Kindles and iPads and Nooks and Books….Oh my!

Over the last year or so it seems that every technology company and bookstore has come out with it’s own electronic reading device.  First there was the Kindle, touting its eye-friendly screen (honestly it is).  Then there was the iPad and it’s ability to work like a mini-computer  (at least that’s how it worked in my house). Amazon returned Apple’s serve by throwing in WiFi, making the Kindle smaller, and adding other new features.  Did Amazon succeed?  I wouldn’t know.

Throughout this paperless book frenzy I have remained determined to stick to the print.  For any of you who have read my Who? page, you know that I love hardcopy books.  For any of you who actually know me, have been to a bookstore with me, or have just gotten me on the subject of books, you know that I find picking up a book and the smell of a bookstore to be heavenly.  There is nothing better than perusing shelves, old books with paper thin pages, the smell of leather binding, etc.  I love books!  It’s the simplest way to put it, yet people keep trying to convert me to the electronic versions.  Thus, in an attempt to be fair to those technologically inclined and due to my recent interaction with Kindles and iPads, I have decided to compare the many models on the market.

Before I delve into the 0s and 1s of which ereader is best I want to put it out there that I am not against technology.  Geez, if I were, having this blog would be very hypocritical.  Additionally I would have to relinquish Rufus, Ruby, and Buddha (a.k.a my laptop, my blackberry, and my ipod – yes people I name my electronics).  I am definitely plugged-in, so much so that I try to unplug myself for a week once a year.  Enough about my technological life — onto the reviews!

To start I came up with a list of criteria to judge each device.  First, page turning.  How do you turn the page?  Is it similar to real life or do you simply press a button?  Are there actual pages? Second, how fast will you go blind reading off the screen?  Do you have to fork over money for an extra anti-glare film?  Or, can you easily read the screen without squinting in rain or shine?  Third, and this one is just for me, smell.  Can any of these devices provide me with an authentic book smell? Fourth, bookmarking and annotating.  Is it possible to “dog ear” a page?  Can you easily annotate a section and quickly find it later?  Fifth, how vast is the book selection?  Are you limited to classics and new releases or can you find that one book your friend’s friend found at that kitchy bookstore?  Sixth, how portable is your book?  Seventh, because what else is technology if not the plugged-in factor?  What extras does the device offer?  These are my 7 criteria and I will judge harshly, but fairly.*

Amazon’s Kindle Reader

: new starting at $139
Specs (courtesy of amazon.com):
 .33in depth
    holds up to 3,500 books and documents
    8.7 ounces
    free 3G wireless
    comes in graphite or white
Page turning:
Smooth page turning for seamless reading
Uses real page numbers in this version, instead of just location codes.  This makes referring back to a page or section easier.
Requires you to push a button to change the page, so no chance of a full hand page turning experience.
Stacks rating of 2.5

Blinding factor:
E Ink Display (all the rage in ereader technology)
The E Ink makes it easy to read the screen in bright light
(no additional anti-glare film necessary)
Not always the easiest to see in a dark setting, such as an airplane.
(My reading light didn’t work once and I had to use my neighbor’s.  It worked until he decided he no longer wanted to read.  Then I was unable to see my Kindle)
The new version of the Kindle can read to you!  This option is only available in English.
You can change the text size and the font to make your reading experience easier on your eyes.
Stacks rating of 4

Olfactory:
Mmm the sweet smell of plastic and hardware.
Stacks rating of 0

Leaving your mark:
The Kindle allows you to lookup words, highlight, and leave notes.  This is possible on books and pdfs.
All of your annotations are easily accessible and found in one place.  This makes it simple to go back and read through your highlights.  However, all the surrounding text is not available unless you leave the listed notes and return to the book itself.  This can impeded a full understanding of why you highlighted that portion, because the context of surrounding text is not present.
Stacks rating of 3

Selection:
800,000 books
Classic books for free
Magazine and newspaper subscriptions
9,000 blogs – which is unusual for an ereader
Supports pdfs
Most titles are $10 or less
Audiobooks too!
Stacks rating of 4.5

Portability:
The website claims that the battery can last up to 2 months with WiFi off.  However, with any electronic device over time the battery wears out and its life decreases.  Expect the battery life to only last up to 2 months for the first 4 months you own the Kindle.
The Kindle is easy to charge on the go with a USB cable.  Just plug it in to any computer or any car charger that comes with a USB outlet (most smartphone chargers have a USB outlet)
The Kindle app for your computer and phone allow you to read books other places.
It’s easy to download a book to your Kindle even when you don’t have access to the Whisper network or 3G wireless.  By simply plugging your Kindle into your computer and access your Amazon account you can upload your next read.
Stacks rating of 4

Plugged-in?:
The current version comes with WiFi and an experimental browser.  I’ve seen the browser work well and I’ve seen it have glitches.  Granted this is a step up from the old Kindle and it is labelled experimental for a reason.
Allows you to access thousands of blogs and with the browser you can access regular sites, too.
There is a built in Twitter and Facebook, so you can stay up to date with social networking.
Stacks rating of 4

Total: 22

Barnes & Noble nook Simple Touch Reader

: new starting at $139
Specs (courtesy of barnesandnoble.com):
   6in touch screen
    .47in depth
    7.48 oz
    holds up to 5,000 books
    expandable memory with microSD memory card
Page turning:
The touch screen allows you to get your whole hand involved, similar to turing a page in a real book.  For this touch screen, though, you tap the screen to turn the page.  So, unless you want to tap the screen with your whole hand and follow through in a swift upward page-turning motion, turning the page will still feel very mechanical.
Stacks rating 3

Blinding factor:
The nook has the same E Ink technology that the Kindle has.  This means that the screen is easy to read in normal and bright light, but you have an issue in darker settings.
It’s also possible to chance the text size and the font for an easier read.
Stacks rating of 4

Olfactory:
Mmm the sweet smell of plastic and hardware – really what else can be said?
Stacks rating of 0

Leaving your mark:
On the nook you can leave your mark through personalization.  The fact that the nook supports jpg files allows you to upload a photo to use as a screensaver.
You can also organize books onto shelves by category, alphabetical, etc, which is not an option available on the Kindle.  This makes it easier to find a specific book.
The nook also allows you to look up words, highlight and leave notes.
Stacks rating of 4

Selection:
2 million titles
Supports pdfs and jpg
Magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
Most titles are $10 or less
Additional option of borrowing ePub titles from your local library.
1,000s of free titles
In store assistance at any B&N store
Stacks Rating 4.5

Portability:
There are nook reading apps, which allow you to read your books on other devices like a computer.
Comes with USB cable for easy charging.
Also claims a long battery life, but this is always subject to change.
Stacks rating 4

Plugged-in?:
The nook has its own social network called “nook friends.”
This network allows you to lend and borrow books from your nook friends, receive recommendations from friends while shopping, and search for new reads on friends’ profiles.
Includes WiFi, but not sure if you can access blogs, twitter, or facebook.
Stacks rating of 3.5

Total: 23

Borders’ Kobo Wireless Reader:

new starting at $100
Specs (courtesy of borders.com):
 6in screen
    .4in depth
    8oz
    holds up to 1,000 books
    additional memory with microSD card
    available in black and white

Page turning:
Requires you to push a button to change the page, so no chance of a full hand page turning experience.
Stacks rating 2

Blinding factor:
E Ink technology. This means that the screen is easy to read in normal and bright light, but you have an issue in darker settings.
You can change the text size and font.
Stacks rating 4

Olfactory:
Mmm the sweet smell of plastic and hardware…
Stacks rating 0

Leaving your mark:
You can organize books on shelves or anyway you would like, similar to the nook.
There’s no personalization aside from choosing the color of your device and its case.
There was no indication of whether you can highlight, look up words or annotate, but seeing as this is standard on other ereaders we’ll give the Kobo the benefit of the doubt.
Stacks rating 3

Selection:
2.3 million books
1,000s of free titles
Supports pdfs.
Magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
Stacks rating 4

Portability:
States that the battery lasts up to 2 weeks, which is probably more like one week.
USB cable for downloading books and easy charging.
Desktop software to help you manage books on the computer.
Kobo app allows you to read books on your computer, smartphone, and other devices.
Stacks rating of 4

Plugged-in?:
WiFi, but it appears to only be for shopping.
Stacks rating of 1.5

Total: 18.5

 

iPad 2:

new starting at $499
Specs (courtesy of apple.com):
   9.7in touch screen
    .34in depth
    1.33 pounds
    2 built in camera
    option of up to 64GB
    WiFi and 3G options (At&t or Verizon)
    available in black & white

Page turning:
Slide finger over screen. This means it’s easier to simulate turning a real page.  Just like with the nook you can add a nice follow through in a swift upward page-turning motion.  Nevertheless, it won’t feel like you’re really turning the page.
When you read a book on the iBook app the animation displays pages behind the one you’re reading, just like when you hold a real book.
There’s the option of reading a page at a time (portrait) or two pages at a time (landscape).
You can have VoiceOver read you the page contents.
Stacks rating of 4

Blinding factor:
The iPad does not use the E Ink technology, since it is more like a personal tablet than and ereader.  Instead it uses a LED backlit display.  LED is good for dark areas, but not so good for bright places.  Looking at the screen is more similar to reading from a computer than another ereader.  I know people who have bought an anti-glare film to help with this issue.
It is possible to change the text size and the font.
Stacks rating of 2.5

Olfactory:
Mmm the sweet smell of metal and hardware
Stacks rating of 0

Leaving your mark:
As with other apple devices, it is possible to choose your own screensaver and background.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you can get the iPad engraved just like the iPod and iPhone.
The fact that the iPad is a personal tablet allows you to listen to music while reading.
iBook and the Kindle app allow you to look up words, highlight, and leave notes.
With the iBook and Kindle apps you can organize your shelves anyway you would like.
Stacks rating of 4.5

Selection:
200,000 titles with iBookstore
Also has a Kindle app and allows you to access your Kindle books
Some titles are free
Includes illustrated books in color
Supports pdfs
Magazine and newspaper subscriptions
Stacks rating of 4.5

Portability:
10 hour battery life, but if you’re doing more than just reading on the iPad I would expect it would run out faster.
USB cable for easy charging.
The iPad is significantly heavier than other devices, making it bit harder to carry around with you.
Stacks rating of 3

Plugged-in?:
Oh yes you are!  I really can’t say much about this, because you have the whole world wide web at your finger tips.
Stacks rating of 4.5

Total: 23

*Disclaimer: I have not had the opportunity to play with all of the rated devices.  Much of my reviews have come from product description and user reviews.

Sites used for Information
http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Wireless-Reader-3G-Wifi-Graphite/dp/B002FQJT3Q
http://www.apple.com/ipad/
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nook/index.asp
http://www.borders.com/online/store/MediaView_kobowifi

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