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Topic: Choosing an eReader

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Subject: Choosing an eReader
Date Posted: 12/26/2014 12:56 PM ET
Member Since: 5/9/2010
Posts: 68
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I need some help picking out an eReader.  I'm totally new to this so forgive me if I have idiotic questions :-)

I want an eReader because: I want to be able to go out of town without packing several heavy books, I want to be able to adjust font size if necessary, I want to be able to look up words on the dictionary feature as I read, I like the idea of a lighted device in case I want to read in bed while my husband's sleeping.  When I read it's usually for at least 2-3 hours, and on the weekends I read all day long, so I'm not sure if battery life is an issue.

Many reviews say the Kindle Paperwhite is the easiest on your eyes to read, so that's what I was looking at, but now I'm wondering, if I get that, can I download books from anywhere on it, or only read books I buy from Amazon?  What about book formats and converting them to "your" ereader?  I would assume there are at least 2 or 3 formats that are universal, but is it difficult to convert them?  If I get books from the library, do I have to convert them?  How do I store books on the ereader?  If I wind up several years from now with 500 books, how can I find one I bought a long time ago?  More importantly, how can I keep track of what I already have and what I'm still looking for?  I mean, is there a way to organize all your books?  What's the difference between getting one with WiFi and one with 3G?

Can anyone please direct me to a useful website, or tell me what you would choose and what you like about yours?

Sorry to be so techno-illiterate!

Date Posted: 12/26/2014 1:24 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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The two main formats are ePub and mobi. Both are available with DRM locking or without. This choice is made by the publisher. Amazon uses mobi. There are also PDFs. These would let you scroll down the page rather than turn pages. A definite feature when reading on a phone.

Most libraries offer various formats.

For an ePubs reader, you will need Adobe Digital Reader on your computer, for the books with DRM.  It is free to set up an account.

I highly recommend Calibre. It is an eBook organizational app. You can use it on your computer. I use it to back up my eBooks on to a flash drive.

I'll let someone else talk about devices.

Date Posted: 12/26/2014 4:26 PM ET
Member Since: 10/30/2006
Posts: 8,426
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One question that will really help us steer you in the right direction:

do your eyes hurt after trying to read for too long on your computer? and, do you want the device to read books or also to stream video and surf the web?

If you're looking to read only (an e-ink device, my personal preference), then you have the choice of Barnes and Noble's Simple Touch (great machine, B&N sucks at ebooks- this is my device) or Amazon Kindle (Touch, Paperwhite, Voyage) There are other machines out there and someone will shortly come along and tell you how much they love their Kobo/Sony/other, but really, it boils down to those two. The machines are near identical and when mine dies, I'm switching to the Kindle just because B&N's sales and service sucks. I don't think you can go wrong with either and if you find one or the other at a deal, go for it.

Content and formats: there is a great app that Emily mentioned called Calibre and there is also some "grey" software available on the internet that will allow you to strip the DRM off of the book and reformat it to the format you want. (For example, Amazon sells me a book and only wants to let me read it on a Kindle so they sell it in .mobi format. I want to buy the book from Amazon and read it on my Nook. I send it through the app and it changes the format from .mobi to.epub . Most major libraries that have ebooks available to download have 99% of their collection available to go either Kindle or ePub, so that's not really an issue.

Now, if you want a tablet so you can read and surf the web and download apps and play games and watch movies, then wait for Anne to come along. She has used and tweaked every one of them. If you go the tablet route, I would avoid the Nooks. B&N recently sold that segment of their ereaders to Samsung and I'm not sure when Samsung will merge their existing tablets with the Nooks or what the tech support will be. If you're not sure, with the amount of reading you say you do, I'd do this: download any old freebie onto your computer and read for 2 hours. See how your eyes feel. My eyes don't like to read on the computer screen. Yours might be fine.

Date Posted: 12/26/2014 5:33 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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I definitely am an eInk eReader person. I do not like to read on a tablet. I have a Nook and a Kobo. (I sold my Kindle.)

I do recommend Amazon for people who are not tech savvy. Amazon has the gold standard of customer service. That is the place I'd send someone who did not feel comfortable around computers. Amazon will spend the time to help folks. Their customer service is easy to find and reach. I think it is part of their sales idea, that the eReader is a market platform rather than a product. They are trying to sell you eBooks, not devices. 

Date Posted: 12/26/2014 5:54 PM ET
Member Since: 5/9/2010
Posts: 68
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Thanks for the input.  I really don't like reading on the computer, which is one reason I've waited as long as I have to consider something other than paper books.  I really just want it for reading, I think.  I can do computer stuff on my laptop.

Date Posted: 12/26/2014 7:45 PM ET
Member Since: 4/25/2007
Posts: 11,729
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Sounds like you want an eink reader then.  I have a Nook HD and a Sony.  I do most of my reading on my eink Sony.  As much as I love it, I won't recommend going with a Sony device since they are out of the ereader business all together.

When my Sony dies, I'll be getting a Kobo.  From the research I've done, that's the closest thing out there to what I have and I can make it do what I want it to do.

I have seen a Nook Simple Touch and loved it as well.  I've never had to use B&N customer service.  I'm not an Amazon person, I don't buy from them so I'd never consider a Kindle.

Date Posted: 12/26/2014 8:59 PM ET
Member Since: 8/18/2005
Posts: 7,977
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I think the Kindles are the way to go. I have a Kobo Aura that's great, but beginners might not want to mess with them. They're a Canadian company and the customer service can be a bit slow if you have problems.

Amazon's customer service seems to be the best around if you have any problems.

I have the new Kindle Voyage which I love as it's got a high DPI so the fonts are smooth and the lighting is better (IMHO) than the paperwhite, but really if you're just starting out you may not notice the difference. So a cheaper eInk Kindle would be a good place to start. 

(Starting out, the storage space of the kindle won't be much of a concern, but the newer ones have 4 gig of space rather than 2 gigs. That does make a difference for me.)

I use Calibre, and it keeps all my books organized and keeps me sane. I have thousands now, and can find what I want in just seconds. My library loans out in the kindle format so no problems there. Battery life is great. 

Plus, Amazon has a Kindle Unlimited loan program for $9.99 a month where you can borrow from a selected list as many books as you want, 10 at a time. No time limit on them. And they seem to average anywhere from 30 to 2000 free ebook offers a day. Every day. And have for a few years now. (Which is how you can rack up a lot of freebies over time.) 

But you'll have to decide if you want the eInk Kindles with or without ads. The ones without ads cost about $20 more. I usually either buy one that has no ads, or pay the $20 to have the ads turned off. (You don't see the ads in the books you read, just on the main page. I just find them kind of annoying anyway.) And if you want the ones with 3G or wifi only. I've only ever had the wifi ones, and that's been fine so far.

For beginners, I think the Kindles are the easiest to start with. 

Last Edited on: 12/26/14 9:00 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/26/2014 9:40 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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I loved how I could customize the Nook screen saver. Miss that. (My titles would not show up as they do on the Kobo. Yes, those man titties can be awkward.) Do not miss B&N customer service. Argh!

It took me ages to figure out how to contact Kobo. They hide the customer service. Their FAQs really did not help. 

That said, I almost never get books from these big names. I go to my library, the publisher, or ARe/ Omnilit.

I always side load books. The idea that the Adobe and device manufactor can monitor my reading? Yuck. I do not like the idea that my reading speed and pauses can be dissected. My wifi is off. Always airline. 

And Calibre? Oh how I love you. All neat and labeled into my own special categories. With one button back up. 

Date Posted: 12/27/2014 12:58 AM ET
Member Since: 5/9/2010
Posts: 68
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This is very helpful, thanks so much!

Date Posted: 12/29/2014 2:05 AM ET
Member Since: 1/19/2008
Posts: 14,843
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i've got a kindle, i think it's great.  i also use Calibre, and it's also great.

library books: if you've got a library with overdrive, you can put library books on the Kindle, but while almost all are available in epub, not all the books will be available for Kindle.  [plus it's been a while, but i think some Kindle books require you to download to your computer first, then load it to your Kindle yourself instead of just downloading it like purchases.]  epub is more universal, but if you don't mind shopping only with the one bookstore, Kindle seems far easier and definitely has better customer service.  [or you can convert from epub to mobi if you already have purchases or want to shop at other stores.  it's not that complicated to do a basic convert with Calibre.]

a couple of things you mentioned i didn't see a reply to:

When I read it's usually for at least 2-3 hours, and on the weekends I read all day long, so I'm not sure if battery life is an issue.

with any eInk screen, you'll probably be charging it maybe once every week or two.  i am not aware of any significant differences in battery life between the eInk ereaders.  if i notice it's getting low when reading before bed, i throw it on the charger overnight so i'm not getting low battery warnings when i read the next book - but even if i forget, i can read for a while with the warnings popping up once in a while before i have to put it down to charge it.

What's the difference between getting one with WiFi and one with 3G?

getting one with only WiFi means you can only download books when you have wifi access.  one with 3G means you can download from anywhere you get a signal (like a cellphone).  [in either case, that means download purchases from the store that matches your ereader.]  i have the 3G model, but i almost never use the 3G, instead i make sure at home my Kindle is loaded before i go on a trip.

Date Posted: 12/29/2014 2:17 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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With most devices, you can adjust the settings to use less battery. Turn off the wifi. Dim the light. Batteries are one part that has really improved on the newer eReaders. 

Ronda (RONDA) - ,
Date Posted: 12/29/2014 7:52 PM ET
Member Since: 3/3/2009
Posts: 415
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I have always had the 3g kindles (#1, #3, DX and paperwhite).... never set them up for my wifi cause why bother when I have 3g.

The books from amazon are super easy... turn on the 3g and they will automatically download.

If the books are from the library there are extra steps... but I believe that is because the publishers insisted on it before they would allow the library books in the kindle format... they had to make it almost as difficult as the epub route, which is really not that difficult (just not super easy) .... just download it to your computer, plug your kindle into your computer and copy the file over.  I think that is also why there are some books you only find in epub version at the library.

And I also disagree with the idea that amazon does not want to make money off the e-readers, just e-books. Back at the beginning folks said Amazon was loosing money on the best-seller books so they could sell the hardware at high prices.  The e-readers were pretty high priced until the nook came out and then Amazon put the kindle price a dollar lower than the nook (thanks B&N).  They won't let the competition under-price them, but they are also were not giving away the kindles.  They did of course have the reader apps on computers, then ipads, etc... so they were always also willing to sell you the books if you didn't want to pay the high price for a kindle and allow you to read it.  So, yes the products do feed off of each other, but amazon also tries to allow you to get the books another way if you could not afford the reader.

Amazon also did not seem to be pushing to get into the libraries until it became a selling point for the nook.  they are all about matching the competition so their customers don't have a reason to move to someone else (same situation with Kindle Unlimited... matching the competition)

And  amazon uses mobi cause they bought the company so they would have complete control of their ebook format and not have to pay another company to use it.  As a company they seem to be control freaks (which I don't think is a bad idea).


Last Edited on: 12/29/14 7:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/30/2014 6:12 PM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2010
Posts: 247
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You might check to see if your local library has any eReaders to try out.  I'm on our small town library board and we have a couple just for people to try out.

Date Posted: 12/31/2014 7:45 AM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2008
Posts: 12,776
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Wow, I can't believe I missed this great conversation!!! Lots of great info here!

Yes for a beginner, Kindle is the way to go! From what I understand, they have the best dictionary! Just press and hold a word, and the dictionary info will pop up. They have excellent customer service, as well.

Of the Kindles to consider, there are the three 3 e-ink devices - the new Touch, which has no light. My brother uses this one because he has severe headaches, and I was afraid a lighted device might hurt him. The Paperwhite - a truly excellent device for beginners and advanced users. And the Voyage - a deluxe reader, which I feel is overpriced. And there is also the Fire HD 6" Kindle, which makes an Awesome ereader! It is back lit, whereas the other Kindles are front lit, which can affect some people. I have an anti-glare (matte) screen protector on mine, as I can't stand any kind of shine. Any of the 4 mentioned are easy to use for beginners.

The differences between the e-ink kindles and the 6" Fire, other than lighting - the Fire is heavier. But it can also read other formats and browse the web, play games, read the news, play audio books, and much more. Plus it has more storage space than the others. And you can see all your covers in color!

As for formats - the newest kindle readers can use mobi, but they also use AZW3, which is a superior format. But honestly, if you are buying your books from Amazon, or through Amazon via the library, it's not a concern. Almost every library book I have wanted is available for Kindle. No need to download to your computer. Send it straight to the device. If you are buying from other stores, then it becomes a concern. That is not something, as a beginner, you will want to tackle right away.

As for finding a book, searching on a Kindle is very easy. You don't have to store them all on the device, Amazon will store them for you. You can also create collections on your device, if that is something you want to do. It's easier just to search, then to mess with the collections, in my opinion. That might not be the case for everyone.

I wouldn't spend the extra money for the 3G device. Then again, I don't have data on my phone, either. I've never been anywhere where I didn't have enough to choose from on my reader.

All that aside, the only e-ink readers I have currently are Kobos. The only Kindle I have is the Fire HD 6" tablet. I usually use the tablet at home, and pack one of the Kobos with me. The Glo is my favorite. But I don't consider them the best beginner device. I heartily recommend the paperwhite for any beginner. If the Voyage was $50 cheaper, I'd say that one. If you can afford it, by all means, get the Voyage.

Do let us know what you decide!

Happy New Year PBS!

Last Edited on: 12/31/14 7:46 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/8/2015 2:22 PM ET
Member Since: 5/9/2010
Posts: 68
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I did decide on the Kindle Paperwhite and am loving it.  It has been really easy to use and very lightweight.  Thanks so much for all your help!