If you’re a music lover, you know how handy it is to take songs on an iPod everywhere you go. Now, finally, Canadian book lovers can enjoy the thrill of never having to drag a suitcase full of paperbacks to the cottage again. Just drag and drop them into your e-reader.
Similar in size to a novel but thin as a CD case, e-readers can store hundreds of books, magazines and newspapers. The content can either be downloaded through a wireless connection or transferred from your personal computer. Unlike computer screens, the displays on e-readers don’t blast your eyeballs. The words are formed using so-called e-ink that emulates the softness of the printed page.
Only a few e-readers are on the market now, though more are coming soon. We pulled the two most popular off the shelf to find out which is best.
Amazon Kindle 2 ($259 plus shipping)
Ever had the sudden urge to dig into War and Peace at Starbucks? With the Kindle you can. A wireless connection instantly hooks you up to Amazon’s online store where you can choose from 320,000 titles. The prices are 60% off printed books and downloads take less than a minute.
Not a bookworm? Don’t worry. The Kindle lets you subscribe to newspapers like the Globe and Mail and National Post for $10 to $14 a month, or magazines like Time and Forbes for $3 to $5. It also plays MP3 music files and lets you transfer PDF files, Word documents and photos from your computer at home. You can even add notes to your documents using the keyboard.
The Kindle has one big drawback though: You can only buy books through Amazon — so you’re essentially locking into an e-book vendor monopoly.
Sony Reader Touch Edition ($350)
To paraphrase Henry Ford, the Kindle is available in any colour — as long as it’s white. Sony’s Touch, however, comes in red, silver or black.
We found the Sony superior in other ways besides fashion. It’s smaller, lighter and you can download books from more than one source, including Chapters-Indigo, public libraries and Sony’s eBook library. It also has a nifty touch screen to flip pages with your fingertips. Like the Kindle, the Sony plays MP3s and lets you read Word and PDF files.
The Sony falls short in two areas: a smaller selection of magazines and newspapers than what’s offered through Kindle, and no wireless downloading. To get a book you have to use your computer then transfer the file to the e-reader.
Kindle’s wireless downloads are convenient, but we resent having to buy everything through Amazon. With the Sony there’s more choice, including reading some books for free at our local library. That, plus its sleek design, makes the Sony our winner.
So should you rush out to buy it? It depends. E-readers are a relatively new technology, and more models are coming out soon. Apple’s new tablet computer, for instance, is expected within weeks, if not months. If you need to have the latest technology, it may be time to make your move. If not, you could wait and see what the next generation of readers has to offer.