle refreshes the screen upon each page turn whereas the Nook and Kobo refresh every 6 pages (the Kobo has a customizable setting that you can use to change this number).

Techie or not, if this is a deal breaker, it’s good to know that the Nook is the smoothest page turning of them all – especially if you take into consideration that the Nook will do rapid page turns with just pressing and holding the turn button.

The e-Ink experience on all is unmentionably similar so rest assured that if that is your only consideration when buying, that is one aspect of all 4 you can safely ignore.

Interfacing with the outside world

While both the Nook and the Kindle have social features (twitter and Facebook), the Nook takes it another level by allowing you to see what your friends are reading. The lending is done from your device and you can keep track of it in place. Kindle lending is still largely un-experimented with.

The Nook and the Kindle have the largest book store available natively. The Kindle is the only 1 that won’t allow importation from open-standard bookstores. But none of them allow interfacing with any other bookstore and require an intermediate download to your computer before you upload to your device.

Summing it all up

  • The Kindle has the largest collection of eBook titles and is the cheapest device, is the only 1 of the 4 with a 3g model, and is also the only one with speakers and a headphone jack complete with a text-to-speech option for enabled titles.
  • The Nook is the most social and has the most display tweaks of the 4.
  • The Sony has no network access at all but will display PDFs the best of the 4, and is stylus sensitive for those who despise finger-smudges.
  • The Kobo accepts the widest variety of publicly available formats out there (ePUB, PDF, Text and HTML).

I hope this helps some of you when wading through the overwhelming wealth of information on eReaders out there.

I hope to take a look at some the less known eReaders in another article soon. So please stay tuned.

Special mention to the folks at The eBook-Reader.com for their valuable and considerable resources of information on ALL things eReaders.

  • Jpanicci

    Love, love, love my Nook! Have had it for 6 months and have not had any problems with it!

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      :) Thanks for the feedback – which Nook do you have? The new touch, or the color Nook?

  • Goebelfw

    No mention of the Pandigital reader. I have one and love it. I will admit that loading can be slow at times, but being able to take a load of books where I go, to be able to increase the size of the font (OK, I’, old), and to be able to use it for email, browsing, games, etc is great.

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      Thanks for the feedback, I’ll add Pandigital to my list of readers to check out for the community.

      There are so many on the market these days that it makes it difficult to choose the non-mainstream devices for a post like this one. So we appreciate voices like yours when you tell us about the ones that are as good as the ones most widely known.

  • Alan

    To be honest I don’t really care for an internet browser as I already have one on the PC and don’t want to pay extra.
    I really just want something that I can download from my computer and read.
    OK, maybe games for my 4year old who is crazy about Angry Birds, but really all I want is to be able to read my many hundreds of PDF file books, and delete them when necessary and add more as I find new ones to read, at a reasonable cost

    • Alan

      I forgo to mention that I mainly read technical and medical books that do have plenty of explanitary pictures in them…must be able to see the pictures..lol

  • Imjazzy_4u2

    How do i download epub books to my Kobo?

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      Sorry about the confusion.

      As I was telling Helene in the above comment, if you currently own Barnes and Noble titles and they are on your computer, you might be able to load them onto your Kobo reader via a USB cable.

  • Helene

    How we can dowload the Nook DRM titles on a KODO e-reader. I check with B&N and they said I can’t.

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      Sorry about the confusion, Helene.

      As far as I know you can’t download to the Kobo from the Barnes and Noble website. I apologize if this was the impression given.

      What was meant was that if you currently own Barnes and Noble titles and they are on your computer, you might be able to load them onto your Kobo using a USB cable from your computer to your reader.

  • EEK

    The BASIC Sony, yes, it doesn’t have wireless etc. – But the top of the line Sony eReader does operate wirelessly and two important features not mentioned – no backlighting = no eye strain with the Sony – so you can read longer and it is made out of metal, not plastic, so it won’t break easily even if your 4 year old steps on it. Sony has cloud storage and once bought you don’t have to re-purchase the book if disaster strikes and you inadvertently delete it from your eReader/computer. Headphone jack included, does audio books, understands handwriting, and does pictures. Another nice feature is its longevity, when you’re ready to upgrade, you can pass your old Sony onto your kids and it will still be working.

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      Thanks for pointing that out!

      I was trying to keep within the same basic price and feature bracket and that’s why I chose the basic Sony as a running mate in this comparison.

      You are right – Sony DOES provide an eReader that has a far more advanced feature list than the one I used here in this article.

  • G Mohsen

    i am having difculities to buy the e-reader as its not abailable in market

  • Rmdickson

    We also bought a Pandigital for our son for Christmas. He and I liked it so much that they got me one for my birthday! As far as I can tell, it seems to be all of these machines wrapped up into one!! It is fantastic and we love them!

  • Lindsay

    I download free library books to my Sony – you can’t do that on the Kindle. For me that is vital as I rarely buy a book now unless it is something I definitely know I want to keep.

  • Kathyainsworth

    I am currently using an Hp netbook as an eReader as I started getting eBooks before these new readers came out. I have book files in five formats. I would like to find one Reader that is not tied to a single type of file or possibly two. Publishers seem to only choose to release their books on one or two formats. Sometimes consecutive books are in several formats.

  • Bob Solway

    I have a Sony PRS 650 and have been very happily married to it since christmass. Don’t tell the wife since she bought it for me in the first place! Seriously , I have been an avid sci -fi reader most of my life (60) and I can’t remember not having at least 2 books on the go at any given time. With the ebook reader I can have lots of books going at the same time and it usually lives in my jacket pocket or in my hands. The only time it is not within easy reach is when I charge it up. Even that is no great problem as the battery lasts well over a week for me and for a “normal ” person will easily last the advertised 2 weeks between charges. I only regret that the technology was not invented years ago!

  • Yvonne

    Thank you. The information about the 4 e-readers has come in very handy as I am on the verge of getting myself one.
    I am stuck on the Kindle but the nook also appeals to me.
    Thank you once again.
    Yvonne de bruin

  • Aimeeow

    I don’t see any mention of the I-Pad. Does anyone have any comments about using an I-Pad for reading? I can read books on it without issue.

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      For the purposes of this article, I chose to highlight the top names in dedicated eReaders. The iPad is not a dedicated eReader.

  • Slobodan

    Sony reader PRS-600 has the Encyclopedic Dictionary build in and an unknown word in the text could be finding in dictionary by double touch in the reading text
    It is very important for us not English native people

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Mahieu/1440630644 Paul Mahieu

    Thanx again, still deciding on a dedicated device & thinking about tablet or pad as well so that I can do my “thing” on the go + read my latest when I can or need a time out! I am currently using my mobile to read text based stories/audiobooks. Oh & I have an older Chinese iphone clone which does a better job with the formatting, bookmarking etc & has a LARGE screen for ease of reading & paging…Paul.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Mahieu/1440630644 Paul Mahieu

    Oh yeah! I f’got 2 mention I also do a lot of ebook/audiobooks thru my City council library account. So would be cool 2 be able to do it all on 1 device, but not entirely necessary. Sony is sounding better so far.

  • The Gob

    I have had the Binatone Readme Daily for ages now, long before I got a Kindle (which is fine too), but I’d like to support the poor Binatone out of a little loyalty.

    Its a little heavy and bulky compared to the Kindle and its friends, its also a bit ‘clicky’, by which I mean to page forward or any menu choice the buttons pressed are audible with a physical sound, a bit like noisy texting. It does not have the web-connectivity, nor any wireless functionality.

    Aside from these bad points, however, it does its job admirably. It handles just about any format, can play music as a background, or audio books clearly. This is the basic you need for any e-reader, with the sound quality a bonus, and is usually a tad cheaper than many of the rest. It can also accept a micro sd card, thus enabling themed libraries to be created, without too much mangement.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying its better than any of the others, but it does what it says on the front and should not be hidden under the iconic status the others seem to be gaining.

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      Thank you very much for your feedback. This is the kind of feedback that I love to get because it opens up my eyes – and hopefully the eyes of others – to other possibilities out there.

      The Binatone Readme Daily and it’s companions can be seen here: http://www.binatonetelecom.com/products/ebookreaders

  • D9bbie

    which is the best one for hard of hearing users who want to listen to audible books whilst reading

  • Retus

    We use both Kindle and LASER and find the Laser to be an excepitonal ereader,but is seldom mentioned in reviews. The display is in colour, with other options,radio, video,etc,more like a pad. The only downside is the battery needs frequent charging.