Ebook reader help.
April 19, 2011 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Hello Folks; My wife would like a ebook reader,and we know very little about this.

We have no idea how to use a ebook reader,what kind of reader would be good,how to download books onto the reader,the costs of downloading,ect.

As u can see,we know VERY little.

Can someone onffer us advice please? Even a good website to help us would be great.

Thanks you :-)
posted by WOLF101 to Technology (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I see this is the first contribution you've made to Metafilter. Just so you know, Ask Metafilter has a search function where you can find old questions about ebook readers (there have been many). You can also search by tags, which might pull up some posts that your other search missed.

I think a good place to start would be by skimming through some of the old threads on ebook readers, then you can come back when you have more specific questions that haven't been addressed before or aren't addressed on the manufacturers' websites (you can see the prices of all Kindle content, the download instructions, etc. for the Kindle on Amazon.com, for example, without buying a Kindle. I'm sure the other readers are similar.)
posted by jeb at 2:41 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would she like to be able to read a wide variety of formats, or is she OK with being locked into just a few? The Kindle limits the number of formats she can read, but she can buy lots of books from Amazon, if she's interested in that. The Nook reads more formats, but if she prefers to buy from Amazon, she needs the Kindle.

Would she like to lend ebooks to other people? Both the Kindle and the Nook allow that for books whose publishers OK it, but you can only lend to someone else who's got the same kind of ereader.

Is she OK with backlit displays like a computer monitor, or does she prefer the reflective e-ink surface? The black and white ereaders use e-ink, but the color ones are backlit. I can't read backlit screens during migraines, while I can read e-ink screens, so that's a major consideration for me.

Would she like to use it for web surfing, or taking notes, etc.? In that cse, the iPad might be a better deal - she could buy books through the iBooks bookstore or from Amazon via the Kindle app.

Does your local library lend ebooks? If so, find out what formats they lend out. My library loans ebooks that can only be read with Adobe Digital Editions, which I could install on a iPad, a Nook, or any variety of other devices, and naturally the device I own is a Kindle, which they can't be read on. So I'm forced to read library books on my iPhone or steal my boyfriend's iPad.

I have a Kindle that uses 3G, and downloading books I buy from Amazon are free. If I buy a book elsewhere in one of the few formats the Kindle reads, I have to either download it to my computer and connect the Kindle via a cable to load it on, which is free, or I have to mail the file to a special Kindle address, and it can be downloaded to my Kindle at a cost of $ .15/mb. I can put a cap on it, and it emails me back if it's going to cost over that cap, so I can instead download it and manually install.

I chose the Kindle because my mother had one, and I use Amazon a lot. It's nice to be able to lend books to my mother and get them from her in return, but my next ereader, when the Kindle dies, might be another one that reads more files, like the Nook. I'd like to be able to read library books on it, and I'm a librarian so I can get eARCs from NetGalley, and I'd like to be able to read more of those on my ereader instead of my computer.

I'm not horribly concerned about losing the books I've bought on the Kindle if I get another e-reader because I'll inherit my boyfriend's iPad when he upgrades and can read them there, but it WILL be a factor in my decision about switching or not, when the time comes.
posted by telophase at 2:42 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she has any interest in borrowing books from an online library system, Kindles are out, as they do not support the epub format (which is the format libraries use).
posted by Lucinda at 2:42 PM on April 19, 2011

Okay, first I would suggest deciding whether you would like a 'reader' (only displays books, word docs, etc) or something more akin to an ipad (there are several similar devices that are not mac, all with internet, email, book capacities) I'm partial to the actual ebook readers, like the Barnes and Noble Nook, or the Amazon Kindle (I have the latest generation Kindle) as the e ink is easier on the eyes for me than a computer screen.

To see an reader in action, go to your local B&N. Even if you do decide on a Kindle (they are the two most worth looking at) it is a good way to see in person how the ebook looks and works. also, amazon.com will have information on the kindle.

As for buying books, you will do that at either the B&N or amazon website. It's very simple and both websites will guide you through it. The cost of an ebook will range from free (most books that are old enough to be uncopyrighted) cheap to equivalent to print costs.
posted by eggyolk at 2:42 PM on April 19, 2011

After I asked what I should buy for sister..

I ended up buying a Kindle for her and one for myself. The main selling point for her was that she cannot stand to look at screens that are backlit for long periods of time. The Kindle isn't backlit at all (you need the sun or lamp or booklight to see).

To a lesser extent, this was a factor for me as well. I am very familiar with amazon so I have no qualms about buying from there.

Kindle has some file limitations (most notably it doesn't support the .epub file extension) but It hasn't caused me any problems yet.

here's a nice breakdown from cnet.
posted by royalsong at 2:43 PM on April 19, 2011

Staples sells Kindles now, so you can demo one there if you want to fiddle around with one before you drop $150.
posted by theodolite at 2:49 PM on April 19, 2011

Ebooks in in the .epub format can be converted for free with Calibre into any number of formats. I use it all the time for my Kindle.
posted by HotPatatta at 2:54 PM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have a Kobo, and it's very simple to use, and it uses epub format. Not sure where you're located, but that might be an option if you're in Canada
posted by torisaur at 2:55 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wikipedia has a comparison chart which will help you tease out the things you'll need to think about, a sort of visual representation of a lot of the things that telophase mentions. This library has put together a much smaller site that compares popular readers. I know it's weird to have to think about all these things before you even get one, but to me the big things to think about are

- do you want to buy books, borrow books, or read public domain books?
- do you want your reader to have internet access [in addition to being able to get books]?
- what's your price point?
- do you want a reader that is also a computer?
- do you want to read it outside? do you care about a color screen?

Really the thing to do is probably to go to a few vendor sites and look at their comparison charts. Here's one from Kobo (which, of course, makes Kobo look like the one you want). Are the things that Kobo thinks are important the same things you think are important?

Often with technology I tell people to get the one that their library supports, or get one that their friends have and like. If it turns out that you're voracious ebook consumers, you'll probably upgrade. If you're not that into them, you don't want to spend too much time learning it or too much money on it. Consider this your entry into the ebook market and buy something low-priced that seems to do the basic things that you think you want.
posted by jessamyn at 3:11 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Moblieread.com forums are a good resource, with subforums for different devices. They also have a handy comparison matrix of devices.

Personally, I have the Sony PRS-650 and have no complaints (though I don't use the Sony bookstore, so I can't comment on it vs. Amazon or others)
posted by blind.wombat at 3:18 PM on April 19, 2011

Following on blind.wombat's comment, I can testify against the Sony bookstore. Small selection (compared to Amazon), doesn't play well with Macs, is a desktop application instead of a web site. I bought my Sony PRS-300 on Woot for a major deal, but even that wasn't worth the hassle. I personally need a good unified *experience* of selecting and buying books to go along with the device. Which is why I've recently bought a Kindle.

The other good user experience factor that makes a difference to me between these two: the Kindle has page forward and page backward buttons on both the right and left edges of the device (my Sony has just one in the middle). This makes a huge difference if you have small hands and occasionally hold the device with one hand.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:37 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love my Kobo - it is elegant in its simplicity and I have no need for a web browser or 3G because I have an iPhone.

Bonus: If you have a Borders store near you that's closing you might be able to score one for 60% off.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:22 PM on April 19, 2011

I use my laptop. That way I don't have to hold the book up in either hand.

Of readers for windows pcs, amazon's is better than barnes & noble's reader in terms of look and options.

But don't rule out reading HTML in a browser, using books fom guttenburg and webscriptions.net. webscriptions in particular has a nice browser based reader.
posted by orthogonality at 6:35 PM on April 19, 2011

Hey, do you have a smartphone? You can download apps for the Kindle, Kobo, and Nook on the iPhone and those plus the Sony Reader for Android. Getting acquainted with these apps might give you insight into how these ereaders perform and/or the selection of their various stores.

I like my Sony Reader ebook, but I have to plug it into the netbook each time I want to add a book to it. In contrast, the Kindle can do this stuff wirelessly.
posted by dragonplayer at 6:39 PM on April 19, 2011

The correct answer is either Kindle or something I've never encountered, that's hard.

The incorrect answer is Nook or Sony.
posted by rr at 9:00 PM on April 19, 2011

I think others have covered the question of "what kind of reader would be good" but I will just offer my opinion anyway, which is that I really like the Amazon Kindle.

How to use a ebook reader/how to download books onto the reader?

Two optinos that I've tried for Kindle:
1. I connect my Kindle to my wifi network and browse the Amazon Kindle store on the device.
2. I log on to the website on my computer, send a book wirelessly to the device (very easy) and then turn on the wifi connection on the device and it automatically downloads.

As others have mentioned, different devices may allow you to download books from your local library. I don't know how to do that but I'm sure you can make an appointment with a librarian to find out.

The "costs of downloading" depend on what kind of books you like to read. Some pre-1923 books are completely free and other less-popular books are only a few dollars. On the other hand the Atlas of Upper Gastrointestinal and Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Surgery is over $300. For contemporary fiction, I usually pay $8-$10 per book. I have my downloads charged right to my credit card.
posted by cranberrymonger at 6:35 AM on April 20, 2011

People are trying to scare you by saying that Kindle doesn't support some file formats. The only popular format it doesn't support is .epub, and it's trivial to convert the file (either on your desktop or on a website) before loading it onto your Kindle. Really, it takes seconds, and is very very easy. Apart from that, Kindle supports as many file formats as any other ereader and more than some. And right now, you can get it for $111 with what seems like some pretty unobtrusive advertising built in. That's quite a deal.
I've used the Sony Reader and the Nook, and for me, the user experience with the Kindle is just leaps and bounds ahead.
posted by conifer at 6:46 AM on April 20, 2011

This is anecdotal, but my Sony PRS-505 was a massive pain in the ass. First of all, the store is atrocious. I tried to buy Infinite Jest (I figured it'd be easier to read with links to all of the footnotes), but the file was corrupted and it wouldn't open on the reader. I called and emailed customer service for a few weeks. They said they'd have a fixed version of the file up by the end of the month. That never happened, so I called to try and get a refund. That also never happened.

I got annoyed and just put the damn thing in the closet, which gets significantly colder than the rest of my apartment. The fancy metal casing contracted and shattered the screen.

Get a kindle or a nook.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:04 AM on April 20, 2011

I've found that while it's *possible* to convert epub and some other files to Kindle-supported formats, in practice I have found that it's a hassle and the converted books tend to have annoying formatting problems. I bought an ereader so I could get and read books with less hassle than just going to the store or ordering from Amazon, and converting and reformatting negates that.

Also, PDF files can technically be read on the Kindle, but unless they're created with the size of the Kindle screen in mind, they tend to show up with teeny-tiny text that's hard to read unless you're in a strong light. The font-resizing doesn't work on them, because the Kindle is essentially displaying an image of a page, not manipulatable text.
posted by telophase at 8:49 AM on April 20, 2011

The real issue with the kindle is that it doesn't support the most common format -- and it's not a trivial issue, as Conifer thinks.

Basically, Amazon is forcing you to buy from them. You can't buy from, say, the sony store and just convert willy nilly: you'd have to break the DRM which is illegal and arguably unethical. I don't know how you feel about that, but I don't like it. What if the book you want is only available from the Kobo store? Do you just... not read it?

And no, you can't read Kindle books on other readers, but that's not the choice of those other manufacturers, that's the choice Amazon made when it chose to use a proprietary format.
posted by AmandaA at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2011

Just popping in to counter some of the anti-Nook sentiment in this thread. So far I've been happy with mine (plain b&w, not the fancy color version). I'm not in love with it, but I like and respect it. It works with Google Books so I can give my local indie store a cut of what i buy, and it works with my library.
posted by tangerine at 10:47 AM on April 20, 2011

There should be a flowchart for this decision but I still say that the Kindle (3G if you are often out of wireless range or don't have tethering on your phone...otherwise the $139 wireless is fine) is the right answer for 90%+ of folks. It's relatively cheap, the E-ink is awesome and much less fatiguing than backlit screens, the battery life is great, and barring a few lemons that I read about in the reviews, I know very few people who don't really like their Kindle (including me.)

YMMV if you have a serious issue about .epub format availability, library loans, backlighting, or feel that you are supporting a monopolistic business by buying one.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 4:22 PM on April 20, 2011

Thanks to all of you for the info & tips.
posted by WOLF101 at 1:46 PM on April 21, 2011

« Older Questioner that just won't quit. HELP!   |   Fun/amazing/mindblowing Physics Presentation? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.