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How to Buy an eReader

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10.11.24

The book is in a state of transition from paper to digital.  Americans own 9 million eReaders and  analysts project that number will exceed 10 million by the end of the year.  That’s a million Christmas gifts stuffing stockings next month.  Since people may be planning to take advantage of Black Friday deals on an eReader this weekend, we offer basic information to help sort through the many choices available.

What eReader To Buy?
With the proliferation of eReader brands and models (there are 60-80 now, with more in development), how should one decide which one to buy?  There are five factors to consider before purchasing.

Design
The most important design consideration is the comfort of the page-turning buttons or the ease of touch screen swiping.  Try them out before buying.

Display Size
Most eReaders have a 6-inch screen which displays the same amount of text as a trade paperback.  Pocket editions have 5-inch displays.  Some screens are larger, mainly for textbook applications or, as in the Apple iPad tablet, for multipurpose use.  Fonts on all readers are adjustable.

Display Type
The e-Ink display (black print on gray background) is crisp and clear, and easy to read in bright light (on the beach).  It does not cause eye strain, which is important for lengthy reading sessions.  And e-Ink screens use very little energy and need recharging less often.  LCD screens display full color, permit reading in the dark and instant page turning, and they are better for surfing the web, and viewing images such as photos and movies.

Connectivity
There are three options for downloading content to an eReader.  You can connect it to your computer (which has Internet access) and drag-and-drop content as you would with a downloadable audio device.  Or, you can download using a wi-fi connection to the Internet, which means you must have a wireless network at home or be in a hot spot to download.  (The library has wi-fi at all locations.)  Or, with a 3G device, you can download anywhere anytime.

Content--Book Inventory
Where do you get the books to download to your eReader?  It depends on the device you have. 

If you have a Kindle, you buy your books from Amazon, and you have a wide selection to choose from. 
Keep in mind, however, that the Kindle uses a proprietary book format, meaning that you are limited to reading Kindle-formatted eBooks, that Kindle eBooks can only be read on Kindle eReaders, and a Kindle eBook is restricted to one user.  The Amazon model does not allow lending Kindle eBooks to multiple borrowers. 

Barnes and Noble, Borders, Sony, and Pandigital sell eReaders that have more flexibility than the Kindle, in that they can read eBooks formatted in open source software, such as ePub.  ePub titles from any source can be loaded on any of these devices.  (Although Apple’s iBooks use ePub, they use a proprietary version, which limits them to Apple devices.)  There are a number of online sources of ePub books, including Barnes and Noble, Borders, and libraries.

Libraries will be more likely to purchase eBooks in a non-proprietary format so they can be read on a variety of eReaders and by multiple borrowers.  In fact, TCPL will begin offering eBooks through our Overdrive service very soon.  These books will be in the open source  ePub format and will be readable on the Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony eReaders, Borders Kobo eReader, and Pandigital Novel, among others.  These eReaders can also play the downloadable audio books already available through Overdrive.

So, consider whether you can afford and want to purchase all the eBooks you read or whether you want to be able to borrow free eBooks from the library.  If the latter, you will be better off buying a Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, Pandigital or other non-proprietary device.  And, these devices are able to play downloadable audio as well, so you can enjoy the selection of audiobooks available through Overdrive, as well as read eBooks, all on one handheld unit.

For more information about eReaders and eBooks, visit us at www.tcplweb.org or call 988-2541.

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