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It's 2010; What's the Best E-Reader? 684

Posted by timothy
from the one-that's-out-next-year dept.
jacob1984 writes "A few years ago there was a question about which e-reader was the best. Since then, the market has been flooded with new additions, many of them more open than others. Have you bought one yet? If so, which one did you find best and why?"
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It's 2010; What's the Best E-Reader?

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  • iPad? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Chris Lawrence (1733598) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:15PM (#31138148) Homepage

    Well, it's too early to say, of course, but the iPad looks like it might actually have potential. I have never purchased an e-reader before as I have always preferred books, and the quality of ereaders was just never good enough for me. This is the first product I might actually give a chance. Of course, the fact that it's more of a general purpose tool and not *just* for reading ebooks makes it much more useful.

  • Re:The Sony (Score:5, Interesting)

    by biryokumaru (822262) * <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:16PM (#31138160)
    Plus you can mount it under Linux and just copy over your books. My wife has a PRS-500. It's a little slow, but it is one of the earliest models. Definitely the most consumer-friendly option.
  • Re:Answer: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:18PM (#31138176)
    It's too damn heavy. I use a nokia n800 some but the screen is a little small. I'm eyeing the iPad. It looks like it's close to what I want and the wifi one is not too pricey. It may be a little big though.....must research more.
  • Re:Answer: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:20PM (#31138210) Homepage
    Personally, I prefer my desktop. It may not be portable, but the screen's much bigger and with my bad vision, that's an important consideration.
  • Just got a Nook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zwede (1478355) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:23PM (#31138234)

    Reason I went with the Nook is that it accepts non-DRM epub files (kindle does not).

    For its intended use it is OK. But it also has its issues. The menus are sluggish. I have had a few crashes (automatic reboots).

    I'm sure ebooks is an area where we will see massive improvements in the next year or two. Faster e-ink screens, in color, and touch sensitive (rather than having a separate touch screen).

  • Sony eReader (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:37PM (#31138362)

    I bought my gf the Sony eReader a year back and she loves it. The fact that it reads PDFs and several other types of files she enjoys makes it the smarter choice. The Kindle has too many lock down features. It's amazing to say this about a Sony product, but it's surprisingly open for what you get. The battery life is great and the eInk is a cool thing as well. I'm waiting for the color version of the eInk to become a bit cheaper on these eReaders before I buy myself one. I read way more mags than I do books and the bright screen on laptops and i-Products hurt my eyes after extended periods.

  • Re:Kindle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:37PM (#31138366) Journal

    The hardware is amazing, and substantially more capable the the competition

    Not sure about that. I have an iLiad which doesn't waste space with a keyboard and has a wacom tablet over the screen for accurate drawing. It has WiFi, runs Linux and X11, and can run arbitrary applications. It supports CIFS, so it can sync with your computer over your WLAN. It has MMC and CF slots for other apps; someone even produced a version of Wikipedia for offline reading that fits on a 16GB CF card, and there have also been ports of web browsers and RSS readers, among other things (even a terminal; the device gives you full root access if you want, or a consumer-electronics type interface if you don't). The screen is bigger than the Kindle (800x600 for the Kindle, 1024x768 for the iLiad, both the same DPI) but the overall form factor is about the same.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @08:27PM (#31138798) Homepage

    ...fooled me twice, shame on me.

    I bought a Nuvomedia Rocket eBook in 2000 over the counter at Barnes and Noble. (The company and products were acquired by Gemstar and marketed for many years as the Gemstar REB-1200).

    The device itself was fine. More than good enough. 20 hour battery life and that was for real. I read many long novels for pleasure on it. I took it on trips and loved the convenience of being able to carry eight full-length books with me in a device with the same size and weight as one trade paperback. Of course 2010 devices are better in every way, but the Rocket eBook was good enough.

    What was not good enough was DRM.

    I've been taught a lesson. I am now the proud owner of over $300 worth of useless bits. They are encrypted and keyed to a serial-numbered hardware device which bit the dust last year. In theory, this is no problem, as the books and Gemstar's record of my ownership remains on the servers. All I need to do is buy a new device, call Gemstar customer service, have them reencode my books with the new device serial number, and download them again. Except that Gemstar doesn't exist, Gemstar customer service doesn't exist, and the servers were shut down long ago.

    Because of another limitation of DRM--I couldn't share my books with my wife even if she had her own Rocket eBook reader, which she didn't, she didn't know that I had purchased an e-copy for $15, and bought her own paper copy for $15. She can still read her copy. She will still be able to read it twenty years from now. She can lend it to a friend. She can sell it on eBay.
    Scarcely five years after purchase, I cannot read mine and will never be able to read it again.

    eBooks should cost far, far less than print books, not merely because their marginal cost of production is tiny, but because they deliver far less value than a print book.

    I've seriously considered writing to Jeff Bezos and saying I will only buy a Kindle if he will arrange to get me free Kindle copies of all the books I bought, which the eBook industry has rendered useless piles of bits. The word theft gets thrown around rather casually with DRM gets discussed. Well, I feel that denying me access to the books I bought and paid for in good faith is theft. When the eBook industry, as represented by Amazon, is willing to make me whole, then I will start buying eBook devices and content again.

  • Re:Just got a Nook (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BerntB (584621) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @08:37PM (#31138920)
    Can the Nook handle password-protected PDFs? (Some publishers sells ebooks like that.)
  • Re:Kindle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @08:49PM (#31139018)

    The Amazon Kindle. Is this even a legitimate competition?

    If you were on a site with "normal" people, maybe not. But this is Slashdot, and very little of what the typical consumer is interested in will even make it into this discussion (and if it does it'll get "offtopic" or "overrated" mods).

    Instead, I expect this discussion will be all about whether a reader can mount from Linux, run Linux, or can interpret TeX.

  • by Eric Green (627) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @08:54PM (#31139058) Homepage
    The situation in ebook readers today reminds me of the situation in portable digital music players in April 2003, the month Apple introduced the iTunes Store. There were literally thousands of portable digital music players out there, the vast majority of which looked like portable USB keyfobs as far as operating systems were concerned, all of which played open unencrypted mp3 files. Then there was Apple selling their own proprietary-DRM'ed music files -- but it was integrated with the computer hardware and with their iPod music players. In the end people decided the convenience of having one application handle all their content whether local or located on a portable device was more important than the DRM, and the iPod won the portable digital music player contest by a landslide.

    Right now, there are only three players that integrate content, software, and hardware: Sony, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Amazon's Kindle wins the content war by a landslide, but their hardware looks dated and obsolete compared to the new readers from Sony and B&N. Sony's content situation is horrible -- books from Sony's ebook store actually cost more than paper books purchased in bookstores! The Nook right now is unobtainium and a bit unstable, as you'd expect from version 1.0 of a product, but is decidedly better hardware.

    The wildcard is Apple. Will they do for ebooks what they did for digital music? The problem is that the iPad will have, realistically, a 5 hour battery life in normal usage, and that just isn't enough for most situations where I might haul my e-book reader. If I'm doing an intercontinental flight that is 10 hours long, a 5 hour battery life is a "don't even bother" for me. My Sony e-reader, on the other hand, will happily let me read books for 10 hours at a time, and still have plenty of battery life left, thanks to the e-ink display. It's just that my selection of content is rather limited -- all I have on it, for the most part, is Baen Webscriptions stuff (no DRM, reasonable prices), and you can only read so much sci-fi warporn before you're sick and tired of sci-fi warporn.

    So I'm keeping my eye on Apple. But unless Steve Jobs has a change of heart on e-ink (which he sneers at) or there's some revolution in LCD technology that allows it to generate readable displays without a backlight and thus get decent battery life (don't care if it's as good as e-ink battery life, but it has to be at least competitive with the Nook's battery life!), the hardware simply isn't good enough. Otherwise I'd be reading books on my iPhone via Stanza or etc., which I'm not doing because realistically I only get three hours of battery life that way -- far less than if I fire up my e-ink based reader.

    Oh, what about all these *other* ebook readers? Some of them have nice hardware and software. But it's all about content, in the end. I suspect they'll end up just like all those portable digital music players that plugged in like keyfobs -- they'll still sell, but the readers that allow a fully integrated content cycle (purchase, transfer, read) will be the ones that most people buy, because for most people, they just want to purchase books in a convenient manner and not worry about how they get onto the ebook reader.

  • by Bman21212 (1067680) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @08:56PM (#31139082)

    http://www.entourageedge.com/entourage-edge.html [entourageedge.com]

    It will be out in a month, but so far seems amazing. Runs on android. Has one side of e-ink and one of lcd.

  • by Eric Green (627) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:08PM (#31139184) Homepage
    The average print science fiction paperback sells approximately 20,000 copies (this is an actual number from an actual mid-level author who has a good reputation in the industry). The majority of the cost of a print science fiction paperback is not the marginal cost of production, which is miniscule -- it costs less than $1 to print and ship a typical mass-market paperback. Rather, the majority of the cost of a print science fiction paperback is related to the costs of creating the actual content -- the editor, the proofreader, the cover artist, and the author's advance, which is probably going to be about $12,000 on that paperback (and figure he's going to get around $8,000 more in eventual royalties before the book goes out of print). Baen appears to believe that if you price ebooks at approximately $2 less than paperbacks and sell them direct, you can make the same amount of profit that you made from selling paperbacks. That's probably a reasonable indication that the price of producing an ebook is not much less than the price of producing a paperback novel, because Baen can price ebooks this way only because they're selling direct, without the $2 markup imposed by the supply chain.

    I do agree, however, that the DRM situation is one decided reason to avoid e-books right now. The DRM situation is driving piracy right now because I, like you, am not going to invest large sums of money into throw-away content. I have files on my computer that are 25 years old now, that have been faithfully transferred from one computer to the next first via RS-232 serial cable and XMODEM, and later via Ethernet and either FTP or a network file sharing protocol. They're all still (mostly) readable because I avoided proprietary file formats, even though the first computer involved in this chain was a Commodore 64 and the last one is an Apple Macbook Pro. I cannot conceive of any scenario where I would allow a proprietary file format with no means of translating it into any other format exist on my computer.

  • Re:Wrong question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OttoErotic (934909) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:11PM (#31139200)
    I think that dedicated ereaders will turn out to be a dead-end technology like mini-discs and that this is one of those "back in my day" moments: this generation (myself included) are still emotionally invested in traditional presentations of text, so ereaders that mimic books to some degree seem like the natural way to go; the same way my parents still prefer physical media for audio and video. Once the next generation grows up primarily with ebooks, the need for this in-between, pseudo-traditional technology will fade. I love books, but my library gathers dust now while I do all my reading on my (small screen) Blackberry. Plenty of people "can't understand how you can read on that tiny thing" but it's perfect for me: backlight means I can read in the dark without a lamp; adjustable text size and color; quick bookmarking and annotating; and smaller chunks of text mean that I actually read more, as I've started sneaking in a page or two during what used to be dead-time. Not perfect for everyone, but it's been enough to prove to me that there's nothing sacred in a 6"x8" sheet of text.

    The big thing I'm waiting for now is an open, standard format that combines media-types. I would kill for an ebook/audiobook combo where I could bookmark what I'm reading, plug my phone into my stereo, and have the audiobook pick up at that bookmark for my drive home. Hell, why not video too? You read halfway through the battle of Helm's Deep, hear the rest on audio during your drive, and see the battle scene from the movie when you get home.
  • Re:The Sony (Score:5, Interesting)

    by quenda (644621) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:11PM (#31139202)

    I find it very surprising that the most open eReader on the market today is the Sony.

    Sony is a huge corporation. While the left hand is suing downloaders and rootkitting customers, the right hand is sneaking off and selling DivX players.
    I was pleasantly surprised to put a home-burned DVD with 720p mpeg4 avi movie in a PS3, and it just played!

  • Re:Kindle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by geekmux (1040042) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:13PM (#31139224)

    Sorry, but this is for the "best" eBook reader, not the one "most crippled by DRM."

    Sorry, but this is for the "best" eBook reader, not which piece of hardware you can hack and crack enough to steal as much shit as you can and homebrew apps all day long.

    Seriously, I'm all for tinkering, but damn, learn to judge a product by it's factory cover.

  • Re:Answer: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sowth (748135) * on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:14PM (#31139240) Journal

    Pirate Bay is the best source for books? I don't think so. Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] is the best source for books, unless you want technical manuals--then it depends upon what you need. There seems to be plenty of public domain and creative commons sources for those. (linux documentation prj., freebsd, lightandmatter.com, etc...)

    Or were you looking for modern teeny bopper crap? Just look for "fan fiction" sites (Halo [bungie.org] is "wonderful"), or just about any site [deviantart.com] which allows teenage girls to publish a "book." But then, those aren't any better than the penny rags [wikipedia.org] of yesteryear which are already in the public domain.

    Plenty of free places to legally get books. Makes me wonder why you would mention The Pirate Bay. Did some publisher pay you to do that so they could create "proof" they need DRM?

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:18PM (#31139276) Journal

    We're getting close, but I don't think we're there yet.

    My own expectations are:

    1. color;
    2. bistable display that consumes no power for a static image;
    3. high contrast display, easily usable both indoors and out;
    4. durable enough to withstand being stepped on without breaking;
    5. utilizes SD cards or mini-SD cards for expanded storage for documents;
    6. screen large enough to show a full 8.5x11" page without scaling it down;
    7. high enough resolution to read smaller fonts (such as footnotes) without zooming;
    8. screen update times of no more than a tenth of a second;
    9. allows user supplied (PDF) documents to be displayed, and not just DRM'd documents; and
    10. still costs less than a more functionally versatile device such as a laptop.

    If a company can hit all ten of these requirements, I'd buy one in a proverbial New York minute.

  • Notion Ink Adam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by linuxguy (98493) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:32PM (#31139388) Homepage

    It won't be out until June. However the specs are amazing and might be worth waiting for.

    http://gizmodo.com/5471559/notion-ink-adam-tablet-caught-on-video-specs-finalized [gizmodo.com]

    160 hours of battery life. Screen can be switched to B&W mode. HDMI out for 1080p video playback. Open source friendly. etc. etc.

  • Re:Answer: (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:34PM (#31139420)

    e-ink is overrated. LCDs aren't that hard on the eyes and since I don't read outside I often find they are better.

  • Re:Kindle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mysidia (191772) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @09:45PM (#31139518)

    Yeah.. but part of the formula is availability of real books.

    Many books are available as only DRM'ed eBooks in the first place. And it's not been shown that Amazon DRM is any worse than other DRM, for the customer.

    It appears that there are a lot of books available on the kindle store, that are not otherwise available as eBooks, or are much more expensive in other eBook formats. So that actually is a huge advantage of the Kindle over some other readers (easy acquisition of the materials you want to read).

    I shouldn't have to forego reading certain books, or read certain alternatives instead just because it's not available for my reader. That would be an inconvenience, and indicate a deficiency of the reading platform. Some eBooks being available only as AZW is a disadvantage all other readers have to count.

    My example for the moment is: IPv6 Security - Eric Vyncke (Author), Scott Hogg

    There is a kindle edition for $38.40. You can get that particular one as an encrypted, DRM'ed PDF from publisher, but that requires $50 to purchase the same thing as a PDF.

    Or a $500/year subscription through Safari.

    In any case, that is one of thousands of examples...

    You pay more for a PDF, and it is still protected by Adobe DRM and encrypted so it can only be registered on one eBook authorized reader.

    it appears to be a lot easier and less expensive to legally purchase and ACQUIRE Kindle format eBooks than to acquire electronic versions of certain books for other readers.

  • Re:Kindle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hey! (33014) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @10:07PM (#31139702) Homepage Journal

    I dunno. I like my Kindle, but all the math books I've bought have been so badly formatted as to be useless. When I read the same books on the Amazon reader for iTouch they're properly formatted, so I'm guessing something is broken with book rendering on the reader.

    I've had my Kindle 2 hard reset. The books I'd bought from Amazon I was able to get back, but I lost all my notes and bookmarks on the books I'd loaded over USB -- one of the key buying points for me. No ability to put my own documents on, no sale. But the documentation doesn't explain that when it says notes are backed up over WhisperNet, that's only for books that you have bought through the Amazon store. That had me *pissed*, because they essentially told me they were backing my notes up when in fact they weren't.

    Recently my Kindle has been taking a very long time to wake up from stand by or to go to stand by .. fifteen or twenty seconds. Enough to be annoying. At first I wasn't sure the Kindle was responding and so I'd hit the power button again, only to be rewarded by the Kindle turning on and off.

    There have been lots of complaints about customer service -- especially where there have been screen problems. Several people I know (whom I trust as truthful) have had screens fail do to what should be normal handling for an ebook. Some people claim that the screen failed after being put through airport security, although that hasn't happened to anyone I know.

    Finally, the user interface is really about as screwed up as you can make something that ought to be dead simple. Err. When do you want to hit "back" or "return" or "previous page" exactly? I know what to do if I think it through, but after over six months with the thing I still occasionally do the wrong thing.

    Oh, it's a very good device overall, but there is vast room for improvement, even without talking about major updates like color or touch screen input.

  • by kannibal_klown (531544) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @11:27PM (#31140260)

    Unless I'm mistaken...

    The biggest hardware advantage the Kindle has over the iLiad is the fact that the Kindle comes with a free data connection a-la Sprint.

    I saw a lot of people, a lot, using their Kindles while commuting on to New York City for a 1-week class I was taking.

    Combine that with Amazon's large one-stop library and it makes it a force to reckon with.

    If not for those 2 items, I'd say the iLiad superiority might be a no-brainer.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday February 15, 2010 @01:09AM (#31140892)

    The number of people that don't yet have a ebook and "don't get" the concept if e-ink is staggering. Clue: e-ink does not melt your eyes like a TFT with a backlight...

    First of all, I love books. I greatly prefer printed text above everything for reading.

    BUT.

    eInk is still quite far from printed text for readability - the contrast is not great, the "paper" is rather greyish. I do prefer reading books on an LCD to the Kindle, and I have read whole books on an iPhone.

    But - the reason why an LCD might have "melted your eyes" is because eye strain is easily caused when you try to stare at a bright LCD screen in an overall dark room. In short, it happens because it CAN happen. With an eInk display you have no choice but to provide enough ambient light to read in - if you simply provide that same level of light with any LCD they are not actually that hard on your eyes at all.

    And with an LCD you have the possibility for real full-color illustrations in an eBook, along with all of the other things you can do on a screen with a high refresh rate.

    I love the idea behind eInk, I really like the idea of it in a reader, but I don't think yet it is good enough to beat out a really good LCD for a good reading experience - and the iPad ships with an IPS panel which helps a lot with quality of output. Perhaps it's using cheap LCD's in the past that have "burnt your eyes out" - I can't stand using them either.

  • by func (183330) on Monday February 15, 2010 @01:59AM (#31141134) Homepage

    I use my Iphone for reading most books these days. Back in the day, I used to travel a lot for work, and usually had a stack of books on my crusty old palm pilot, which was nice for carrying around, especially since I used it for a lot of other things as well.

    These days, I don't go anywhere without my phone, and I find the screen just fine for reading books. A lot better than the old palm pilot. Since I'm already carrying the phone, the e-reader is basically free.

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