I’ve been thinking about getting a device for reading eBooks/PDFs, but the selection of eReaders is so wide and deep right now that I’m not sure which is the best investment. I’ve narrowed the field with a few criteria:
- The reading area should be no smaller than 6″, preferably 7″+.
- I don’t really care if the devices uses eInk or an LCD screen — I stare at a computer screen all day, every day, and my eyes are no worse for wear. I don’t read outside very much (sunlight–what’s that?), but I do read at night (typically with a lamp on).
- A color display might be nice, but for the books I read (technical, literature, philosophy, economics), is really unnecessary.
- I go back and forth on internet access. I want to be able to purchase books on the fly, but I don’t think I want full browser support because then I will be tempted to surf rather than read. (I do read a lot of blogs, but I want to focus more on books).
- The device must support bookmarks, marking and annotating passages, full text search etc.
- Format support is important:
- The device must have PDF support, and the screen size must be such that two- or three-column PDF formats aren’t out of the question.
- ePub or Mobi support is required.
- Text, HTML, and Microsoft Word format support would be nice.
- Image support (.jpg, .png) would be nice, but won’t be a show stopper.
- I don’t care about audio support. I have an iPod for that.
- Weight is a factor; I don’t want to feel like I’m getting a workout when I hold my device.
So far, I have looked seriously at two devices:
The Kindle gets universal praise and has pretty much every feature I want, and it’s also the cheapest eReader at $139 (for the base model). It is very light and feels nice to hold. The eInk display is crisp, but the reading area is only 6″, which means that PDF files with odd formatting may not display correctly. The Kindle lacks a touch screen, which I found slightly annoying when I tried a demo model (my first inclination was to drag my finger vertically across the screen to scroll the text), and user input requires a built-in keyboard.
The Barnes and Noble NOOK Color has a slightly bigger viewing area than the Kindle, and it’s color LCD is vibrant and appealing compared to the monochrome eInk display on the Kindle. It is also a touch screen with a virtual keyboard which is much closer to the iPhone experience I am used to. The Nook is actually a trimmed down tablet device — it has a built in browser and support for “NOOKextras”, which are small apps that can be installed. It’s a little over $100 more than the base Kindle device ($249), and is a bit heavier as well.
Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble provide large book selections: 810,000 and “over 2 million” respectively (at the time of this writing). I purchase a lot of books through Amazon, but rarely from Barnes and Noble. Most technical publishers that I favor offer PDF/ePub/Mobi versions of their books directly.
Finally, a special additional point in favor of the Kindle is that my hero Penn Jillette thinks it is better than the iPad.