eBook reader buyer's guide: four challengers to the Kindle

eBook reader buyer's guide: four challengers to the Kindle

Announced this week, Borders new $199 Kobo eReader is one of several alternatives to Amazon's Kindle eBook readers. Here are four choices if you're looking for your first eBook reader

Choosing an eBook reader is not a simple task as prices and features vary a lot between different manufacturers, however one key differentiating factor is whether you plan to read eBooks often, or just now and then.

Borders new $199 Kobo eReader isn't the only challenger to Amazon's Kindle eBook readers. Let's look at four alternative choices to the market-leading Kindle and Kindle DX.

Screen Technology

Regular readers who read many books every year should consider an eBook reader which uses eInk screen technology like the $199 Borders Kobo, $US259 Kindle or $US489 Kindle DX.

eInk technology is best suited for heavy readers such as frequent international travellers or public transport commuters because it has ultra-low power usage, since the battery only gets used when changing pages or using the eBook reader's buttons.

Many Australians enjoy reading outdoors and eInk is the best screen technology for this purpose because it's easy to read even in bright sunlight. We confirmed this by reading a book with the $US489 Kindle DX in the middle of Sydney's Hyde Park at noon on a bright sunny day.

Note that an eInk screen isn't backlit, so it needs external lighting for you to be able to read it in the dark, just like a paperback book does.

The Apple iPad

Apple's new iPad has a rich LCD colour screen and is priced for early adopters at $629 to $1049 but those who can afford it will have a great visual and tactile experience with the ability to read eBooks by flicking between pages using your finger, surfing websites and watching videos.

The tradeoffs for the iPad's big glossy screen and immersive user experience is it's more difficult to view the screen in bright sunlight, and roughly 10 hours of active use. This is much less battery life than an eInk eBook reader which typically lasts a week or two on 1 charge.

Pioneer DreamBook W95

There are several other brands offering eBook readers, including Pioneer's DreamBook W95, which at $149 for a colour screen with support for a wide variety of eBook formats, could be popular with casual readers or as an eBook reader for children.

Note that the DreamBook's 5in screen is 1in less than devices like the $199 Borders Kobo or $US259 Kindle, and smaller screens display fewer words so you have to press the button more often to move to the next page.

Connectivity Options

The big difference between the Kobo and Amazon eReaders is that both Kindle models have an inbuilt 3G mobile data transfer capability. In theory, this means you could be sitting in a park while having lunch, feel the urge to read "Down Under" by Bill Bryson, press "Buy" and start reading 60 seconds later.

The Borders Kobo

The cheaper Kobo relies on side-loading books via a PC or laptop with a USB cable or a smartphone via Bluetooth, but has the edge over the Kindle by allowing you to load any of the freely available two-million-plus ePub format older books at no cost.

As an example "The Sea Wolf" by Jack London is an out of copyright book which costs $2 to buy via a Kindle's 3G connection to the Amazon store, but comes free pre-loaded on the Kobo along with 99 other classic books.

Summary: which path to take

The Bebook Neo has an interesting feature allowing you to draw or write on screen with a stylus, but at $569 with a 6in screen it is poor value for money.

The 6in Kobo is the netbook of eBook readers, with a limited number of key features, but is relatively cheaper at $199.

If you plan on reading a lot, and want the convenience of instant book purchases without messing about with USB cables or Bluetooth smartphone pairing, you have a clear choice between the $US259 6in Kindle, and the $US489 9.7in Kindle DX, which offers a premium large screen for consuming large amounts of text quickly.

The Apple iPad will let you do many things besides read eBooks if you can afford it and understand its strengths and weaknesses.

 

Model Apple iPad
Bebook Neo
Amazon Kindle DX
   
Price
$629-$1049 $569
$US489
Screen Technology
LED Backlit IPS LCD eInk grey scale. WACOM touchpanel for drawing/notes
eInk 16 level grey scale
Screen size (diagonal)
9.7in 6in
9.7in
Claimed battery life (eBook reading)
10 hours (varies depending on backlight level) 7,000 page turns
1 week (with 3G on)
eBook transfer
USB/WiFi/3G (model dependent) USB 2/SD Card/WiFi
3G
Weight
680-730g (model dependent)
298g
540g
eBook formats
ePub/ePub DRM/PDF/Kindle/ TXT/HTML/Apple FairPlay DRM
ePub/ePub DRM/PDF/TXT/HTML/ Adobe Digital Editions DRM
Amazon Kindle DRM/PDF/TXT/ DOC/HTML
Colour/s
Black front, White back
White
White

 

 

Model Amazon Kindle
Borders Kobo
Pioneer DreamBook W95
   
Price
$US259+shipping
$199
$149
Screen Technology
eInk 16 level grey scale
eInk 8 level grey scale
TFT Color LCD
Screen size (diagonal)
6in
6in
5in
Claimed battery life (eBook reading)
1 week (with 3G on)
2 weeks/8,000 page turns
Up to 8 hours
eBook transfer
3G
USB 2/SD Card/Bluetooth (selected devices)
USB 2/SD Card slot
Weight
290g
221g
eBook formats
Amazon Kindle DRM/PDF/TXT/ DOC/HTML
ePub/ePub DRM/PDF/ Adobe Digital Editions DRM
ePub/ePub DRM/PDF/ HTML/Adobe Digital Editions DRM
Colour/s
White
Black or White
Black or White

 

See more about:  ebook  |  kindle  |  dx  |  kobo  |  ipad  |  bebook  |  neo
 
 

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