Expect not to read e-books on your e-reader when you’re buying it

Oh dear, I'm reading less books now I have an e-reader - Photo from Flickr by Aprilzosia licensed under Creative CommonsWith the aid of the public domain Calibre e-book management application, which enables you to automatically subscribe to any news website (via RSS) and the increasing prevalence of the open (non DRM) EPUB electronic book formats that you can dump Adobe Acrobat PDFs to, you may find that books are the last thing you read on your e-book.   Let’s face it, paperbacks are easily available.   Where e-books really come into their own (assuming you’ve installed Calibre)  is in pulling down content from the web (and making it comfortable to read anywhere without a computer), content you normally cannot get in hardcopy unless you want to run your laser printer overtime.   Documents and news content like:  

  • those 140 page Annual Reports you have to read occasionally
  • various frivolous and not-so-frivolous blogs that you’d love to keep up with
  • mainstream news sites like the New York Times or the Economist where most of the major stories are actually carried for free online
  • niche news sites you’d like to be able to browse occasionally
  • 30-40 page PDFs that you have to read for work

If this sort of content appeals to you then it has definite implications for what sort of e-reader / e-book you buy.   For example, the following e-book features bear watching if you expect to be reading other things aside from books:  

  • screen size: a lot of news websites and large PDFs contain tables and images. Unlike standard text, tables become meaningless when you can’t see the row labels.  You need an e-book with a 10 inch screen to handle this type of A4 content to be able read effectively, but  most e-books come in significantly smaller sizes. Screen size is measured diagonally so an average size e-book with a 6″ screen actually has a screen width of around 3 and a half inches … you won’t see an A4 width table in that – you really need at least a 5 inch wide screen (which roughly equates to a 10″ e-book screen size).
  • battery life: as effectively a substitute printer you need a long battery life. You aren’t just going to be picking up your e-book as you sit back in bed at the end of an evening . Battery-draining features like wireless connectivity or colour LCD displays such as the new iPad provides need to be weighed up against battery life.
  • page-refresh rate: on the Sony PRS-505 page refresh rate is about a second. This is probably the maximum tolerable if you are going to be reading a lot of content. Make sure the page refresh rate is faster than a second.
  • data charges: if you’re going to avail yourself of all this valuable free content (if that’s not an oxymoron) do you really want to pay ongoing 3G charges for your reader? When you switch your machine on you will have dozens of publications to choose from all continually refreshed daily automatically by just plugging your e-book into your PC.  A current (or in the case of Amazon ‘implied’) 3G mobile data charge just doesn’t seem necessary.  Assuming you have a smartphone if you really want time-sensitive web content you can always use that.
  • rich media support: closely related to the above issue, a 3G connection where you pay volume-related data charges could turn out to be quite expensive if your e-book supports rich media like video (for example the Apple iPad). Many of the news sites you are likely to use contain rich media (or in the case of blogs badly optimized large images) and you could even find that you’re paying to watch rich media ads!

At least at the moment your choice of e-readers that fit these criteria is pretty limited (a nice comparision table, from which the simplified table below is derived, can be found on the MobileRead website).  The iRex Digital Reader probably claims the high ground with a 10 inch display but has a notoriously short battery life and at over $800 is quite expensive. The Kindle DX at 9.7 inches looks better price-wise and it’s claimed it will run for 2 weeks with wireless off – but it seems likely that The 9.7" Kindle DX from AmazonAmazon will impose some sort of data charge as their Terms and Conditions state:  

“You may be charged a fee for wireless connectivity for your use of other wireless services on your Device, such as Web browsing and downloading of personal files, should you elect to use those services. We will maintain a list of current fees for such services in the Kindle Store. Amazon reserves the right to discontinue wireless connectivity at any time or to otherwise change the terms for wireless connectivity at any time, including, but not limited to (a) limiting the number and size of data files that may be transferred using wireless connectivity and (b) changing the amount and terms applicable for wireless connectivity charges.”  

If you need an e-book now (and if information you read is a key part of your job it’s worth  it!)  then probably the Kindle DX is the only option (and at the moment anyway the data charges are not an issue because you can leave wireless switched off and there is no annual charge imposed by Amazon).   However if you’re prepared to watch and wait, there are other large-screen devices emerging – devices and their estimated release dates below (see the MobileRead site for more):

Brand HanLin eBook iRex Amazon Kindle QUE Skiff enTourage Systems
Model A9 (unreleased) Digital Reader 1000 Kindle DX QUE proReader (pre-order) Skiff Reader enTourage eDGe (unreleased)
Display Size 9″ 10.2″ 9.7″ 10.5″ 11.5″ 9.7″
Battery Life ? 10 hrs with EVDO: “4 days”, without: “up to two weeks” “measured in days not hours” One week 16+ hrs
Other Interfaces USB 2.0 (charging), headphone, WiFi 802.11g, USB 2.0 (charging); 1000SW only: WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth USB 2.0, headphone, EVDO/CDMA USB 2.0 (charging), Bluetooth, WiFi 802.11g, 3G (US: AT&T) USB 2.0 (charging), headphone, WiFi 802.11g, 3G (US: Sprint) 2 x USB, headphone, WiFi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth, 3G (optional), 1.3 Megapixel camera, internal microphone and speakers
Price US$??? / €350 US$859 US$489 / €n.a. US$799 US$??? US$490
Release Date April, 2010 2008 10-Jun-09 15-Apr-10 2010 Feb-10

This article filed under the following 'Interest' categories (click category for more) Reviews

Like or dislike the work we're doing?   Please let us know by making a micro donation or just give us feedback by commenting. This blog implements a DOFOLLOW policy ('NoFollow Free') i.e. links are welcome in the text of the comment assuming they relate to the post (comments moderated).

Make Drivelry come to you. Email, RSS, Kindle and Twitter versions available on the right hand side HERE.

Article posted by @Drivelry on January 28, 2010

Filed under topics (click for more articles on that topic): , , ,

More Drivelry articles