Ebooks have been changing the way we read and write. Go for an e-reader and you are likely to pick up three times as many books as you were prior to your encounter with the digital age. Moreover, e-readers open up a whole new world of anonymous reading: Take your device with you wherever you …
Ebooks have been changing the way we read and write. Go for an e-reader and you are likely to pick up three times as many books as you were prior to your encounter with the digital age. Moreover, e-readers open up a whole new world of anonymous reading: Take your device with you wherever you go and read whatever you want – nobody will judge you by your cover. Paper books are doomed old-fashioned; digital e-reading devices are the new sexy.
With sales in digital novels soaring, the e-book market is developing rapidly in all age groups. Consumers now have an extensive range of devices to choose from, all designed to cater individual reading needs. Are you in the market for an e-reader yourself or are you looking for a great gift for Christmas? We help you cut through the e-reading jungle to enjoy a lightweight and compact way of reading.
Built-in light: a must-have?
High-end e-reading devices with in-built lighting have a native screen resolution of 1024×768 to deliver crisp and clear text. In general, an increase in resolution/pixel density allows for better clarity and legibility. In practice, however, the difference is hardly noticeable.
Most e-reading devices feature an E Ink display. These may not be as colourful as tablet displays, but provide sunlight readability and a high resolution from any angle. The screen basically reads like a real paper book. The downside to LCD screens: E-readers without built-in lights are difficult to read in dim condition. For reading at night, buy an additional reading light or opt for an e-reader with backlighting like the Kindle Paperwhite, the Kobo Aura or the Tolino Vision.
Accessories for entry-level e-readers like Amazon’s latest Kindle include cover cases with a retractable light and adjustable arm, so you can keep reading in poorly-lit places.
A battery that will keep you going for days
Another big selling point of E Ink technology is its ultra-low power consumption. Unlike LCD, the display only draws power when you hit the Next Page button, meaning the battery life of most e-readers is usually outstanding. Even the best tablets struggle to get anywhere near the battery life of a dedicated e-reader. The Sony PRS-T3 has an estimated battery life of around 13,000 pages, the equivalent of up to 8 weeks of reading from a single charge.
You can switch off WiFi or lower the brightness of the screen in order to maximise your e-reader’s battery life. Some models also feature an automatic sleep or battery-saving mode to ensure it’s always powered-up when you are on the go.
Try before you buy
No matter how good a spec sheet reads, we strongly recommend trying a device out to find the best one for you. Small, lightweight models are easy and comfortable to hold in one hand, an ideal gadget for a packed bus or train.
Use a case for your e-reader if you prefer holding it with both hands like a book. These type of cases will make your e-reader look like a traditional hardcover book whilst providing protection during travel and use.
Some e-reading devices like the Kindle and Kobo Touch use a full touchscreen display that requires finger taps or swipes to turn pages. Touchscreen gestures, however, are much harder to do when the reader is used single-handed. Some devices such as the PocketBook Touch Lux 2 have physical buttons below the screen to help flipping through digital pages, while navigating menus is easier and less time consuming with a touch interface.
E Ink displays have a significantly lower refresh rate than other display technologies such as LCD. One downside is that text from the previous page is outlined on the current one when you turn a page on the e-reader. These odd shadows in the back of the screen are called “ghost images” and the effect is termed “ghosting”.
Image ghosting can be reduced by flashing the entire screen white and black for a split second. This is the characteristic black flash you see when e-readers change pages. All e-readers have it, only the speed and frequency differ from one device to the other. Some e-readers have to refresh on every page turn which can be distracting and annoying. Newer models like the Kobo Aura can go dozens of pages without flashing.
The Kobo Glo e-reader also allows you to adjust the refresh rate when you are reading to suit your individual needs.
Choose the right format
Ebooks are available in different file formats, the most popular of which is EPUB, an open format defined by the Open eBook Forum. It is compatible with almost all e-reading devices, with the notable exception of Amazon’s own-brand Kindle range. That means if you buy a Kindle, your choice of ebooks is tied to Amazon’s Kindle store.
Most e-readers can also read files in PDF formats, although they may be difficult to read on small-screen devices. Amazon’s MOBI file format can be displayed on other devices such as iPhone or iPad by installing the Kindle app. Some e-readers, however, such as the Nook and Sony Reader, don’t support MOBI-formatted ebooks.
If you don’t want to be tied to Amazon’s proprietary ecosystem, opt for an e-reading device that is compatible with EPUB files. Download a single EPUB file and view it on your e-reader, computer, tablet or smartphone. This will give you maximum versatility and flexibility.
Battle of the e-readers
Amazon and Barnes & Noble have been locked in a fierce battle to see which company would dominate the e-reader market. Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite is one of the best and most advanced e-readers around. It features a high contrast screen, built-in light and a great battery life. If you want to treat yourself to a top-of-the-line e-reader, you might want to invest in Amazon’s new Kindle Voyage. It combines a sleek and stylish design with a high-resolution display of 300 pixels per inch. A premium reading experience that also comes with a premium price tag.
Barnes & Nobel’s range of e-readers is an alternative worth considering if you don’t want to buy into the Amazon ecosystem. Similar to the Kindle Paperwhite, the second-generation Nook GlowLight delivers sharp text with light being displayed evenly across the screen. It’s a bit thinner and brighter than the Kindle Paperwhite and offers up to two months of battery life with wireless off.
If you want to root for the industry underdog, the Kobo eReader range might just be right for you. Toronto-based Kobo, an anagram of book, offers a range of beautifully designed e-reading devices to suit individual reading needs. For passionate, voracious readers, the premium Kobo Aura HD is your choice. It boasts one of the best E Ink screens on the market, plenty of storage and a strong front light. The brand new Kobo Aura H2O is one of the world’s first waterproof e-readers.
If you have never used an e-reader before and want to find out whether digital reading is for you, choose an entry-level model. The Kindle, Nook Simple Touch and Kobo Glo are all reasonably priced and a great way to dip your toes into the e-market.