EBook Reader

I’m seriously looking for a good, effective ebook reader.  I find myself increasingly being sent more and more PDFS and Word files to read for both year’s bests and to keep up with the field in my responsibilities as Locus’s Reviews Editor.  I read most of the major magazines, many of the anthologies, and a lot of the small press zines onscreen.  While I may prefer it were otherwise, this just isn’t going to change, and is almost certainly going to increase.  The solution seems to be to get a good ebook reader.  This is what I want in an ebook reader:

  • no bigger than a trade paperback
  • not much heavier that a trade paperback
  • good battery life (enough to get from Perth to San Francisco – say 20 hrs)
  • able to handle PDFs, rtfs and Word files well, including text rescaling etc
  • good story (several gig at least)
  • clean, clear screen (not black on grey)
  • affordable (less then $500)

In a perfect world you’d also be able to add notes to files, but that’s not essential.  You can’t get the Kindle here in Australia, and I’m guessing its wireless connectivity would be useless here (even over a local wireless network).  Does anyone have any thoughts or recommendations?

9 thoughts on “EBook Reader”

  1. It looks like for almost all of them you’ll have to rely on storage cards to get decent storage, just like a camera or phone, but storage cards are so cheap these days.

    The iRex iLiad looks like it matches all your requirements except for being way too expensive ($699). Linux based and allows some third party applications, which means it has good software and doc format support. It does add annotation capability, so could be used for copy-editing etc, which appears to be its standout feature justifying that much higher price. You can also use it as a drawing tablet etc – its a more interactive device than most readers.

    The Astak Mentors look really promising in the cheap and cheerful category, but don’t seem to have actually been released yet. I think the small (5″) ones might be out this month, but the bigger ones aren’t due out until October. Probably won’t support Word directly, though.

    The Bebook looks like it meets all your requirements, and is $399. Worth checking out.

    The CyBook reader looks great in a lot of ways, especially good software (and its a 3rd generation device, so probably showing some polish), but it does seem to be just a little too pricy once you convert from euros to AUD.

    And then there are the Sony Readers, which also seem to just sneak into all your requirements, though they don’t really do word format (their software converts word docs into RTF for reading). I wouldn’t normally recommend a Sony reader device, as their ebook store stuff and accompanying DRM etc looks awful (harshly DRMed ebooks for 75% of physical book retail? No thanks!). But given you can justify the devices purchase without buying anything, might be worth a look.

    I haven’t actually seen most of these, though, so I can’t comment on screen quality – they are all e-ink based devices, though.

  2. I have the Sony Reader PRS-505 and enjoy it very much. It has everything on your list and is $300. Whenever I get files from Charles I convert them to .RTF and it works fine on the Reader. PDF’s are OK, depending on how it was formatted (font size especially). If you go on Mobileread.com, they have have converters to convert most any book format to .rtf or .lrf (sony’s file format)

  3. Dave: I’ve had other recommendations for the Sony Reader. I’m likely to never buy an actual eBook. The reader is only useful to me if it handles PDF/Word etc. I’ll also look at the Bebook. I’m going to avoid anything with an LCD screen, because they don’t really seem to work the way I want this too. Appreciate the rec!

    Blue: Thanks for the pointer. Appreciated.

    Aaron: I appreciate the advice. As someone who uses the Sony a lot, I’m guessing you’ve got a good feel for its drawbacks.

  4. I bought an eetsy (http://eeepc.asus.com/global/), which is not specifically an e-book reader, but can be used as one in all the formats you mention. Weighs under 2 pounds, was under $300, has a decent battery life, and I can write and answer e-mail on it too. I love it for traveling with.

  5. Hmm. Interesting. I appreciate the recommendation, Cat. I’ve been using a MacBook as my laptop of choice, and was mostly thinking of getting something smaller to use for reading files. It’s great, but it is less portable than I wanted. What’s the screen readability like? I understand ebooks digital ink is pretty awesome, but this could also maybe fit the bill.

  6. I find it pretty readable, but I also use reading glasses when reading both computers and paperbacks nowadays. I also use it indoors much more than outdoors.

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