10 Questions to Help you Choose an eReader

Before you rush out to buy an eReader, there are a few questions that you should ask yourself first. Every eReader has different features as well as strengths and weaknesses.  The  way you answer these questions helps to determine which eReader will work best for your personal needs.

Do you know your reading habits?  How much do you read? When and where will you be using the device? Indoors or outside in direct sunlight? Mostly at home or on the go? Do you need a backlit device or one with an additional light?

What will you be reading on it? Will you be reading books only, or are you interested in magazines and newspapers as well? Will you be buying mostly new books or older public domain classics? Are you interested mainly in free books? Are you reading  academic books or mainly for pleasure? Do you need to annotate text or share page numbers as in a reading group?

Do you need special features like voice guided menus, text-to-speech or a touch screen?

Do you know what device features are available?  Do you need a device which is easy to operate or are you a gadget geek? Which features are most important to you? Battery life, WiFi, 3G, or availability of  font sizes? What type of screen do you need: e-ink or color? What about features like a  touch screen, book lending, library borrowing, or expandable storage capacity? Do you want a device that can download from anywhere or one that must be used with a computer?

Do you tend to  shop at one book store more than another? Each eReader is tied to a particular bookstore: The Kindle to Amazon, the Nook to Barnes and Noble, The Kobo and Literati to the Kobo store and so on. Book selections also vary among the different stores. Each store also has different DRM formats which means that books purchased from one store will not be readable on another device.

Do you know the readers’ company solvency and committment to the product? Sharper Image and Borders have both filed for Bankruptcy protection. There have been several companies that have announced plans for eReaders which have then been quietly withdrawn such as Copia. Obviously, these issues affect your warranty and customer service support for a reader.

What kind of customer service is available for the device?  How much customer service are you likely to need? Does the company provide an 800 number? Are there message forums where you can get help from other users?

What formats can the device read? Different eReaders use different formats and different DRM systems. Current formats include epub, word, txt, prc (mobipocket), Amazon kindle, PDF. All devices are not compatible with all formats.

How many books are available for the device? Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Kobo, and Google Books all have various numbers of books available, although formats  and DRM vary from store to store. Library books may have additional DRM. Make sure that your eReader is supported.

Are you located in the United States or outside the US?  Unfortunately, there are geographical restrictions on ebook availability. International customers and travellers may see added charges for wireless delivery and taxes such as VAT. This can also be a factor if you travel outside the country.

Have you done your research? Read reviews and user forums before you buy. This helps you to get a feel for the experience of using the eReader. I lurked on the Amazon forums before I bought my first Kindle (a $400 purchase at the time). Because of that, by the time I actually decided to buy, I was very comfortable with the Kindle and the pro and cons of the device.

Have you tried an eReader for yourself? More and more stores are starting to carry eReaders. Take advantage of the this fact and get a hands-on feel for the device. Try out a friend’s or ask someone about it if you see a reader out in public. Most people who use eReaders are happy to answer questions!

Check out stores’ return policies for the devices. Some retailers, like Amazon, offer a 30 day trial period within which the device can be returned for a full refund.

By asking yourself a few questions, will be able to evaluate the information in eReader reviews. By using this information to compare eReaders, you will be sure to get the reader that’s just right for you!

Literati eReader on sale

LiteratiBed Bath and Beyond currently has the Sharper Image Literati eReader on sale. The device is on sale for $39.99 in stores and online. The reader originally sold for $199 when it first came out.

The Literati is an entry level, color ereader with WiFi. It reads ePub, Doc, PDF, and txt files and is connected to the Kobo online bookstore. It is also capable of borrowing library books using the Adobe Digital Editions software.

The reviews on this are varied, with particular complaints about the WiFi and book upload functions. You can see some of the reviews at Good eReader and  CNET.  Here’s an interesting video review from a recent purchaser who picked up one for $50.

I am extremely happy with my Kindle.  I don’t currently borrow ebooks because the local libraries in my area are not yet making ebooks available, so that has not been an issue.  I would, however, be interesting in trying both a color device and one capable of borrowing books. For this price, I took the plunge and just ordered one for myself.

Update for Feb. 7. 2011:  Bed, Bath and Beyond’s website is now showing this item as sold out.

I have posted a review of the device here on the blog.

Neither a borrower or a lender be: eBooks and the library

An area of ebooks that is generating both excitement and confusion is that of lending books using eReaders. The Kindle still doesn’t have the ability for library loans, although it is now possible for individuals in the United States to loan each other books. Lending is a big selling point for the Nook and the Sony brand of eReaders.

However, eReader owners are finding that actually using their devices to borrow books from the library is a much more complicated procedure as this NPR article indicates. According to the article, despite all the new software to read library books on devices,

… I’m sad to report that reading library e-books is still more hassle than buying them. The whole process could be smoother, and there are questions about how libraries are going about the transition to the e-book world.

The questions about how libraries make that transition is the focus of an interesting article from librarian Meredith Wolfwater talking about the state of e-lending for libraries today.  It is a long, but thought-provoking read that shows us how far we have to go to make eBook availability through the library a viable option.

And most sources tend to agree on this one: According to a recent study, 32% of participants said that library lending was important to them.

So now it’s your turn: Is the ability to borrow library books important to you? Is it a deal-breaker in choosing an eReader?