Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ebook Readers

Amazon just launched a new tablet computer to compete with the Barnes and Noble Nook Color and refreshed their line of e-ink Kindles, again competing with B&N's Nooks. The highlights are a new, lower price point for the readers and heavy integration with the Amazon cloud for the Fire - the new tablet.

B&N will be announcing a new Nook Color in time to compete for Christmas and there are rumors that Amazon will launch a better tablet early next year.

I've been doing most of my reading on electronic devices this year, using a Viewsonic G-Tablet and a Nook touch. The Nook is great for what it is. It is light. The battery lasts a long time. I can carry dozens of books with me at once which was very useful while vacationing on a schooner with very limited space. It also works well in the sunlight.

But I've recently gone back to using the G-Tablet for my reading. At night it is easier to read a lit screen than a reflective one. I also like having to do fewer page turns. I tend to hold my book or tablet in my left hand. I can turn the page on the Nook by pushing a button on the left side (there is also a button for going back) but I have to press harder. On the tablet I can swipe right-to-left and turn the page. On either device I can also touch the right side of the page to advance.

There are drawbacks to the tablet. It weighs a lot more so I have to rest it on my leg. The battery life is measured in hours instead of days (or weeks) so I have to plan ahead so I don't end up wanting to read when it needs charged. Fortunately I can simply switch devices and keep reading.

The Nook app for Android has matured a lot in the last six months. Most of my complaints have been resolved. There are still a few issues. If I go from portrait to landscape and back it almost always goes back a page. If I leave the app and come back I have to reopen the book that I was reading.

The Nook Touch could use a few software improvements. Syncing between the devices does not always work. It knows what the current book I am reading is but it makes it difficult to switch between multiple books. The main screen is too busy trying to sell me new books and does not have a history. I have resolved this by having a shelf in my library for current books but that substitutes a manual process for something that should be automatic. The Kindle app does this.

But these are quibbles. With the cost of entry for ebooks dropping, this will keep growing as the preferred medium for reading.

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