In the last several months (since the Kindle 3 came out) I’ve been seriously looking at ereaders. Of course, the iPad came out early this year and was all the buzz. It looks great of course and Apple really should be proud of making the tablet relevant. How many tablets have we seen come out in the last 10-15 years that someone pushed as the wave of the future only to see the wave break before it reached the shore. Of course, some of the ideas shrunk to the size of the current pdas and smart phones, others just vanished into the ether or morphed into laptops.
With Android nipping at Apples heels on the phone front I was sure that there would be android based tablets to rival the iPad. Serious contenders have taken longer than I expected, but realistically the iPad has not been out for a full year yet. At one point this year I looked long and hard at some of the then available tablets. None were quite “it” at that point.
I use a laptop primarily – linux based. That’s one mark against Apple in my book, their iPod requires that I have a computer with iTunes installed to activate and they have created a nice walled garden for themselves. I don’t need or want a Windows license (or to buy a Mac) just to authenticate an audio player. If I’m not mistaken I remember seeing that the iPhone had a similar requirement. Shouldn’t a standalone device be able to STAND ALONE? Can you imagine buying a Honda Accord and then finding you have to plug it into your household Honda Automation system (which is a free download to whatever Home automation computer you have) before you can drive it?
Fortunately the iPad does not require activation, but knowing that about other Apple devices leaves a bad taste in my mouth to begin with. That Apple’s products tend to be overpriced is the second mark against me seriously considering an iPad. Not to mention the monthly data plan for 3G. On a side note I’ve avoided smart phones. Yes, go ahead and call me a Luddite. But, my laptop has wifi and for my day to day work most of the places I go either have wifi, or I can access an ethernet cable. We don’t travel much and in those cases I’ve been able to manage a wireless connection of some sort if needed for a short period of time. So, paying $60 or more a month that I don’t need to spend really doesn’t make sense.
One of the downsides to a pad is that they aren’t suited well for the creation of things. Yes, you may be able to get a keyboard to work with a pad and make it work for light data entry. I type a lot though and quite frankly feel like using a tablet of any sort as the primary portable computer seems limiting. So why would I want a tablet? Of course there’s the emotional “oh neat” factor. It could be a platform for watching video (streaming online video even….) It could basically be your own portable streaming tv/radio. Okay. Web browser. Okay. Ebook reader. Well… the first few I can already do with a laptop which at the moment is portable enough for me. Ebooks though. They are a pain to read on a laptop.
I once read Last of the Mohicans on a laptop. It was somewhat of an excruciating read. Not for the style of writing, but for the ergonomics (or lack thereof) of the computer. The backlight of that computer was uneven, I couldn’t sit comfortably with it. I was greatly relieved when it was done.
In fact, I haven’t read much in recent years as getting comfortable is a challenge with a book. Holding the book open with a couple fingers and shifting from page to page. Make my hands sore. I have been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in the last year. Maybe that’s related to the difficulty I’ve found getting comfortable with a book. The main reading I have done in recent years has been of spanish language books. I’ve studied spanish on my own for many years now and reading is simply the best and quickest way to gain new vocabulary. Languages fascinate me and I’ve studied French, German, Italian and Spanish each in varying degrees. I wouldn’t mind plunging into reading in French, but don’t want to spend a lot of money on books. Fortunately there are a lot of ebooks available.
I have used an old pda as an ebook reader in the past. It was a passable experience. Short battery life was an issue, as was the backlight. It will dim to save battery strength and occasionally went out entirely thinking that I was not using it. It was after all a pda first with software on it to read a book. The screen was small and while this was a better experience than the computer, it was still frustrating.
So, when the nook/kindle price cuts came along this summer I started thinking about ebook readers. Why not just spend a bit more for a tablet? Well, I really don’t want all those distractions. Yes, web browsing/radio/video all could be done on the laptop as well as a tablet, but…. I see tremendous advantages to a device doing one thing and doing it well. I have an audio player that is just a cheap little stand alone mp3 player. It’s fantastic. I used to have a phone that played music too. It was annoying. I’d accidentally hit the button to start music leaning against something. I never could get a good pair of headphones for it (adapter from mini usb to standard audio plug was apparently very proprietary.)
So… really I just was interested in a standalone ereader. The Nook has a lot of advantages. Really one is the key right now and that is an area that can change. ePub support. This is the file format that libraries many times use for “checking out” ebooks. It’s also one of the most common formats for ebooks around. Kindles lack of support for epub is a negative for the kindle/plus for the nook. But it’s merely a matter of amazon making epub happen on the kindle. Will it happen for kindle – I suspect so – I don’t know when. But truly I think it’s just a matter of time. Right now though I don’t check out library books at all. So, if it’s ever enabled for the kindle it would be a plus.
E-ink is the thing that has really narrowed my focus to nook or kindle though. Long battery life, no eye strain, visible even in sunlight (again that’s a challenge with a pda or computer.) The kindle has a real keyboard. No it’s not full size, but there are real buttons. The nook has a virtual keyboard on it’s second lcd. I have tried using virtual keyboards for years and never found one that I like. My worst experience was a printer/copier with a touch screen keyboard. To me that’s a big negative.
But why would you want to type on an ereader anyway? Well, both of these devices now allow a bit of web browsing. But I thought you didn’t want distractions? True. These are black and white devices meant for reading. There’s a lot of material on the web for reading/free download in the form of ebooks. Plus these devices can come with 3g internet access. In a pinch I could use it to answer an email. It’s not good enough to want to use it for basic browsing instead of a laptop. But if you’re in a book and want a quick reference, or have it with you while traveling it’s nice to be able to actually type in a web address with real buttons instead of a virtual keyboard. Beyond that – I’m interested in the use of annotations.
(Side note: To be honest let me state that I come into this a bit biased. I’ve been an amazon.com customer for years. I was an affiliate (the North Carolina General Assembly’s actions last year forced the termination of my affiliation with Amazon.com). In fact Barnes and Noble is behind the lobby group that was pushing to have Amazon.com sales in NC taxed because it had affiliates in the state. We have a use tax on our income tax form that supposedly takes the place of sales tax on mail order items. You can itemize or take the standard amount. The argument that NO ONE pays sales tax on items from Amazon.com is bogus in our state – that’s exactly what the use tax is for.)
One of the big negatives I find on the nook for my use is that I do not see that it’s easy/possible to change out the dictionary. (I’m thinking about either a spanish/english translating dictionary or spanish only dictionary for example.) Kindle can. I also don’t see much in the way of foreign language material available for the nook (outside of what may be freely available.) Kindle does have several languages available in the kindle store and I have seen firsthand their unicode support. On the Nook side – I have, after hours of searching, yet to find a conclusive statement that there is full unicode support. For me this was the real tipping point – you can’t imagine how annoying it was on a pda to be reading Se~23345or or some such garbage when it couldn’t interpret what should be simple additions to the latin alphabet. For me this is a big issue since my recent reading h
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