An ebook reader, or ereader, is a digital device designed for reading books on the go in a device significantly smaller than your typical novel. An ereader tries to be user-friendly, compact, light and long-lasting in order to provide the best book reading experience possible.
These devices usually come with a six- to seven-inch screen in a plastic shell with a plastic screen, though the most premium options come finished in materials like glass and aluminium.
Many ereaders can be treated like a smartphone and only require a cable for charging. You can purchase and download books directly on the device and some Amazon models include free 3G connectivity, giving you access to Amazon’s full book library on the go.
What can ereaders do?
As indicated in the name, ereaders are for reading books electronically, but they can do more than that. Thanks to the vast inventory of resources behind them at large multinational conglomerates like Rakuten and Amazon, these ereaders come filled with helpful additions to make an ereader your one-stop shop for all things books. With an ereader, you can do the following:
Get books in seconds
Access the web
Get definitions for words
Read in or around water
Comfortably read at night
Have thousands of books on you at a time
Read with one hand
Make notes on a book
Adjust the size of the text
Know how long you’ve got to go in a chapter
Translate sections of a book
Simply browse footnotes
Easily read books in the public domain
Organise all of your ebooks
Read documents on the go
Borrow from a library
It is important to note, though, that not all ebook readers come with all the above features, and some brands don’t even have full consistency on features.
The upgrade cycle for ebook readers is vastly different to that of smartphones, which usually get a refresh each year, so you won’t have to worry about grabbing the latest-and-greatest as soon as it’s released. Due to the online nature of these devices, updates can be pushed out to make new features available.
Types of ereaders
There are two main options for ereaders: Amazon and Kobo.
Amazon offers several models of the Kindle, though some models, like the Voyage, are only available in the US and other select markets. Amazon also has a fully-fledged Kindle app for Android, iOS, PC and Mac, where you can browse through the collection you already have, purchase new books and even pick up from where you left off on your Kindle with Amazon Whispersync.
Kobo, owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, has several ebook readers on the market that directly compete with Amazon’s offerings. Similarly to Amazon, Kobo has several models available in different global markets.
Kobo’s app is available on iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Store, PC and Mac and allows you to continue reading your favourite Kobo books. Similarly to the Kindle app, you can buy, browse and customise your ebook experience right from the app.
How to compare ereaders
Choosing an ereader can be tough, but what it comes down to is what option offers the best bang for your buck, and which ones pack the features you’ll use. Design, materials, features and more all make a difference to what ereader is best suited to you.
It’s important to look at more than just price when comparing ebook readers as the features you’re looking for might not come with the cheapest model. There are a few key things you’ll need to consider before making a choice on what to buy.
If you like to read on the beach or beside the pool, look for an ereader that can handle a bit of water. The most common type of water resistance on ebook readers is IPX8, indicating that the devices can be fully submerged in water. Be careful, though. Manufacturers set the conditions under which their ebook readers are “resistant”, and they may not cover water damage under warranty. Both Kobo and Amazon’s water-resistance claims are for freshwater only.
Lighting can play an important role in how long it is comfortable to read for. Ereaders typically use front lighting. Different from the backlight found in LCD panels powering the screens of iPhones, TVs and more, front lighting illuminates the screen on an ebook reader without directly shining light towards your eyes. Some ereaders can also adjust the amount of blue light for more comfortable night reading.
Supported file types
The type of file supported by each ebook reader varies slightly, so if you’re really intent on reading the latest AZW file-type book, you will need to choose wisely. One of the most popular file types, EPUB, isn’t supported by Kindle. Amazon also has its own highly-popular file type, AZW, which you won’t be able to find on Kobo.
While it might not sound like much, four gigabytes of storage space on an E-Book reader might be plenty for the average reader, allowing you to store around 3000 books. If you’re a self-described bookworm, either 8 or 32 gigabytes of storage will allow you to cram quite a few more pages in.
If you’re short on power or travelling through remote communities frequently, choosing a reader with good battery life is a must. Each model will vary to some degree in how long it can last, with some claiming to last up to six weeks or more.
While the number of pixels crammed into a smartphone screen or laptop might be all the rage these days, it also makes a difference in the experience you’ll have with your ebook reader. The more premium ebook readers on the market today feature displays with 300 pixels per inch, strikingly similar to the iPhone 8, which sports 326 PPI.
Both Amazon and Kobo have mobile and web-based applications, allowing users to download and read while on the go. Amazon’s Whispersync remembers where you were in a book and lets you pick up where you left off on another device as long as you’re connected to the Internet.
Some of Amazon’s ebook readers come with free, built-in 3G connectivity. This means that you’ll be able to purchase and download new books on the go, both at home and abroad. Amazon’s coverage map shows you where you’re able to connect to the net from around the world. As well as accessing Amazon, you’re free to browse through Wikipedia.
Not all ebook readers will support the same languages, and some will only support the recognition of different characters. If you want to read in a language other than English, make sure to check if it’s supported by the device before you buy it.
Some features available in international markets might not work in every country, so carefully check the product description and reviews before purchasing.
Jack Baker is a regular contributor at Finder, covering a wide range of technology and gaming issues. He's especially keen on PC gaming hardware and peripherals and Android phones, and he's always hunting down the best deals.
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