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An E-Reader for E: The Quest

June 1, 2011
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If you’re shopping for an e-reader, a books and publishing convention full of book bloggers is an excellent place to do market research. I heard rave reviews of the Kindle fairly consistently, as well as some Nook love. Some iPad enthusiasts in the mix.

I got some hands-on experience with the new Kobo, and the Libre by Aluratek. I did not care for the Kobo. Not sure if it was the particular demonstration model, but the whole touch interface kept not doing what I wanted or expected. So that’s out.

The people at the Aluratek booth couldn’t have been nicer, when confronted with a finicky e-reader skeptic like me. I imagine I had to be a tough customer. Aluratek makes the Libre reader, which I’d learned about because it was library compatible.  The Libre color didn’t look bad. Backlit color LCD screen, and can handle music and video apps as well.

Priced around $130ish.

Yesterday, I went to Barnes and Noble and Best Buy to get some hands on experience with demo models. An “e-reader petting zoo,” if you will.

I have mixed feelings about the Nook. The Nook color is going to catch a glare if I read it in a sunny park. (A place I do love to read books.) They’re apparently unveiling a new, stripped-down black and white Nook with fewer bells and whistles. Its pages don’t blink when they turn. There’s also no audio functionality… so if I wanted to do audiobooks on it too, that would not work. A plus of the Nook- easy access to in-store support, and in-store wifi. For those who know how bad I can be with technology gremlins, this is an asset indeed. I think you can also loan books to fellow Nook-users.

I tried out the Kindle, and am finding that I like the display (can handle glare) more than I anticipated, and could get used to how the pages turn with buttons. While it’s not library compatible (yet) there are tons of free e-books. There’s also something to be said for not-backlit… the experience of staring at a screen is different for the eyes and the brain than staring at a printed page. I’m aware of this, as someone who’s not good at sleeping. More glowing screen-time = potentially tougher time winding down. It’s a factor.

A surprise- I tried out a Sony reader, in Best Buy, and I liked how it felt. Kind of springy buttons, decently intuitive. $175-ish, library compatible. Need to explore the Sony Touch screen further. Daily edition’s too big.

I am learning that I have mixed feelings about the way pages turn. On the one hand, I think the screen flickering-black and then resolving could get old as I read. On the other, a Libre I tried didn’t do the blinking-screen-to-change pages thing… and I found it disorienting, lost my place in the text. Could I adapt with practice? Which would be more conducive to immersing myself in the story- invisible page turns or flickering ones?

I really, really like how the iPad handles page turns- it’s almost like a real book, which I appreciate. I have mixed feelings about the iPad in general– the price tag, the screen on a sunny day… and the fact that it’s more computer than I really need from a glorified e-Reader. (Then again, given recent laptop woes and computer swooning fits… I might want a backup system in place. The hefty price tag is also a consideration. Even though it’s a birthday gift… it’s much more expensive than any of the others. Unless you consider it an eReader + a mini laptop… then the price averages out. Another factor is the size… I would have to get a bigger bag, to allow for the transport of a thing bigger than a trade paperback.

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