How to Buy an eBook Reader

Amazon Kindle 2

So you’re sick of paper. Sick of trips to the bookstore. Sick of the weight of a fist-thick textbook in a backpack. Sick of working your laser printer to death for a stack of papers you’ll read once and trash (and sick of the guilty feeling you get when you do it).

It’s time for an e-reader. The once unheard-of category has been exploding recently thanks to the introduction of hot models like Amazon’s Kindle, which turned the market upside and whet consumer appetites for a device most of them didn’t even know existed. But what can you expect from an e-book reader, what should you look for in one? Here’s a primer on the advantages of e-readers, how to buy one, and a few specific models you’ll want to check out.

Flexable e inkWhat is electronic ink?

Prior to ink, there were no books. And prior to electronic ink, there were no e-books. It’s the vital display technology that makes reading off an e-reader different – and better – than simply firing up your laptop.

You can read our comprehensive guide to electronic paper for the lowdown on how it actually works, but here’s the critical difference that sets it off from an LCD screen: electronic ink holds an image without electricity. So while an LCD screen drains away juice every second its on during your 12-hour plane ride, an e-reader only requires a tiny dose of electricity when you flip the page, giving it exponentially longer battery life and taking the sense of urgency out of reading. E-readers even display attractive screensaver images when they’re off, since they require zero energy to maintain.

Almost as importantly, electronic ink looks smoother and strains the eyes less than an LCD screen. The smooth edges of type actually look like printed paper, and since the screen doesn’t refresh 60 times a second as most LCDs do, there’s no imperceptible flicker that gives many people headaches after prolonger reading on an LCD.

Fujitsu Flepia Color EbookUnfortunately, at the moment, almost all electronic ink is monochrome. For instance, the Kindle delivers 16 shades of grey. Color electronic paper is on the way, and Fujitsu already makes a Japanese e-reader that will do 260,000 colors, but it’s extremely slow refresh times present their own problems at the moment. And even monochrome e-readers can’t play video and animations the way an LCD can.

Where do I buy e-books for my e-Reader?

Once you have an e-reader, you’ll need to score some e-books to fill it up. And depending on which reader you have, the options may look totally different.

Amazon’s Kindle became the most popular e-reader on the market today largely because of its exceptionally cozy connection with Amazon’s own library of digital books, which currently hosts 385,000 titles. Because the Kindle comes with a built-in wireless modem and a limited access plan known as Whispernet, owners can download books anywhere they get cell phone coverage: on the bus, at the airport, or just lounging around at home. Unfortunately, Amazon only sells files in its own proprietary AZW format, which only work with the Kindle series of e-readers.

Sony E Book StoreSony offers it own library known as the e-book Store. While the number of for-sale books hovers somewhere above 100,000, Sony has recently supplemented the store with free public domain books supplied by Google, to the tune over 1 million titles. Unlike Amazon, Sony offers all of its titles in the open EPUB format, which will work on multiple devices.

Barnes & Noble’s eBook store is a latecomer to the market, but boasts the most impressive selection: over 1 million titles in the catalog, plus all the same public-domain titles from Google that Sony’s store offers. It caters primarily to the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader, but others, like the iRex DR800S, also tap into it.

Of course, you don’t need to visit the goliaths to buy e-books. Sites like e-books.com, Fictionwise (partnered with Barnes & Noble), and Mobipocket all offer books for sale as well. And sometimes you don’t even need to spend. Project Gutenberg offers over 30,000 free books in the public domain.

The dirty side of e-books: DRM

Once you own a paper book, it’s yours to do with as you want. You can read it, sell it, and if have it locked up in your house, no one can take it away from you.

The same is not true for e-books. Although e-book stores may give the impression you’ve paid for an electronic copy of a book, you’ve really only paid for the right to read it, and as many folks have found out, those rights aren’t transferable. They’re protected with digital rights management, or DRM. So after you’ve paid $10 for a DRM-protected book – the same price you might have dropped at a bookstore, or even Amazon itself – there’s no way to recoup it later by selling it. And if you wanted to lend it to your friend, you had better hand over the whole reader.

1984 George OrwellDigital books aren’t as permanent as their paper predecessors, either. Only back in July, Amazon accidentally sold electronic copies of George Orwell’s 1984, which it didn’t technically have the rights to distribute. To remedy the error, Amazon deleted the books from users’ devices and refunded them the money, leaving many to return to their Kindles and find one of their books missing. Unless you’re the frequent victim of literary cat burglars, that seldom happens with the paper copy of 1984 on the bookshelf over your bed.




Product Review

The Xperia 10 Plus feels great in your hand, but you'll still want to put it down

There has never been a better time to buy a smartphone with an unusual design, and one of the cheaper models out there vying for your attention is the Sony Xperia 10 Plus, with its 21:9 aspect ratio screen.
Photography

Panasonic Lumix S1R vs. Sony A7R III: Which pixel-shift powerhouse is better?

The Lumix S1R and Sony A7R III are different in design, but similar in performance, and both offer pixel-shift high resolution modes which pull even more detail out of their already high-resolution sensors. Here's how they compare.
Photography

Nikon Z 7 vs. Sony A7R III: High-res mirrorless cameras compared

The Nikon Z 7 and Sony A7R III both have over 40 megapixels, but which one comes out on top? With similar image quality, the answer comes down to speed, autofocus, battery life, and design.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for April 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for April 2018.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Computing

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.
Mobile

The Best iPhone 7 battery cases to give your phone some extra juice

The iPhone 7 doesn't have terrible battery life, but you never know when you'll need to juice up on the go. To help, here are the best iPhone 7 battery cases that can keep your smartphone charged and ready for long-term use.
Home Theater

The best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our favorites, with all the features you want.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Smart Home

Echo Plus (1st-gen) vs. Echo Plus (2nd-gen): How exactly do they compare?

Which Echo Plus should you buy? This guide compares the first-generation Echo Plus its latest successor, allowing you to get a better idea regarding the ins and outs of each device.
Mobile

Keep your huge phone beautiful with the best iPhone XS Max cases

Apple's iPhone XS Max might be the best large phone the company has ever released. But a bigger OLED display and body means there's more glass to crack. Keep your massive phone safe with the best iPhone XS Max cases.
Cars

Carbuying can be tiring: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.
Music

The best new music this week: Tallest Man On Earth, Cage the Elephant, and more

Looking for the best new music? Each week, we find the most compelling new releases just for you. This week: The Tallest Man On Earth, Cage The Elephant, Lizzo, Pivot Gang, and Sad Planets.
1 of 2