Buying an ereader: a checklist, by Piotr Kowalczyk
December 3, 2011 | 8:04 pm
Are you interested in buying an ereader? There is more to it than just comparing screen resolution or memory space.
You probably know about Kindle, Nook or Kobo ereaders. There are many great reviews around. Their common disadvantage is that they don’t give information, the one not about ereaders themselves, which will affect they way you’ll use them.
Ask yourself questions below, and you’ll be better prepared to choose the right ereading device.
Am I aware of differences in format and DRM?
Ebooks are wonderful, but they are still not easy. The ebook you’ll buy at Kindle Store can’t be read on every device. For example, you won’t be able to open it on Nook or Kobo.
Reason: different ebookstores use different file formats and DRM systems.
There are two major formats of electronic book files: epub and mobi. Epub is sold by most ebookstores in the world. Mobi means Kindle. There is also pdf format which can be read by most ereaders, but the smaller the screen, the worse it is to read it (so, think twice before you buy a 6-inch device to read all pdf books collected on your computer).
DRM (Digital Rights Management) is supposed to prevent from unauthorized distribution of digital content.
In practice, when an ebook is DRM-ed it can be read only on a device authorized with the store where you bought it. Kindle ebooks have different DRM than ebooks from Barnes & Noble or Kobo. You can’t easily move the book from your Kindle account to your Nook ereader. And vice versa.
DRM brings to reading the limitations which don’t exist in a world of a print book. Once you buy a print book, you can gift it or lend it to anyone. DRM means you can’t do it easily with an ebook.
Do I have a preferred ebookstore?
Due to format and DRM limitations it’s good to stick to one online store. If you have decided to buy ebooks in one place, you could save yourself a lot of time and frustration.
So, if you often visit Amazon.com to buy different goods, why don’t you check how Kindle Store works. If you like visiting Barnes & Noble store in your neighborhood and have an account at B&N webpage – why don’t you start from checking their site for ebooks.
Are there enough ebooks I’d like to read?
You should assume not every paper book has an electronic edition. So, first thing you can do is to check (in your preferred ebookstore) if there are books you’d like to buy – and how much they cost. Just check a few first titles which come to mind. It won’t take long but will give the idea of how useful the ereader will be once you buy it.
The issue of availability is especially important for users who live outside US and would like to read books in their native language. Biggest online ebookstores like Kindle Store have a limited offer of books in different languages. Barnes&Noble doesn’t sell digital content abroad at all.
If you want to read books in your mother tongue, try to find an ebookstore in your country and check which format and DRM they use. If they use Adobe DRM and epub, it’s better if you buy an ereader which supports such format and DRM rather than a Kindle.
Check this list of posts for international readers of electronic books.
Do I want to get ebooks from different sources?
If you want to get ebooks from different sources (it’s the way it should work, but due to DRM/formats it isn’t), then you’ll have to assume that getting those ebooks and adding them to your device won’t be easy.
For instance, if you’ll have Kindle, you will be able to enjoy 1-Click purchase only when you buy an ebook from Kindle Store. If you want to get it elsewhere, you’ll have to either send it by email or add by connecting an ereader via cable to a computer. And be aware that only unprotected mobi files can be added to Kindle.
Am I ready to learn about conversion?
If you decide to have freedom in where you get ebooks, you should be ready to learn about the tools like Calibre, which is an ebook management application.
I don’t recommend it. A first thing on a list of my personal reading preference is convenience. I’d rather stick to one ebookstore than play with conversion, because I will be able to benefit from all the features: seamless buying process, synchronization of books across devices, virtual bookshelf.
Which ereader suits my needs?
Now it’s time to select a model. Most information about ereaders on the web is which one to pick up, so I won’t do it. The sites with best tech reviews of electronic devices are Mashable, TechCrunch, Engadget and The Verge.
What I’d like to point out is that you shouldn’t only focus on what tech reviewers say, but also listen to yourself. If you read someone recommending Kindle, but you really prefer to buy books from Barnes & Noble and don’t want to bother with conversion, go and select the best of Nook models.
Do I need an ereader now?
Now ereaders costs below $100 and this gives a feeling of a bargain. Please, before buying one for yourself or your wife or your dad, ask yourself a question: do I need it now?
Going into the world of ebooks, discovering all the benefits can be done without buying a dedicated device. You can use a computer to browse ebookstores. You can test ereading applications on a smartphone to learn how easy it is to buy ebooks or what are the ways to customize the user interface, font size, etc.
Do I need an ereader at all?
Testing is good, but what you can also go through is your reading preferences. How much time do I spend a day reading a book? Do I need to stay connected? Do I like to read ebooks with pictures or animation?
You may find out that a better device for you is a tablet. Or you may find out that you’re good with your smartphone.
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The nice-looking ereader with a content you can’t add is not a nice ereader. Don’t let yourself leave in a situation you buy a device at a bargain price and keep it on a bookshelf, because you don’t have time and energy to learn how to convert your old pdf files.