Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reading eBooks

I've spent a lot of time this past year reading as much as I can about as many different topics as possible. Most of this reading has been using my beloved Vaio laptop for things I've found on the internet. What I've been missing though is some good, old-fashioned books. There's been a couple of problems with that. First, finding a reliable, affordable source for English-language books while outside of the U.S. has been tough. Amazon's everywhere but you should see what it costs to ship books from the U.K. or the U.S. Second, carrying around one book, much less the next few on my list gets heavy. During my last visit to the U.S. I decided to purchase an e-book reader since it seemed to solve these problems.

I looked into four options: the Apple iPad, the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and a variety of Sony readers. The iPad was expensive, heavy, and way too large for what I was looking for. They are beautiful and are probably a good choice if you are looking for a single device that can pretty much do everything but I already have a laptop and was looking for something that's easier on the eyes.

Cue the "e-ink" options. The Sony readers, as with all Sony's products, were beautiful but expensive. I then checked out the Kindle but I found two problems. The newest version seems very nice but it wasn't yet available (it is now) and you can only read Amazon-bought books on it (which I found out later isn't really true but what I was led to believe by the reviews I had read and Amazon's site). I went to a local Barnes & Noble near Philadelphia and liked what I found with the nook. Here's a photo of mine:

The Nook is relatively light weight (12 ounces - the iPad weighs twice as much) and the screen is excellent for reading for a long time. You won't even notice that you're not reading a physical book after about 30 minutes. The Nook has built-in WIFI, which allows you to wirelessly purchase and download new books as well as go online using a no-frills-but-functional browser. I can use the web feature to access my Google Reader and gmail but not much else. The book prices are good too. Most books cost between $10 and $12. It's a good price for a newer book that you'd have to buy in hardback for $30 but bad for a "classic" that'd cost $5 for the paperback version. You can also download/read free PDFs, out-of-copyright free books (Google Books, Project Gutenburg, and more), and "borrow" books from real libraries over the internet. I figure it'll take me about 20 or so books to recoup my e-reader investment but the easy-on-the-eyes reading, the light-weight, and portability are worth what I've spent.

There have been a few drawbacks though. The "e-ink" screen is great for reading (especially outside in sunlight) but it isn't back-lit like a computer or iPad or something else. You need to read with a regular light (just like you would with a normal book) if you want to read at night. Not really a problem, but something that might bother some people. Second, you can DOWNLOAD books to the Nook anywhere in the world, which is great and what I wanted, can't BUY books from B&N if you are physically outside the U.S. Doh! I played with a couple of options, none of which was a great solution. I got as far as adding the books to my shopping cart on the website but couldn't complete the purchase. Finally, I called my brother in the U.S. and asked him to login to my B&N account and hit the "Pay" button for me. It worked like a champ--thanks Kevin!!!

Another drawback, shown in the photo below, is, as with all electronics, that it doesn't like being dropped! If you look closely, on the left side of the screen, there's a gray line running just to the left of the text. That's the result of me dropping my backpack with the Nook inside.

Fortunately, the damage hasn't made it a problem for reading as all the books that I have loaded are centered outside the "gray stripe" and everything else still functions. The e-reader has been great for me. I've polished off more than a book-a-week (seven) since owning it--probably more books than I have read for leisure in the last few years combined. If I can just keep from dropping it again...

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