Do I need an ebook reader?

There seem to be two schools of thought on the ebook reader front. The first is “I love my books I don’t need a computer to read them” and the other is “Woo Hoo! How did I live without this?”

I am in limbo between the two and so I figured I’d go through the back and forth I keep hearing in my head and let my trusted colleagues push me one way or the other.

First, I am in love with my books – the fact that my boxes of books took up like half of our moving truck is a testament to that. On the other hand I’m a total techie and love gadgets. I can see the practical uses for an ebook reader when it comes to non fiction titles, but do I really need it for my fiction titles? Then I think, do I want an ebook reader or a tablet (aka iPad or Android tablet). I know that the ebook reader has the eInk and is readable in all kinds of light, and the tablet isn’t, but the tablet can do a lot more for me than just let me read books. There’s also the fact that I travel all of the time and have to decide what books to bring based on how much they weigh instead of what I really want to read.

As you can see I’m a bit scattered in my thoughts on this and I’d love to hear what you all think of the devices you have – or don’t have!

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  1. Nicole, I’ve owned an iPad now for 6 months and before that read some on my phone through the Kindle app. I’ve played with some of the other eReaders, but when it comes down to it, I like having a device where I can not just read electronic books on it.

    For example, I’m taking my iPad with me when I go to the apartment complex gym to walk on the treadmill. I can read through the Kindle app, PDFs through a couple of apps, read RSS feeds offline through a couple of apps, read saved articles through Instapaper, and even read through Twitter & Facebook postings, offline, through Flipboard. For me, reading isn’t just what can come on a standalone eReader; my reading is done through the eBook apps & web content apps. I can carry it in a purse & it’s so much lighter than my laptop, which means it’s easy to travel with & also take to meetings.

    Hope that helps!

  2. Heather, that makes perfect sense – I just don’t know that I want to spend that much money on the iPad – maybe I need to wait for the Android tablet that meets my needs and does all the stuff you’re talking about…

  3. I love my books. But I recently bought a Nook because I was going on two 18 hr plane rides and I couldn’t imagine bringing along enough books in my carry on. I have really enjoyed the Nook. I did find myself trying to check email in airports on the Nook rather than getting out my laptop, and found the Nook sort of awkward to use for web browsing. I run Ubuntu on my laptop and while I think the iPad looks nice, I’d rather run something open source, plus I can’t really afford an iPad. I do like that the Nook will work with PDFs other than books bought through Barnes and Noble. Someday I hope there is an all in one device that meets all my needs, but until then, I am really happy with the Nook.

  4. I don’t work for Amazon, I promise, but I’ve owned a kindle for a couple months now (a 3rd generation) and I couldn’t live without it. It’s incredibly convenient, I read much faster on it, and it looks exactly like a book with it’s high-contrast, sharp text. I thought I would miss the tactile feel of a book, but I don’t at all.

  5. So what I’m hearing you all say is I need an ebook reader šŸ™‚ hehe

    I do have a 20 hour flight coming up, but I’m trying to save for my trip and don’t think I can buy one before I go.

  6. Hi, Nicole–

    I have a wifi-only Nook. At $139, it’s a nice deal, especially if you read a lot of articles via Instapaper (endless free content). It’s very comfortable to read on, and I’ve found myself wishing that the most recent paper book I’ve got checked out was instead on my Nook (this can quickly lead to breaking down and buying more books, I’m afraid). It’s been really valuable (worth the price of the first-hand knowledge) in helping to explain to patrons how the library’s downloadable ebooks work. I’m glad I have it. [One downside: slow start-up time. It takes at least 60 seconds after you turn it on to display anything. Not a big deal, but feels weird in the world of iPod/iPad lightning-quick start-ups.]

    And yet…I’m going on a trip this weekend, and I think I’m going to load this week’s reading (articles, anyway) onto my iPod Touch instead. If you have a device that does “more than books,” I conclude for myself, that’s the one you’re probably going to want to take on the plane (if you take only one)–at least as long as you’re comfortable reading on it. I don’t enjoy reading on the Touch as much as I do on the Nook, but I still enjoy it (I have friends who say they can’t stand reading on their iPhones).

    On the other hand–if you’re someone who has trouble claiming time to do nothing but read–just pure, flat-out reading with no interruptions–a dedicated device solves that handily. You aren’t tempted to check email, etc., and you can disappear into the book. And again–as long as you don’t buy too many books–it’s inexpensive. A tablet is in another league, money-wise.

  7. I recently bought my first Kindle book to read through the Kindle app on my iPhone. I like the interface reasonably well, although I makes me mad that I can’t cut and paste text. Just last week, though, I went ahead and checked out the actual book from my library. Why? Because I was tired of not knowing where I was in the book. When you hold a real book, you can feel where you are in it. It makes so much of a difference to me, to have that physical feedback of where I am in the story.

    I like reading on my iPhone, but I don’t know that I’ll try another novel-length book to read on it.

  8. I have a Kobo which got me back into reading for pleasure — something I hadn’t done in a very long while. I was never able to sort out a good night light for it though so I tend to use the Kobo for commute time on the train reading only. Love it.

    But, now that I’m reading more I find myself using my little android phone for ebooks in bed.

    I’m being pretty strict about buying only non-DRM’d ebooks so that makes it easy to shift them around. I was surprised at how much is available.

  9. I’ve been having almost exactly the same internal dialogue as you, Nicole. I love my physical books, but I’m really curious about how well e-ink works in practice, and I feel like I ought to know a little bit about that – and there is also the matter of that rather long journey coming up – so I went and ordered the 3. generation WiFi-only Kindle yesterday. I view it as a necessary experiment. I think I have some idea about how reading on a regular screen works, hence the e-ink, and I really like the idea of a device that’s all about reading long texts, where the temptation to “just check Facebook” is minimal (the Kindle has a browser, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be much use?).

  10. Thanks all for the feedback!! I too am interested in the eInk and love the way it looks (on devices I’ve seen others reading) but I’m also a serial multi-tasker and wonder if (even though it costs more) I should go the tablet route so that I can jump from book, to PDF, to blog, to website, to game šŸ™‚

    Keep the feedback coming!! Like I said I doubt I’ll get it before the big trip – but at least I’ll know what to save for.

  11. I love my iPad. I debated the value of buying it at first but now admit that I’d invest in a new one if it broke in a heart beat. I started using it as we began using them for reference at the library but I use my personal one for reading a lot. From epub to PDFs I find that I read more because it’s also with me. If it was a pure e-reader and I wasn’t already carrying it for email, web, etc… it probably wouldn’t have become part of my daily habits the way it has.

  12. I just bought a (wifi-only) Kindle yesterday, so my observations have limited empirical backing. BUT: I admire the e-Ink surface greatly; it’s really terrific, and I can see why proponents rave about it. The Kindle is light as a feather, and the idea that its battery will last week without a recharge blows my mind. I haven’t tried it with a real commercial Kindle-specific book yet; I’ll probably do that shortly, though.
    That being said, the small screen and the Kindle’s awkward handling of PDFs (the best PDFs convert gracefully, most of them don’t, and reading straight PDFs on the small screen with limited choice of rescale factors is frustrating) make Kindle a disappointment to me so far. Part of the answer involves finding/developing Kindle-friendly resources ā€” but I’m increasingly inclined to think that part of the answer involves just getting an iPad. Maybe once we know what the next iteration looks like.

  13. I’ve never used a dedicated e-reader, but I’ve started using the Kobo app on my new Android (will also look at the Kindle app). I’m using it to read on the train – it’s great to have something that fits in my pocket, for a 30-40 minute commute where I’m usually standing. I’m reading more, because I don’t have to worry about lugging a book around with me.

    I don’t think I could justify buying a dedicated reader yet, unless I could get library books on it. I don’t tend to buy books, I borrow them, and the price of the Kindle is more than I’d spend on books in a couple of years. That would change if the price dropped significantly, though.

    (A big advantage for fiction, I think, would be keeping track of characters in long, complicated novels. I’d also love an e-book that linked out to commentary, or sources that explained the context – especially for historical novels).

  14. Nicole – I think the best answer is there is no one size fits all for choosing an ebook reader. First decide what you want from one, then look at the devices. I covered a few of the differences here Choosing an eReader

    Personally I went with a Kindle for these reasons
    Dedicated device
    Limited-time promotional free selections ā€“ right now I have 44 books, I paid for 4 of them.
    Highlights and notes: Amazon keeps your highlights online at I can copy and paste these to Google docs or Evernote, which makes them searchable.
    Easy to use
    Syncing across devices. I have an app on my Evo and love it!
    Full keyboard for notes
    Use when Iā€™m speaking (read this post Why speakers should take a second look at the new Kindle)
    I can still use my netbook for library books.

  15. hi Nicole,
    I got a Sony Cruz reader a couple of weeks ago.It has the Android OS. So the gui is like the phone. Has wifi, this twitter app is great,email, browser,pandora, download pics, music and avi movie files (still working on that) AND a pretty cool reader,uses Borders books for purchase and free books. It bookmarks your pages so when you log in you choose the book from a shelf and it takes you to your last page read. I really rather read a book, but I love what else it can do.

  16. I read books on my netbook which allows me to also have the power to use Adobe products (yes, it’s powerful enough to do Photoshop editing!) on it as well as browse the web.

    I’m kinda tempted to buy an e-reader but until they can display image filled PDFs with ease, I’m staying my hand.

  17. I don’t think you should necessarily get an e-reader. It sound like you are in need of something that is much more of a multi-tasker. Wait until you can get an ipad or Android tablet and just use your phone for a reader if you aren’t able to take books with you.

    I read on my Droid just fine. Now I wouldn’t do it anytime I have the option to read an actual book. Nooks and Kindles are a great technology, but I feel that if I am going to put out a fairly large sum of money, I would wait until I could go all out and get something that will be useful in a variety of ways.

  18. I have owned a Kindle for three years and bought an iPad the week it came out. I read on both of them. What I have found is that I read for pleasure more than I used to do. I make more time. I carry the Kindle around with me in my purse so if I am waiting in an dr. office etc out it comes and I am reading. I also share an account with 4 other friends so that means we share books — makes the purchases even cheaper! I have many books on the Kindle at one time so whatever my mood, I have something to read. The books I buy on the kindle can download to the iPad. I also have book my child reads on it, different than my reading. She loves it since some of hers have color illustrations.

    I still read print books sometimes. I love books. Having an ereader has only enhanced my choices.

  19. Sue,

    Thanks for the feedback – I’m thinking it sounds like having both devices isn’t bad – except for the added expense associated with having them šŸ™‚

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