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eBook Reader Features
When most people think of a dedicated ebook reading device, they think about it as a glorified book. They don’t often consider the feautres beyond basic reading until they’ve had the device for a while. If you’re thinking about purchasing an ereader, you should make yourself aware of all the options out there before you buy, so you don’t end up with “reader envy”. Technology The first step in selecting an ereader is to ask the basic question: will I be able to get the books I want for my device? All ebooks are not available in all countries, in all formats, and in all stores, so you have to be aware of the book selection that will be available for your reader. eBook formats can be open, where the format is widely available and programs exist to convert between formats, or they can be proprietary, where the book will require special software to be read. While an open format, like ePub, will make your life easier and increase your book selection, you shouldn’t necessarily be scared off by a proprietary format. Most of the device manufacturers make their reading software freely available for other common devices like PCs, smartphones, and tablets. If you want to be able to switch between reading devices seamlessly, make sure your chosen product’s software has this flexibility. You’ll also want to know if the software provides for bookmarking (remembering your last read page) across devices. Physical Attributes The size, weight, style, and durability of the unit should be your next consideration. Some people want the slimmest, lightest unit they can find to maximize portability, while others prefer a larger screen for detailed graphic images or fewer page turns. Road Warriors might be more concerned with the strength and durability of the device, if they tend to be rough on their baggage. You must also choose between a backlit screen (like an ordinary laptop computer) and the newer eInk technology. eInk is a great innovation for reading outdoors, having paper-like readability even in bright sunlight. eInk also uses very little power, but is slower to draw the screen and is currently available only in black and white. If you plan on using your reader to peruse a lot of magazines or illustrated books, eInk is probably not for you. It’s also not the best choice if you frequently read in a dark room, as it requires an external light source, while backlit models provide their own light. Just as with PCs, screen size and brightness have a great impact on battery life, so be sure to check this metric before you buy. Regardless of screen size, however, most models offer adjustable font styles and sizes, so even folks with poor eyesight can tailor their reading experience to a comfortable viewing level. You should also think about whether or not you want a keyboard, touchscreen, or button-only model. Some units are operated with just a few buttons, allowing you to select items from menus and move back and forth through the book. Others have touchscreens which offer more flexibility, while still other models have full QWERTY keyboards that allow you to type notes, enter URLs, or send emails. One confusing and important feature of ebook readers is their connectivity ability. You will have the option to choose between models that only connect to book sources via a hard-wired connection (USB), others that offer WiFi connectivity, and some that have a 3G capability, just like a cell phone. There are currently devices on the market that offer both WiFi and 3G connectivity without connection charges or usage limits. Additional Capabilities In addition to their ability to present books in a digital format, some ebook readers offer advanced computing features like games, web browsing, email, and built-in MP3 players. Several models also offer text-to-speech, which will read any ebook to you (not just audiobooks). This is straight computerized reading, of course, not a dramatic interpretation of the book, and there can be contextual errors, but it’s still a great feature to have while driving or exercising, or for those who can’t read even the super-sized fonts comfortably. Sharing One critical feature for some avid readers is the ability to share books with their friends and family. Certain models allow sharing of purchased ebooks, where you can “lend” the book to another ereader owner with the same model. So far, this is quite limited, as in a one-time loan of 14 days only, so read the fine print on this feature. Some vendors allow users to share ebook accounts, however, which means everyone on the account can read books purchased by anyone on the count, similar to a “friends & family” phone plan. Another type of sharing is through library ebook lending programs. These work just like paper book lending programs with the advantage of automatically “returning” the book, so you never get stuck with late fees. There is a limited selection of such books, though, and waiting lists can be long, so don’t think this is like a giant free bookstore. As you can see, an ebook reader purchase decision can be a complicated one. If you’re ready to decide, check out this point-by-point ebook reader comparison chart.