Wednesday, January 19, 2011

eReaders and eBooks. eEk.

This has been re-formatted slightly from an email I sent to a family member, as I'm probably going to be ordering two of whatever we decide on. I'm leaning strongly towards the Nook at the moment, but I'm prepared to have my mind changed. Keep in mind, this is written from, and mostly for, an Australian perspective.

Let me know if anything is unclear, or I've missed anything that's important to you.


I originally narrowed my choices down to 3 models:
1. The Amazon Kindle 3: Probably the current market leader. ( Amazon link )
2. The Barnes and Noble "Nook". ( B&N link )
3. The Kobo reader ( Kobo link, A&R link )

They all have more or less identical reading areas, 6 inch / 15.2 cm diagonal , 600 x 800 pixel screen with 16 levels of gray. I've not considered any of the full-colour options, as I'd like to use this out-and about, or while away from time to time, so good battery life is important. There are other readers out there, but none of them looked compelling to me, feel free to suggest others if you think I've missed something great.

WiFi or WiFi+3G?

The first choice was whether to go WiFi only, or WiFi+3G. WiFi only means you need to have access to a WiFi network to buy/download new books from the online stores. 3G means the unit has a SIM card and phone module embedded, which allows you to purchase anywhere there is phone coverage. This sounds good, but I decided against it for a few reasons:
  • It makes the unit more expensive.
  • It is likely to reduce battery life.
  • You're usually limited to using the manufacturers eBook store over the 3G connection.
  • I doubt I'll ever be completely stuck for reading material and absolutely have to have a new book right now.
  • Many smart phones can be turned into a mobile WiFi hotspot anyway, so you connect to the internet via your phone, and your eReader connects to the phone's WiFi. (Update - this is trivial, but I find I don't do it all that often, I do most of my book management and purchasing at home)

Battery life:

These are manufacturers claims, I don't know how accurate they are, but if true, all are OK by me. I don't think I could be away from power for much more than a week, so they're all acceptable.

1 Kindle: Up to month.
2. Nook: 10 days.
3. Kobo: 2 weeks or 10,000 page turns.


1 Kindle : azw (Amazon proprietary format), pdf, html, mp3 audio. Notably - no ePub
2. Nook: ePub, pdf, html, mp3 audio. Also does pdb.
3. Kobo: ePub, pdf. No html, no audio.

The Nook and Kobo are very similar. They both do ePub, and pdf as their main formats, and don't to azw, which is the Kindles default format. The kindle doesn't do ePub. There are tools around to to conversions and such, but this is based on out-of-te-box functionality.

Libraries here seem to be all using ePub, so if you plan to use walk-in services from libraries, the Kindle won't cut it.This is reasonably important in my opinion.


Realistically, they all have enough internal storage to hold metric bucket-loads of books, it's mostly text, after all. However, I like the idea of removable storage, and if you do want to use it for music playback, it's some extra headroom.

1. Kindle: 4 GB internal, not expandable.
2. Nook: 2 GB Internal, microSD card slot, up to 16GB
3. Kobo: 1GB Internal, SDHC card slot, up to 32 GB

Phone Apps:

These are apps which, strangely enough, run on your phone, allowing you to read from your collection when you don't have your device. I kind of like this idea, and in I've already downloaded the Nook and Kobo Android versions and had a bit of a play with them, downloading and reading some free eBooks. Certainly handy, but not critical. They've all got good solutions here as far as I'm concerned. I've read entire books on my phone and even the old palm, so in a pinch, it's good to have.

1. Kindle:Android, Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows, Windows Phone 7
2. Nook: Android, iPad, iPhone, PC
3. Kobo: Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Palm

Web Features:

The Kindle and Nook both have web browsers, the Kobo doesn't. You're never going to use one of these devices as a serious internet tablet device, but I like the idea of being able to get on the web in some fashion, plus I have some ideas for using it at home for interacting with my home automation setup and such.

Other features:

The Kindle is the only one of the three to do text-to-speech. Not a big deal for me personally, I'm a podcast junkie anyway, generally having at least one or two other audio capable devices nearby, but a nice feature I guess.

The Nook has the extra colour touchscreen for navigation. Cute, and good for recognising/browsing book covers, although I suspect it will have a small effect on battery life.


1 Amazon Kindle. Amazon will ship here. Their web site say it should be US $155 shipped. There are also people based here re-selling. Approx $240 per unit in Sydney, I'm not sure why the big difference, the exchange rate it pretty good at the moment.
2. Nook: Not available locally. B&N don't ship to Australia. Purchasing on-line elsewhere, I can get two of them here for just approx $206 each.
3. Kobo: Nice in that you can buy them retail in Australia. Angus and Robertson have them for $179

eBook Stores:

I picked about 20-30 authors and titles, and checked Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the Kobo bookstore and Borders. Prices and availability vary a lot. Prices in the US stores are typically a lot cheaper than the Australian equivalents. Amazon and B&N had the best ranges and prices by my estimation, although there may be a bit of technical messing about to purchase directly from the US stores, but I've got that more-or-less sorted out. Both the Nook and Kobo do ePub (with DRM), but you could transfer titles from any store to either.

Other links:


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