Christmas 2010 eBook Buying Guide

This post has been updated. Read the latest version instead: UPDATED: Christmas 2010 eBook Buying Guide

Recommended, in order of best value:

1) Apple iPad: Via available free apps, it can be any eBook device now: a Kindle, a Barnes & Noble Nook, a Kobo Reader, a Sony Reader; plus there’s Apple’s own iBookstore (which I do not recommend due to lock-in DRM). Plus it can do Google Books PDFs right out of the box. And with Bluefire Reader it can now do public library eBook loans too. Due to size and weight, this is more of an at-home device.

2) Apple iPod Touch: As above, but bring-everywhere portability, although Google Books PDF viewing does not work properly, so don’t get it if you want that bit. Some people claim reading off an LCD is tiring. Just turn down the damn backlight. I read eBooks on my LCD-based LifeDrive all the time.

3) Amazon Kindle: The hardware can be frustrating, but it has the most books to buy and the most new books for free. It cannot do public library eBook borrowing, however.

4) Sony Reader Pocket Touch PRS-350: It’s small and light and fast and can do “classic” Adobe DRM ePub, which is required for public library eBook borrowing. It lacks wireless capability, which is sad.

5) Kobo Reader WiFi: A device with WiFi for just $129 is a steal. Mind you, the WiFi is just for shopping at Kobo/Borders, there’s no browsing the web, and having to use one button for the on-screen keyboard to buy books is slow, but it can do “classic” Adobe DRM for public library borrowing. It’s an inexpensive entry into eBooks with a reputable device.

6) Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-650: It’s a larger version of the Pocket with two storage slots and audio-playing ability added in. It too lacks wireless capability.

7) Sony Reader Daily Touch PRS-950: Even larger than the other two models, but it has WiFi and 3G for buying books through Sony’s eBookstore. WiFi — but not 3G — lets you view the web with its included browser.

8) Samung Galaxy Tab: It’s not an iPad, it’s a giant Android phone. Using free apps, it can be a Kindle, a Nook, a Kobo Reader, a Sony Reader, and it can use the Aldiko eBook reading software too. This is very expensive off-contract and not worth it at that price but it’s the first generally-available Android tablet out there right now that works well.

Not recommended:

1) Barnes & Noble Nook eInk and Color: The hardware is great but the DRM is lock-in to Barnes & Noble, which I think is a huge, huge mistake. The NookColor might be worth getting down the road as an inexpensive Android tablet if hackers can jailbreak it and replace its ROM, but that might be illusory.

If you can’t do any better:

1) Sony Pocket Edition PRS-300
2) Sony Touch Edition PRS-600

Both of those are on sale at low-low prices. The first is too slow, the second has a screen that can be problematic. But they are a low-cost entry into eBooks — and well-built devices — and can do public library loans.

Unknown at this time:

1) Archos 70 Tablet
2) Archos 101 Tablet
3) ViewSonic 7 Tablet
4) ViewSonic 10 Tablet

I have not yet been able to try any of these for myself and none of the reviews out there answer any of the questions I have, so I can’t say anything about them right now other than they might be worth buying.

Absolutely avoid, in no order:

1) Pandigital Novel
2) Cruz Reader
3) Cruz Tablet
4) Augen The Book
5) Augen Gentouch tablet
6) The Literati
7) Aluratek Libre
8) ECTACO jetBook
9) ViewSonic Open Book

— and anything else on sale in a drugstore, discount store, or a big-box department store that isn’t listed under Recommended. There are many, many devices flooding the market and they are very cheaply made and are buggy. None of them are any bargains and they will give you grief and probably break within a year or less of use. They make you think you’re getting into eBooks, but all they’re doing is taking you for a sucker and ruining eBooks for you.



Filed under eInk Devices, Other Hardware

12 responses to “Christmas 2010 eBook Buying Guide

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Christmas 2010 eBook Buying Guide « Mike Cane's xBlog --

  2. One other evaluation criteria (and I’m not asking you to go back through this post and add it, although it’s important to me), is ‘can you mark passages for future reference using this reader?’ and ‘can you make notes?’ I think most eReader buyers are avid readers. For me, because I occasionally review, I want an eReader that lets me mark passages I later want to quote, and frankly I’m reluctant to spend money on one that doesn’t both let me buy/borrow any eBook available AND mark passages. I don’t demand wireless download – I just want to know that if I buy a Kobo I’m not limited to buying only books Kobo and Borders stock. Since part of the reason for buying one would be to download global English-language fiction without having to wait six months or a year for North American pBook publication.

  3. thanks – so far the most “reader-oriented” review of these I’ve seen.

    Question, though: Why is it that the Nook Color DRM-lock-in to B&N is a deal-breaker, but the Kindle DRM-lock in to Amazon is not?

    • mikecane

      Because B&N is doing it with ePub, which was as close to being universal as we had until B&N cut off its own slice of cheese. Which is stupid: Why wouldn’t people with other devices NOT buy at B&N if the DRM had been compatible? I think people would have abandoned the Sony Reader eBookstore in droves for B&N. B&N hurt themselves and universality of ePub.

      • Voltage Spike

        You call it B&N cutting off a slice, but, as I point out, it actually makes the format less consume hostile while sticking with the same provider (Adobe) to ensure future compatibility.

        And yet, Apple also bastardized ePub by using their own personal DRM scheme. Apple doesn’t appear to be interested in developing readers for any non-Apple platforms, either. Somehow, though, Apple gets praised while B&N is chastised.

        So what am I missing?

      • mikecane

        Did you see I also said I do *not* recommend buying from the iBookstore? Apple was wrong too with DRM — and it has additional sins when it comes to ePub too.

  4. Voltage Spike

    The nook can perform newer, password-based Adobe DRM in addition to the “classic”, works-as-long-as-Adobe-keeps-the-servers-up DRM? And for that you rule the product out? You know you can still buy from all the same places you would for the Sony and use the nook, right?

    However, the iPad and iPod Touch, which pushes a completely different DRM standard and helped usher in the Agency model, make the top two spots?

    I know the nook fragmented the market a bit further (in that people that buy from B&N can’t currently read them on devices using the old Adobe software), but it was a tough choice made by Barnes & Noble on behalf of the customer.

    And B&N still offers eReader .pdb files for you to use on your Lifedrive.

    I’m sorry, but we just don’t see eye-to-eye on this one.

  5. Andrew Meit

    Thank you Mike! For scholars, nearly all the ereaders fail to properly support serious, intense and effective annotation of text and have the annotations be pulled into a word processor easily or wirelessly sent to a desktop app database. But you can via an app up to a point. ;-) From many conversations I have had with academic publishers* over the years, publishers have a deep fear every scholar is wanting to steal the whole book via grabbing text; hence PDF is big for them. Apple is going to have to put real pressure on publishers to allow scholars/students to fully use the ipad for research. Kindle is closest to the correct work flow, but it has limits. I think Jobs will listen to users needs and come up with a workable compromise; unless Bezzos bet him to it with a color Kindle made for students.
    Btw, I think Notebook for iPad from Circus Ponies is going to be THE killer app for ipad! :-)
    * As a person with disabilities, working smart than hard is my goal as a scholar: not having to ever handwrite/retype stuff from a book!

  6. willem

    Not sure by what you mean when you state that the Nook is DRM locked into B&N. Both Nooks can do “classic” Adobe DRM and be used for public library borrowing. It is B&N books that cannot be read by other readers (except Jetbook Lite strangely enough)

    So with a Nook you can buy from any Adobe shop, library books plus get from B&N. With say a Kobo you cannot buy from B&N! Your content choice is wider when you you buy a Nook, not less.

    • mikecane

      Nope. Your books from B&N are locked to one device: the Nook (setting aside apps). That is lock-in. I raged against Amazon doing that with Kindle. For B&N to do it with ePub is inexcusable.

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