eReaders have become widely popular over the past decade and are now a staple for most bookworms. If you’re currently in the market for an eReader, it’s often challenging to gauge which device will be best suited to your needs and preferences – should you get a Kindle? Something with E-ink technology? A touchscreen? A tablet with additional capabilities? Wifi and 3G?
I’ve gone through quite a few eReaders myself throughout the years (I seem to be particularly brutal on them…or I’ve just had exquisitely bad luck), and I’ve consequently had the opportunity to experiment with a variety of features and designs. While I am in no way a technological expert, I figured it couldn’t hurt to share my experiences, likes, dislikes, etc., imparting information I wish I had known prior to purchasing these devices.
- Original Nook (2009)
- Nook Color (2011)
- Kindle Fire (2016)
- iPhone 5S (2014)
- iPad 4th Generation (2013)
- 13″ MacBook Pro (2016)
Please note that not all of these devices are currently available from their original retailers (they may still be available, both new and used, on websites such as eBay). I included the date I purchased each device in parenthesis.
As Barnes and Noble’s first foray into the manufacturing and advertising of eReaders, the Original Nook’s most prominent selling points was the touchscreen strip at the bottom of the device. The eReader boasts of a glare-free screen, which is true when referring to the reading screen, but the touchscreen can reflect quite a bit of light. While reading on the beach (or a comparably sunny location) is possible, you have to fiddle around with positioning so that the sunlight reflecting off the touchscreen isn’t blinding you. The reading screen is not backlit, so there is no easy way to read in low light conditions, which was a huge setback for me.
When the device was for sale, Barnes and Noble’s website claimed that the battery can last for several months on a single charge. As an avid reader who spent 3-4 hours reading per day, however, I found that I was charging my nook approximately once a week. This timespan has noticeably diminished over time, which is to be expected of any lithium battery, and I am now plugging it in two to three times per week.
The device itself is lightweight, as well as easy to hold and operate. The page-turn buttons
are comfortably placed and have held up well. The touchscreen does have a tendency to lag slightly, but I have never had difficulty getting my fingers to register on the screen or with the device freezing entirely. I currently have 500+ ebooks downloaded and, in the absence of an additional memory card, still have 38% of the device’s built-in storage available.
In addition to WiFi capabilities, the device also came with free 3G service. While the device’s slow overall speed and generally poor connection made it frustrating to the point of impossibility with regards to accessing the internet via the unimpressive, pre-installed web-browser, the 3G capability did allow me to purchase and download ebooks while on vacation or during a road trip. Would I buy the device again, solely for this feature? Probably not. Nowadays, you can find WiFi almost anywhere. And even if you’re venturing into a remote area, you can always purchase several books in advance to entirely eradicate the need for 3G service.
Barnes and Noble’s more sophisticated Nook Color was considered an upgrade from the Original Nook due to the presence of a comprehensive, LED touchscreen. Consequently, this model allows for a full-color viewing experience and enables reading in low or nonexistent light conditions. The one downside to this feature is the absence of a blue light reducing feature for individuals who are worried about sleep disruptions when utilizing the device before bed. Similarly, the touchscreen still has a tendency to lag, which I had hoped would be addressed in this newer model with its faster processor.
Along with updated software and technical specifications, this device provides additional customization for your reading experience, with a wider range of fonts, page colors, highlighting colors, note taking methods, etc., leading to a more positive reading experience overall. That being said, the LED screen did have a tendency to take a toll on my eyes, as they would tire quickly after only an hour or two of reading.
The Nook Color also allows users to download a wide variety of free and paid apps from the
Android AppStore, as well as streaming movies, music, photos, etc. Additionally, there are significantly more customizable features that can be accessed and altered via the device settings. Think rudimentary iPad/iPhone precursor, without the capability to opt in for paid 3G service.
Despite the screen’s “glare-reducing technology,” reading in direct sunlight was painful, although not impossible. Due to the more extensive touchscreen, I found
myself charging this eReader more frequently – about once a day when I was using it regularly. During readathons, I was charging the device upwards of two or three times per day. Just like the Original Nook, the built-in storage capacity was more than sufficient for my library of 500+ books.
As my first experience with Amazon’s equally if not more popular line of eReaders, the Kindle Fire immediately impressed me with its countless features, highly responsive touchscreen, and lightning fast processor. Generally speaking, a fast eReader equates to a happy bookworm.
There are quite a few similarities between the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color – both possess full, LED touchscreens, are extremely difficult to read in direct sunlight, and provide accessibility to the Android AppStore.
Unlike the Nook Color, the Fire has a slightly longer battery life, allowing me to charge the device every 2-3 days, as opposed to daily (keep in mind that readathons are a whole different beast, though – I was practically tethered to the wall by my power cord). Furthermore, one of my favorite features is the reading speed tracker, which fairly accurately identifies how long it will take you to finish your current chapter or the book in its entirety. I also prefer Amazon’s “You are __% finished” to Barnes and Noble’s use of page numbers in order to track your progress.
One of the primary differences I noticed between my Nook and Kindle experiences was the difference in eBook prices. In comparing prices between the two vendors, I quickly identified that Amazon typically offered cheaper eBooks, as well as a greater number of sales and discounts.
The Kindle Fire, without a doubt, is my favorite of my devices that are specifically designed to be used as eReaders. The superior software, speed, and overall user-friendliness have convinced me that I’ll be investing in several new Kindles in the future.
Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer Android and iTunes apps which allow you to sync your progress, notes, highlights, bookmarks, etc. between your devices, enabling readers to easily pick up where they left off in their books. While both apps have their setbacks with respect to slow or nonexistent syncing among other things, I have still found them preferable to Apple’s predownloaded (and undeletable) iBooks.
I always have my phone with me, regardless of where I am. Therefore, it’s convenient to be able to resume reading my eBook on the go, without having to lug an eReader around with me. That being said, I’m not overly enthusiastic about the small screen size – while its dimensions are ideal for accessibility and mobility, particularly for reading text messages or answering emails, reading a novel can be a bit more challenging.
The only significant difference between utilizing my iPhone and iPad for reading is the sheer size of the screens. Everything else is identical – the apps, their features, their syncing issues, etc.
I prefer reading on an iPad due to its larger screen, as well as the opportunity it provides to read during a particularly boring class (to be clear, I’m not encouraging this, just stating that it’s an option 😄). That being said, it’s incredibly easy to get sidetracked and distracted while using a phone, tablet, or computer as an eReader. The constant stream of incoming notifications can be very tempting, pulling your attention away from the book at hand. Five hours later, you’ve watched 27 cat videos and refreshed Twitter a few times, while only reading 3 pages of your book.
Similar to the Nook and Kindle apps that are offered for both Android and Apple devices, Barnes and Noble and Amazon also provide free downloads for their corresponding computer softwares. I tend to avoid reading books on my laptop (with the exception of ARCs) because I tend to contort in a variety of unusual and irreproducible positions while reading, and a computer is rather uncomfortable to curl up with. To make matters worse, many of the reading applications aren’t particularly user-friendly, and there continue to be syncing issues which appear to be entirely unaddressed by the numerous updates over the past several years. Despite other readers swearing by their reading experiences while using a computer, it’s simply not my cup of tea.