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Choosing an Ebook Reader

Updated on July 28, 2010

Ebook readers are becoming very popular, allowing people to take hundreds of books with them wherever they go. The biggest drawback to date has been the lack of legitimate ebooks to purchase and the cost. I use mine for work and carry technical documents , brochures and reference books around with me. I also upload documents I want to read before a meeting so I can study them when I can snatch a few minutes of peace.

The biggest Issue

Publishers releasing a new book in hardback format want to make a good profit in the early months of the book’s release to try and cover their costs as quickly as possible. Then they will release the paperback version later at a lower price to capture the larger market that is not willing to pay the premium the hardback demands.

The ebook causes them a problem. There is no hardback, paperback differentiation but they still want their introductory ‘skimming’ pricing when the book is first released. So you see ebooks available for the same price as the hardback, no wonder people find ways to download books for free, or you can’t get them at all until the paperback version is released.

If you shop around you will find some good sources of ebooks. The most commonly available formats so far are Adobe Acrobat .pdf and Microsoft Reader .lit with Epub coming in a close third. When choosing your ebook reader start by finding out what electronic formats your favoured books are available in.

You should also take a look at www.gutenberg.org where you will find over 33,000 ebooks available for free, legal download. They are mostly classics that are no longer copyright protected.

Comparison of Ebook formats

Let’s take a look at the file size, it makes quite a difference to the number of books you can store on your ebook reader, though in reality you are unlikely to run out of space unless you acquire an awful lot of ebooks. It can make a difference to the speed at which you can resize pages or even how long it takes to turn pages.

For this test I used a classic; Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel. I started with a .pdf and converted into each format from there.

Adobe Acrobat - .pdf ; 1,935 KB ; 100%

FictionBook - .fb2 ; 1,647 KB ; 85%

Rich Text Format - .rtf ; 1,535 KB ; 79%

HTML ; 1,251 KB ; 65%

Mobipocket - .mobi ; 1,199 KB ; 62%

Plain text - .txt ; 1,152 KB ; 60%

Microsoft Reader - .lit ; 842 KB ; 44%

EPUB - .epub ; 532 KB ; 27%

Screen Size

If you measure a standard paperback diagonally across the print you will find that it is about 6.5 inches or 16cm. If you get an ereader with a similar sized screen then your reading experience will be about the same. You may be willing to accept a smaller screen to make your ereader more portable but don’t go too small or you spend all your time turning the page. A screen with a 5 inch diagonal is a reasonable compromise but I chose to stay with a 6 inch screen.

I still end up turning the page more often because I enlarge the text, a little, to make up for my failing eyesight. Kind of in denial about needing reading glasses but my ereader saves me from that problem.

Tempted by a Color Screen

Don't be. The E Ink technology that allows you to read outside without glare isn't available in color. If you choose a color screen you will have the same problem you have when you take your laptop outside, lots of glare and a hard to see screen.

Bottom Line

Decide what you will use your ereader for. If you will use it mostly at home as a book replacement then get a decent sized screen. If you travel a lot and your ereader has to go with you then consider a smaller screen if you really can’t make the space for a full sized ereader. Don’t go for something really small, you will regret it.

There is a more comprehensive look at eBook reader features here

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