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 (and, 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 ( 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. 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


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 for their valuable and considerable resources of information on ALL things eReaders.

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