Buying an ereader: a checklist, by Piotr Kowalczyk

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Are you interested in buying an ereader? There is more to it than just comparing screen resolution or memory space.

You probably know about Kindle, Nook or Kobo ereaders. There are many great reviews around. Their common disadvantage is that they don’t give information, the one not about ereaders themselves, which will affect they way you’ll use them.

Ask yourself questions below, and you’ll be better prepared to choose the right ereading device.

Am I aware of differences in format and DRM?

Ebooks are wonderful, but they are still not easy. The ebook you’ll buy at Kindle Store can’t be read on every device. For example, you won’t be able to open it on Nook or Kobo.

Reason: different ebookstores use different file formats and DRM systems.

Format

There are two major formats of electronic book files: epub and mobi. Epub is sold by most ebookstores in the world. Mobi means Kindle. There is also pdf format which can be read by most ereaders, but the smaller the screen, the worse it is to read it (so, think twice before you buy a 6-inch device to read all pdf books collected on your computer).

DRM

DRM (Digital Rights Management) is supposed to prevent from unauthorized distribution of digital content.

In practice, when an ebook is DRM-ed it can be read only on a device authorized with the store where you bought it. Kindle ebooks have different DRM than ebooks from Barnes & Noble or Kobo. You can’t easily move the book from your Kindle account to your Nook ereader. And vice versa.

DRM brings to reading the limitations which don’t exist in a world of a print book. Once you buy a print book, you can gift it or lend it to anyone. DRM means you can’t do it easily with an ebook.

Do I have a preferred ebookstore?

Due to format and DRM limitations it’s good to stick to one online store. If you have decided to buy ebooks in one place, you could save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

So, if you often visit Amazon.com to buy different goods, why don’t you check how Kindle Store works. If you like visiting Barnes & Noble store in your neighborhood and have an account at B&N webpage – why don’t you start from checking their site for ebooks.

Are there enough ebooks I’d like to read?

You should assume not every paper book has an electronic edition. So, first thing you can do is to check (in your preferred ebookstore) if there are books you’d like to buy – and how much they cost. Just check a few first titles which come to mind. It won’t take long but will give the idea of how useful the ereader will be once you buy it.

The issue of availability is especially important for users who live outside US and would like to read books in their native language. Biggest online ebookstores like Kindle Store have a limited offer of books in different languages. Barnes&Noble doesn’t sell digital content abroad at all.

If you want to read books in your mother tongue, try to find an ebookstore in your country and check which format and DRM they use. If they use Adobe DRM and epub, it’s better if you buy an ereader which supports such format and DRM rather than a Kindle.

Check this list of posts for international readers of electronic books.

Do I want to get ebooks from different sources?

If you want to get ebooks from different sources (it’s the way it should work, but due to DRM/formats it isn’t), then you’ll have to assume that getting those ebooks and adding them to your device won’t be easy.

For instance, if you’ll have Kindle, you will be able to enjoy 1-Click purchase only when you buy an ebook from Kindle Store. If you want to get it elsewhere, you’ll have to either send it by email or add by connecting an ereader via cable to a computer. And be aware that only unprotected mobi files can be added to Kindle.

Am I ready to learn about conversion?

If you decide to have freedom in where you get ebooks, you should be ready to learn about the tools like Calibre, which is an ebook management application.

I don’t recommend it. A first thing on a list of my personal reading preference is convenience. I’d rather stick to one ebookstore than play with conversion, because I will be able to benefit from all the features: seamless buying process, synchronization of books across devices, virtual bookshelf.

Which ereader suits my needs?

Now it’s time to select a model. Most information about ereaders on the web is which one to pick up, so I won’t do it. The sites with best tech reviews of electronic devices are MashableTechCrunchEngadget and The Verge.

What I’d like to point out is that you shouldn’t only focus on what tech reviewers say, but also listen to yourself. If you read someone recommending Kindle, but you really prefer to buy books from Barnes & Noble and don’t want to bother with conversion, go and select the best of Nook models.

Do I need an ereader now?

Now ereaders costs below $100 and this gives a feeling of a bargain. Please, before buying one for yourself or your wife or your dad, ask yourself a question: do I need it now?

Going into the world of ebooks, discovering all the benefits can be done without buying a dedicated device. You can use a computer to browse ebookstores. You can test ereading applications on a smartphone to learn how easy it is to buy ebooks or what are the ways to customize the user interface, font size, etc.

Do I need an ereader at all?

Testing is good, but what you can also go through is your reading preferences. How much time do I spend a day reading a book? Do I need to stay connected? Do I like to read ebooks with pictures or animation?

You may find out that a better device for you is a tablet. Or you may find out that you’re good with your smartphone.

* * *

The nice-looking ereader with a content you can’t add is not a nice ereader. Don’t let yourself leave in a situation you buy a device at a bargain price and keep it on a bookshelf, because you don’t have time and energy to learn how to convert your old pdf files.

Via ebookfriendly

4 Comments on Buying an ereader: a checklist, by Piotr Kowalczyk

  1. I think this article makes it sound too difficult to get into ebooks, and too locked into a single vendor.

    This may be true of the e-ink readers, but if you spend a little more and get a Kindle Fire you can load the Barnes and Noble e-reader on it; if you get an iPad 2 or an iPod Touch you can load all the major e-book apps and comparison shop all the major vendors with little difficulty.

  2. Good analysis. I returned my NOOK Simple Touch yesterday as I found out it was not what I was hoping for. I have been reading eBooks since Peanut Press days on the Palm Pilots, and have been a fan ever since. My wife couldn’t stand the thought I was reading on my iPhone (which I do comfortably), so she wanted to get me an EReader. I wanted one I could carry around easily in a pocket, so went for the NOOK Simple Touch as I have tons of B&N format ebooks, and we share the account. She did warn me about the page turn flickers, but the latest software was supposed to make that less noticeable according to B&N. It does lessesn the flicker slightly, but I found the flickers to be annoying even so. E-Ink looks nice, but the slow transitions, the flickering, and the ghost images of previous pages bothered me too much. I see why she prefers her Color Nook so much!

    Plus, it wasn’t all that portable! I do not carry a briefcase, and it is really NOT pocketable in most cases. In a sportcoat sometimes (dependent on pocket size), or a winter coat even, but not otherwise. And the only case that MIGHT work to protect the device (which seems cheaply made) while making it portable — a silicone one — actually made it twice the size and weight.

    Honestly, I also think it is overpriced. Is e this as a $49-$59 device at best based on it’s form factor, limitations, and cheap construction. Certainly not $99, and barely $79 worth of value.

    In the end, I gave up. Needed to be smaller, less page flickering, and sturdier for daily pportable use. Oh well, I will still use eBooks, but the phone is just fine for me!

  3. I think analysis is great. I purchased an eReader last year, when the library I work at got “into” ebooks. It’s been fabulous. I did look at many of the factors mentioned in here. I LOVE my ereader. Yes, I push a button to turn a page, but my reader at least feels somewhat like a book. I can read it outside, on our boat, or with a light before I turn in. I haven’t totally given up on paper materials, either. However, it is SO much nicer to pack for a trip to the cabin or for a brief stay elsewhere, without having to load 10 paperbacks in my carry-on!

  4. Just a heads-up for Canadian book-lovers who wish to download free ebooks from public libraries….

    Amazon does not (yet) allow Canadian library members to download library ebooks to their Kindles.

    In this holiday season, many kind folks may buy Kindles for book-loving, library-loving relatives, not knowing this.

    http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/books-video-music/downloads-ebooks/ebooks-faq.jsp#kindle

    http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2011/10/06/kindle-public-library-ebooks-canada/

    Here’s to librarians, independent bookstores and great books!

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