By Heather Camlot
Once upon a time, people who wanted to read a book visited a bookstore or a library, or borrowed from a friend.
Today, there’s another option: the eBook reader.
Although only a small percentage of Americans have an eReader, one in 10 according to a poll by Harris Interactive released last week, another 12 percent plan to buy one in the next six months.
Despite the cautious adoption, eReaders are shaping up to change the book landscape. While 40 percent of Americans read 11 to 20 books and 20 percent read 21 books or more in a year, of those with eReaders, 36 percent read 11 to 20 books and 26 percent read 21 or more books in a year.
“With eReader sales expected to continue to climb and as more devices now become available, it is inevitable that reading habits of Americans will change,” read a statement from Harris. And competition is heating up. Dedicated eReaders are attempting to make the ebook-reading experience as close to the real thing as possible – with extra bells and whistles like e-ink technology that eliminates glare, mass storage, text-size manipulation and built-in dictionaries.
Here are just some of the offerings:
The Kobo Wireless eReader aims to make reading a book as simple as possible. Browse the books, make your selection, and start reading. If you can’t find something among the 100 pre-loaded books, use the WiFi to immediately download from the two million plus books the service provides, including New York Times and Globe and Mail bestsellers, award winners and Harlequin Romances. Battery life is up to two weeks and the eReader can store up to 1,000 books (add an SD card for more memory). The nice thing about the Kobo service is you don’t actually need a Kobo eReader – just download the special software or app to read on your iPad, Blackberry, Android, Palm Pre, laptop AND desktop. Your bookmarks will follow you from device to device so you’re never without a great read. Available at chapters.indigo.ca, $149.
Sony’s newest entry in the eBook reader series is a super-slim device that lets you turn pages with a swipe of a finger. Along with touch navigation, we like the ability to access books from places beyond Sony’s online Reader Store (which alone offers 36 genres, from art and architecture to foreign language to travel) – like the one million free books at Google Books, eBook selections at public libraries and reads from publisher sites. The display holds up against the sun’s glare, and the expansion slots mean you can tote around 50,000 books at once. Battery-life is two weeks. Available at SonyStyle.ca, $250.
Amazon’s Kindle is at long last available in Canada. The reader offers 480,000 English book titles for this country, (including 135,000 under US $6), as well as American and international newspapers and magazines. The Whispersync technology syncs the Kindle to your computer, smartphone or iPad so you can continue reading wherever you are on whatever device you happen to have on hand and the WiFi lets you shop for more at any time. We like the Text-to-Speech function – basically your own personal narrator – a well as the one-month battery life and the screen that can be read in any light. Available through Amazon.com, starting at US $139.
We may not have a Barnes & Noble in Canada, but that hasn’t stopped the powerhouse bookstore from shipping its Nook eBook reader to this side of the border. We love the fact it’s readable in any light, WiFi-enabled (so you can shop for books from anywhere), has 2 gigs of memory to keep 1,500+ books in tow (plus the ability to add an SD card) and an app to sync your handheld devices. We’re not crazy about the 10-day battery life, but we do like the try-before-you-buy policy that lets you sample before spending. The double navigation (touch or keyboard), access to games, Google and MP3s, and the ability to lend eBooks to friends for free are also worth noting. Available through Barnes & Noble, starting at US $149.
Although not an e-reader per se, as it was developed as a multimedia device, the iPad has still made inroads into the digital reading experience. Though the iPad’s weight (1.5 pounds) and LED screen might be deterrents for the bookworm or average reader who likes to read anywhere at any time, the selection at iBooks and through third-party apps, including some by the eReaders mentioned above, and the ability to highlight, listen to and sample passages make the iPad a viable alternative. Available at Apple.ca, starting at $549.
With the Android-based, WiFi-enabled enTourage, you can do a little bit of everything: read e-books glare-free, write notes, record and play audio and video, or work in tablet format to browse the web, email friends, and manage files. The dual screens allow you to have your book open on one side and do research about the author or subject on the other side via Google or Wikipedia. The battery life comes in at 16 hours, but you can replace it with a spare. Available at enTourage eDGe Store, US $549.
Others to keep an eye on (but not yet available in Canada): Samsung E-60, Copia (which boasts a social networking to connect with other readers) and Fujitsu FLEPia.
First published October 1, 2010, on WorkLivePlayCafe.com.