Given the choice of E-book reader devices,  it certainly is a bit confusing to select one. Well, here is a list of ten things I feel you should consider before getting yourself one.

  1. Own a smart phone, iPhone, iPod touch or a netbook?
    If you already own the above devices and you don’t mind the smaller screen / LCD display and lower battery life, then look no further. You don’t really need an E-book reader device. You can merely use software like Lexcycle’s Stanza or MobiPocket E-book reader to convert your phone / netbook into a very capable E-book reading device. And you can spend the $200-300 you’ll save on books to read. If you still want an E-book reader though, read on. (Amazon also has a Kindle app for the iPhone)
  2. Build quality and weight
    Since you will be carrying around your E-book reader  all the time, its weight and build quality assume importance. Try and go for a device that looks and feels sturdy and is low on weight. Also another aspect to look at is the control design. This may be especially important if you are left handed.
  3. Screen Size
    Most e-book readers today come with about 6 inches of screen space and several font sizes. Do pay attention to screen size if you like large screens, or would like to read in larger font sizes.
  4. Battery Life
    Since you expect to be reading on the device for long hours, try and look for devices with a long battery life. While page turns are a good indicator, remember that the number of page turns you can get out of the device are also a factor of how often you use the other features of the device. For example playing MP3’s on the device or reading audio books will drain the battery quite quickly.  Also look at how long the battery takes to charge. I think it would be pretty irritating if you would need to leave the comfortable couch and read while being tethered to the charging point, every time the book got interesting.  Another thing to look out for is whether the battery is easily replaceable. If not, you may need to cart the device to a service center every time the battery need to be replaced.
  5. Expansion Slots  and Memory
    You can expect E-book Readers today to have at least 512 MB of in built memory. Most models can also expand the memory to 4 GB through the use of card slots. Some other devices like the Kindle give you 2 GB of space but no option to expand memory later on. If you intend to carry a lot of books on your device this may be a factor to consider.
  6. Device Content and delivery
    The single most important thing in my opinion is whether you can get content for your device or not. Try and choose a manufacturer who either has his own online store or has tied up with publishers to provide titles for the device. Nothing is more frustrating than buying an E-book Reader and then finding out that you can’t buy anything to read on the device. A related issue is file format support. Ensure that there is the widest possible file format support on the device that you choose. Also ensure that the device supports one or more DRM formats for paid content. Popular DRM formats that you should look at are Amazon AZW, ePUB, MobiPocket and PDF. Lastly, pay attention to how you would be required to get content on to your device. Most people would be fine with the standard USB transfer that most devices have, however if you are the kind who likes to read on the go do look at wireless support.
  7. Geographical Location
    This may seem a bit weird, but where you live is quite important when buying a device. One reason is that some features may not work in your geography. For example Kindle’s Whispernet won’t work outside the US, leaving you with a somewhat crippled device if you live outside the US. Secondly geographical location is important also because of language support on the device. If you live in China and buy a device that can’t display Mandarin or Cantonese characters or change the menu to these languages, your device is probably worthless to you. Lastly also check if local content is available for your device. This may be a factor if you wish to read local language books and material on the device.
  8. Bells and Whistles
    Another aspect to consider are the various bells and whistles that come with the devices. For example, text search and dictionary lookup along with a touch screen aren’t all that important to me. On the other hand they might be very important to someone else. So do look at what additional features you would want. Remember that these features would also raise the cost of the device over that of basic E-book Reader.
  9. DRM and Sharing
    In the old days, you could just lend your copy of your book to your friends after you were done reading or sell it to a second hand store. Unfortunately the way DRM is structured today, it isn’t possible to donate, lend or sell your copy of the e-book after you are done reading. (This is another reason in my opinion that e-books should typical cost 10-30% of the cost of a hard copy). However some publishers let you share e-books between a limited number of users. For example, Cool-er users can share their e-books between as many as five devices. So if sharing content is important to you, do consider this.
  10. Price
    Lastly the price. Well, get the cheapest possible device with most (if not all) of the features you want. Need I say more ? :)

Next time, I’ll conclude this series on E-book Readers with a look at some of the future trends in this industry and some concerns that need to be addressed.

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One Comment

  1. KonstantinMiller says:

    I have been looking looking around for this kind of information. Will you post some more in future? I’ll be grateful if you will.