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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions- an E-reader for meIhaveask



I have been racking my brain over the idea of buying an e-reader for myself.  I am going overseas for 2 1/2 weeks via cruise ship and I dont relish the idea of bring books in my suitcase.  My suitcase may be on wheels, but its still heavy– and when you add books…Oy.  It also doesnt help that when I was in the sixth grade, my teacher, Mr. Westlake, taught the class how to speed read.  Yes, I can read a 200+ page book in about an hour and a half.  My book budget is a bit crazy sometimes. I don’t see packing 10+ books in my suitcase.  Between this and my usual book diet, I have decided to jump on board with the e-book craze.

I have loaded up my Macbook and Mac Mini with Kindle for Mac and Barnes & Noble e-Reader. My iPod Touch (8GB) has those apps as well plus Stanza, EReader, and a few other book apps. I have started to purchase a few ebooks from B&N and Amazon. I like the reading experience so far, but I wish I could carry it around and keep it in my lap.  I use my Macbook in my lap, but it gets too hot sometimes and I have at least one cat who wants to tap my keyboard as I write.  I’d rather something with a touchscreen that isnt catfriendly.

Ok, right now I am sure you are saying, “Why get a dedicated e-reader?  You have the apps on your computers and iPod.  Why do you need anything else?”  My boyfriend has asked me the same thing.  He uses the Kindle and Barnes & Noble apps on his Acer netbook and its happy with it.  He doesnt see a need for a separate device.

So why do I want a dedicated e-reader?  Because, I dont want to have to lug my laptop or netbook around.  I want something I can sit on my lap that doesnt weigh much. I want something simple to use.  I want something with a long battery life.  I like having unitasker hardware, because of the adage of “what happens if it breaks”. With a multitasking device, you are down a lot of services; with a unitasker, its only one.

So, since CES, I have narrowed down to three devices: the B&N nook, the Spring Design Alex, and regretably, the Apple iPad.  Yes, I know the iPad isnt a unitasker, but let me explain everything before you judge.

First, why did I rule out the Sony e-reader and the Amazon Kindle? I can’t read the Sony.  The way it presents text on the screen is hard on my eyes.  Also, every time I have tried to use one, I can’t get it to work the way I want.  Its almost difficult sometimes.  Its the same for the Kindle.  I take issue with with any e-reader that takes reading a manual to work.  I just want to open up the book and read it.  I dont want to hit 5 buttons and 3 taps…etc..etc…But, I do LOVE the content on the Kindle.  Out of all the e-readers, I think it has the best content for books and subscriptions.  I am an avid Amazon shopper. I have Amazon Prime for shipping.  I just cant make the Kindle work for me.  Its a user interface thing I guess.

So, what about my other choices?  The nook is an easy to use e-reader.  It just works. And, if I want to geek out, I can root it since it runs off Android.  I was able to test drive one at my local Barnes & Noble.  I went in with my mother, who is not as technical as I am.  If she could use it easily, I know I could.  I loved the split screen.  The color UI menu was easy to navigate.  Barnes & Noble’s selection is ok. I wish they had more subscriptions, but overall, the content is good.

The Spring Design Alex is just cool.  I used one at CES and fell in love with the device.  It was easier to use than the nook.  The screen is larger and easy to read. The menu UI in the color screen is cleaner. It has the ability to download Android apps as well as surf the Internet.  Ok, this breaks my unitasker rule, but an Android tablet device just has a lot going for it.  My one concern, the main bookstore is tied to Borders.  I love Borders.  Its my favorite brick and mortar bookstore.  However, Borders is not doing so well.  The company has closed down many of its stores.  The have also come WAY late to the e-book/e-reader game.  I am afraid that if I bought one, I wouldnt have content from Borders after a while; unless they got bought by B&N or even Amazon.

And lastly, there is the iPad.  Yes, its a tablet computer that is set to become the next iPhone of the new millennium.  But, its not a multitasker– a major complaint for everyone so far.  But, I am sure Apple will fix that issue soon enough.  Why make a device like that when their iPhones and iPod Touches are multitaskers?  Anyways, why an iPad?  Well, from everything I have read so far, its got great battery life, a good screen, and its fairly light weight.  For content, there is the new iBook bookstore.  But there is also Amazon, B&N. eReader, Fictionwise, etc…etc…etc.  How?  Well, according to all my reading, the Kindle app, B&N e-reader app, and the others all are going iPad capable.  So, this effectively triples the content and then some.  I can get my Amazon content that I love so much, without issue.  How cool is that?

I have asked the crew here at GBM there thoughts on my dilemna, and the best answer was from Sumocat.  He said in an email:

I am not a fan of e-ink. I know some people swear by it, and to each their own, but the off-white background and page refreshes completely annoy me. My years using LCD and background in color publications don’t help with that either. Hard to love a format that can’t properly display the work I’ve done. iPad wins for me.

That said, I have found both the Alex and Nook to be intuitive enough to use. The only question for me is the content. B&N is clearly ahead of Borders in this. The in-store browsing is a killer feature of the Nook, if you frequent a B&N store. Borders will catch up with their offerings, but today, of the two eReaders, I give the edge to Nook.

And then there is what Xavier said in a phone call we had the other day, “Write it up as a post on GBM and see what the readers have to say!”  So, here we are.

So GBM readers, got any advice for me?  My trip overseas is in early May so whatever I am going to buy, I have to get sometime in April.  I appreciate the advice and comments.



  1. JS

    04/02/2010 at 9:15 am

    Well, these days software/content is king so why fight it? Get the device that has the most of that and you’ll be happier.

  2. Dan

    04/02/2010 at 9:47 am

    I don’t have an answer, but rather something else to consider. What about the connectivity on the cruise ship? I suppose you could load the device up before you leave, but otherwise won’t you be limited to the wifi/3g coverage of a particular device?

  3. Amy Zunk

    04/02/2010 at 10:14 am

    Yes, I am limited to the coverage on the ship, but luckily Royal Carribbean has good coverage. All hail satellites! I would probably be loading up before I left anyways.

  4. Gavin Miller

    04/02/2010 at 10:25 am

    Well, you’re not going to be reading anything other than e-ink comfortably if you’re outside in the sun. Not sure what the issues are you were having with the Sony etc. Once the book is open that’s it! You don’t even have to turn it off as e-ink uses no battery unless refreshing the page.

    Where’s the cruise to? Anywhere nice? :-)

  5. Josefpm

    04/02/2010 at 11:30 am

    I have the same dilemma, but i want a iPad, no discustion except for e-ink, I am very skeptic with e-ink, iPad win fro all extra feactures and for the ebook reader.


  6. Doctor_Roe

    04/02/2010 at 11:48 am

    I am going on a cruise in June. Internet on the ship is a absurd $7+ per minute so a pre-load is definitely in order.

    1. I have a love / hate relationship with single purpose devices. I love the concept until I have my 5+ devices in front of me, then I look for that single device to do it all.

    2. Given the single device preference, I vote for the iPad for now until more slates / iPad competition shows themselves. Content is king, but content with contribution ability is a close 2nd.

    my .02

  7. Sam

    04/02/2010 at 12:05 pm

    Dedicated e-ink readers can still make sense due to very long battery life, lower cost, good size compromise, better daylight readability, lighter weight than just any other device of similar size.

    I don’t think I’ve seen any reviews that mention daylight readability of the iPad, but all but the best reflective LCDs on the market are significantly worse than e-ink, and other types range from usable to horrifically bad. (Of course, there are reflective LCDs and other technologies which are comparable to e-ink, but I don’t think any ereaders using them are on the market yet.)

    The iPad is also twice as heavy as a nook–think of the difference between a 200 page rack-sized paperback vs. hard cover.

    Last summer, I was deciding what to bring to the beach, I ended up buying a used Dell Axim X50v, which was cheap and adequate. It has a 3.7″ VGA resolution transflective display, which was adequately large and detailed and adequately readable in direct sunlight. If I were deciding today, I probably would go for a Kindle 2, though a nook is a possibility.

    The Alex looks a bit out of proportion, though it’s only an inch taller than the Kindle. It’s too bad they didn’t make the LCD a slider. The page turn buttons are placed low on its frame, that’s not where I usually hold a book, but it might work well here. It’s rather pricey and less convenient as an ereader, though I’d love to hack on its software.

  8. Kevin Hall

    04/02/2010 at 12:49 pm

    My choice for my traveling multimedia device has been my ipod touch. I wanted something with a wide variety of options, but small and light. I have loaded music, movies, ebooks, audiobooks, and games on it for use when on the road (or wandering around the house). Since it is small and light, I find the (small) screen size to be acceptable, though not perfect. I don’t use it out in the sun much, so that might be a problem. The one area it does poorly (for me) is with web browsing. I find the screen size (or more specifically the resolution) to be too small. A 10-inch slate device might be about right. I will be watching the iPad and other similar devices to see if they might work.

  9. Rich F

    04/02/2010 at 2:54 pm

    I’d lean towards the nook for the built in and mature store, plus the ability to sideload epub books from any store (kobo, smashwords, your local library through overdrive, etc…) As far as I know there’s no way to sideload epub books onto the ipad, which is an uncomfortable thought for me. That and the inability to borrow books – based on how quickly you devour what you read – seems like a dealbreaker.

    The other thing to seriously weigh is the reading experience, as some others have said, the ipad is heavier, and the backlit screen is both more prone to cause eye strain over long periods than e-ink, and less likely to be fun to read in the sun.

    Finally, and this might sound silly, but with a device that has tv and games competing for your entertainment time next to your books, you might just not end up reading as much as you would with a dedicated device.

  10. Sam

    04/03/2010 at 9:03 am

    I stopped at a Best Buy a few minutes ago, they had several iPads on display with one not in use so I got to play with one a few minutes. It felt heavier than I expected.

    I tried the keyboard and it was better than I feared but not as good as I hoped. I could touch type fairly fast with not good accuracy and slower with ok accuracy. I didn’t look at pictures of the onscreen keyboard closely before, but one of the first things I noticed was there was the keys under my right hand pinky were all wrong for a touch typist, which really threw me off. No semicolon, etc, which also affected hitting shift with my right hand. The screen is too sensitive when typing, if possible, Apple should turn down the sensitivity over the keys so that you can very lightly rest your fingers on the surface. On the other hand, the space bar was very hit or miss for me, probably due to having a long thumbnail.

    I didn’t do specifically test for it (didn’t think to test), but I believe the screen is at least four point multitouch.

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