Among E-Readers, Competition Heats Up

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John F
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Among E-Readers, Competition Heats Up

Post by John F » Thu Jun 10, 2010 1:25 am

June 9, 2010
Among E-Readers, Competition Heats Up

WHEN Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, introduced the iPad, he bluntly took aim at the rapidly emerging e-reader market. “Amazon has done a great job” with the Kindle, he said. “We’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a little bit further.”

The iPad’s full-color screen and its ability to browse the Web and run thousands of applications certainly make it more versatile than the Kindle, but Apple is not the only company bringing more than just black-on-white text to readers.

AsusTek, Dell and Hewlett-Packard will soon be following Apple’s lead, bringing to market large-screen tablets that are ideal for reading books and newly formatted digital magazines and newspapers. And unlike Amazon’s and Sony’s stand-alone e-readers, which are limited by monochrome E Ink screens, the new multipurpose devices provide access to the Web and other applications.

Does this mean dedicated digital reader devices will be landing in the grave? Not quite. While the price of many basic e-readers has been cut to stimulate sales, companies like Barnes & Noble and Spring Design have melded those E Ink screens with secondary color displays to add some Web functionality to primarily single-function e-readers.

The result includes smarter devices and more choices. Here’s a roundup of products to consider in choosing a digital reader now.

APPLE IPAD - The iPad, starting at $499, is often described as an enlarged iPhone, but with a 9.7-inch, multitouch display, it offers a lot more. In addition to being a video player and Internet device, it can be instantly transformed into an e-reader by downloading the iBooks app from the App Store. Any of the 1.5 million-plus books in the store can be downloaded to the device when connected to Wi-Fi or a 3G network.

Paging through an e-book is as simple as swiping a finger across the screen, and thanks to animation, it appears as if a real paper page has been turned. Unlike the black-and-white-only experience of other e-readers, the iPad is the way to enjoy color-filled children’s, art and comic books. Other applications in the App Store, like the Kindle app, provide access to additional books and magazines. At 1.5 pounds, though, the iPad is heavier than other e-readers like the Kindle.

BARNES & NOBLE NOOK - Unlike a tablet, the Nook, at $259, has two screens: a six-inch monochrome E Ink display and below that, a 3.5-inch color touch screen that can be used for browsing book covers and the Web, and adding bookmarks. While the Nook can be used for updating Twitter, playing Sudoku or reading news sites, it is primarily an e-book reading device because of the E Ink screen.

Although E Ink technology turns pages and refreshes more slowly than an LCD, it does save power and is easy to read indoors and out. The Nook features built-in wireless connectivity, enabling over-the-air purchases of any of Barnes & Noble’s 1.5 million e-books — 500,000 of which are free. When connected to a Wi-Fi network in a Barnes & Noble store, entire e-books can be browsed before purchase.

One of the Nook’s distinctions is its LendMe feature, which allows e-books to be shared for 14 days as long as the borrower has a Nook or a free e-reader app on a PC or Mac computer, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. As when lending a paper book, the owner cannot read the e-book while it’s on loan. The 12.1-ounce Nook can be held in one hand quite comfortably.

SPRING DESIGN ALEX - Like the Nook, the Alex, $399, marries a six-inch E Ink display for reading with a 3.5-inch color touch screen. But unlike the Nook’s secondary screen, the Alex’s LCD runs a full-fledged version of the Android operating system from Google, typically found on smartphones. While access to the Android’s app store is not available on the device, it comes loaded with a Web browser, calculator, e-mail, photo gallery and music player. The button located between both screens synchronizes the two and provides an option to read whatever is displayed on the LCD — a Web site or blog — on the larger black-and-white screen.

The Alex doesn’t use a 3G connection like the Nook or iPad, but instead relies on Wi-Fi to download books. The Alex provides access to more than a million free books from Google Books, but not to current best sellers or contemporary titles. A best seller has to be downloaded from another store and transferred to the device, at least until Spring Design brings Borders’s e-book store to the Alex later this summer.

AMAZON KINDLE - The Kindle, $259, may not be representative of the new wave of e-readers, but it remains the best-selling digital reader. Compared with the others, the 10.2-ounce Kindle is the Plain Jane, but that is not necessarily a bad thing for those looking for a dedicated reading device. It has a six-inch display, which is great for reading indoors and out, but it is not optimized for browsing the Web or quickly turning pages. The device has a small joystick and page forward-backward buttons for navigating books and menus.

The real appeal of the Kindle is its selection of 540,000 e-books that can be downloaded from using the Kindle’s built-in AT&T 3G wireless connection. Not only are there many modern books along with the majority of publications on the New York Times best-seller list, but also subscriptions to magazines, newspapers and blogs. A read-to-me feature converts text to speech, though the reading voice is best described as robotic. The Kindle also supports audio books.

Amazon’s e-book reach spreads beyond the Kindle. Once a book is purchased, it is available through a Kindle program for Macs and PCs, and its applications for BlackBerry phones, the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
John Francis

John F
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Re: Among E-Readers, Competition Heats Up

Post by John F » Thu Jun 10, 2010 1:32 am

Still not persuaded that this is a way I want to read a book or magazine. But if I did, I'd demand a color display. Many books and just about all magazines have color illustrations, sometimes vitally important, as in a book on art history; for these to be reduced ad hoc to shades of gray is unacceptable, to me anyway. That would point to the iPad. But I also don't want an e-book reader to weigh more than a real book, and I want it to be easily readible in daylight or a well-lit room. Which would seem to put the iPad out of court. So I guess it's still paper for me.
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Re: Among E-Readers, Competition Heats Up

Post by Ralph » Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:23 am

It's ONE way to read. This week I've already read four real books, two novels and two history and I'm also reading two books on my Kindle. The ease of using the Kindle, I carry it everywhere, adds to my reading time. For example, holding a book while driving is awkward but I can read the Kindle by holding it in front of me and turning pages with one finger.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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Re: Among E-Readers, Competition Heats Up

Post by HoustonDavid » Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:33 pm

Ralph, I would hope (and assume) you are intelligent enough to only read or look at your
Kindle at stop lights, not with your foot on the accelerator and your other - non Kindle -
hand on the steering wheel. Better yet, only when parked and the engine turned off. Of
course, you could then step out and breath the warm summer air with both hands on the
Kindle and eyes on the text.
"May You be born in interesting (maybe confusing?) times" - Chinese Proverb (or Curse)

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