Sunday, April 08, 2012

Looking for advice on an e-ink e-book reader

I'm thinking of getting an e-ink based touch e-book reader.  Does anyone have any knowledge in this market who would like to share their experience?

I did some research yesterday at Best Buy, and I liked size and feel of the Kobo Touch.  I also liked the Nook Simple Touch, but I'm not sold on the shape.  I could see how having the side buttons and the grip on the back would be nice for turning pages with one hand, but the bezel struck me as ugly and bulky.  They didn't have the Sony Reader, so I didn't get a chance to look at that.  The quality of the displays (at least, for the display models that were functional) were roughly equivalent, and very good.  I'm not interested in paying extra for a 3G data connection.  WiFi is enough.  In a pinch, if I'm on the road and want to download and read something, I can simply do it on my phone.

I'm not too inclined do go with the Kindle, simply because of the single-vender lock-in.  Amazon has intentionally made their Kindle devices incompatible with DRM'd books from other e-book sellers, and they have their own format that excludes other devices from consuming their e-books.  If I were in the market for a color e-book and multimedia tablet device, the Kindle Fire is unquestionably the best quality device currently available in that class, but I already have a smartphone, and I'm planning to get a tablet-style Windows 8 computer at some point to replace my aging laptop.

Amazon's proprietary lock-in does allow them to innovate faster than the rest of the market, but this mostly has benefits for dynamic multimedia content.  I'm interested in reading.  If I want a multimedia experience, other devices are more suited to that purpose.

I already read e-books on my phone, and it has apps for each of the major e-book sellers.  The point of wanting a dedicated reader device is to have an e-ink screen for reading books, which is much easier on the eyes and battery life.  Unfortunately, my choice of device will narrow down where I can shop for books.  I recently started using Calibre to manage my (currently small) e-book collection.  Calibre can convert e-books between different formats and devices.  At least, I know it will do so for ePub e-books, DRM or not.  I'm not sure whether it can take a DRM-protected Kindle book and put it on another device, or put a DRM-protected ePub book on a Kindle.  If it could do that, I would consider getting a Kindle.  Perhaps someone with more experience with Calibre can weigh in on this.

One piece of functionality in the "nice to have" category would be Goodreads integration.  I use Goodreads to share comments and updates on (and sometimes quotes from) what I'm reading.  If one of these devices had built-in support for Goodreads, that would be a plus.  I know the Kobo device has something similar.  I'm reading through the Hunger Games trilogy in the Kobo app on my phone, and it has little achievement pop-ups, similar to video game achievements.  If you connect it to Facebook it will publish those updates (I have avoided doing so).  What I want to share with social networks isn't arbitrary automatic blurbs:  it's my thoughts on what I'm reading.  You know:  something my friends might actually care about and want to engage in.

The purpose of this post is to elicit advice and discussion.  Please tell me about your experience with (or shared interest in) e-book readers!


  1. I have a Kindle and have not yet spent a dime on a book. I get my books from Gutenberg or from other free sites. I convert .epub and .txt books to .mobi (Kindle non-DRM) format using Calibre.

    There is a Kindle hack available which I used to set my screensaver photos (I have the "ad-free" Kindle). There is the Duofan hack which allows the Kindle to read .epub format, but I have not tried that.

    I am on my 3rd Kindle. In the first 12 months, Amazon replaced the Kindle at no charge. After the first 12 months, they charged me $65 for a replacement $120 Keyboard Kindle. I recommend getting a cover to minimize breakage.

  2. Oh good, Bill checked in. I was going to recommend getting his feedback. =)

    I'm very happy with my (ad-free) Kindle 3 and I LOVE and highly recommend the M-Edge Latitude case/cover. I don't use the keyboard as often as I thought I would but I'm not sorry I have it. I've used it to tweet my thoughts on a certain excerpt of a book before, which I like, but I've noticed it doesn't identify the book on the tweeted link (just calls it a "personal document") if it's from Gutenberg or *ahem* Bill. Maybe there's a way to fix that but I haven't looked further.

    The e-ink is fantastic.

  3. I also have a Kindle Tim. I agree with you that being locked in to a single vendor is not great and could cause problems if you ever wanted to switch. However, I have not had any problems converting and putting books and documents(pdf) onto my device.

    My kindle is a little older (generation 3) and does not have a touchscreen. The battery life for e-ink is great and lasts between 2 weeks and 1 month depending on how much I use it. I understand that the touch screen has a shorter life but I would gladly sacrifice more frequent charging for easier navigation.

    I also recommend getting a cover for whichever device you choose. Also, a thin, replaceable screen "sticker" will keep the most important part of the device (the screen!) scratch free for clear and easy reading. Therefore, don't bother with big, bulky devices that *look* rugged. I find that the added weight of these devices is noticeable and detracts from the reading experience.

    As far as choosing e-ink, I tend to agree with you for the most part. It's great for reading outside in sunlight or at varying angles and the battery life can't be beat. However, I have also read on my iPhone using the kindle app and find it nice when reading before drifting off to sleep at night.

    Let me also say a word about getting books on your device through It's easy. Extraordinarily easy. And, many of their titles are free (including the first book of less popular series in an effort to entice you to buy further books in the series - sneaky). I bought the wireless + wifi version and love how easily and quickly I can get books anywhere, anytime. However, I will admit that I rarely use the wireless network (I usually buy books when I'm at home) but it is very, very nice to have when you want it.

    Ok. I hope this is helpful to you. Let me know how your decision process goes!

  4. P.S. Kindle has released their source code.

  5. Apparently everyone has Kindles...

    I was able to find some good comparison reviews online of the different devices. This one from was particularly helpful, and as a result, I am currently favoring the Nook over the Kobo e-reader. I also learned a couple of things:

    1. The Nook is a rootable Android device, which means you can install any Android app, including the Kindle or Kobo app (but also Opera Mini, Google Reader, Read it Later, Goodreads, WordFeud, Android Widgets, etc.--anything that doesn't require a quick refresh rate)
    2. A new Nook is very likely to be just around the corner, so it's a good idea to wait until it comes out before making a purchasing decision. There are likely to be price drops on the old hardware and feature bumps on the new.

    I very much like the idea of a super-device, that can consume content from anywhere. This is why I have a computer hooked up to our TV--everything works with a computer. And everything works with Android. Technically I could do all of this on my phone, but I want e-ink. Right now, the Nook is the best option for an all-consuming device. It's compatible with the Sony and Kobo stores, whereas they are not yet compatible with the Nook store--although I think Calibre can take care of that.

    I did look at DuoKan for the Kindle, but dual-booting doesn't seem like a very good solution to me, especially compared to rooting. The whole point of getting a Kindle would be to run their software and be integrated with their store. I don't want that. I prefer to build my library in ePub format, at least by default.

    So, my current plan is to wait and see what comes out in the next few months or so, and either get the old Nook, or the new Nook, depending on the price/feature set.

    Unless I change my mind...

  6. Oh, and thank you all for your input and interest. I don't want to seem like I'm ignoring it. The Kindle seems like an excellent device and ecosystem for a lot of people (probably a good fit for most normal people), but I don't think it's for me.