Yeah it's new, but is it good?
November 4, 2012 6:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an e-book reader. I've been pretty wow-ed by the Kindle Paperwhite, but I have some reservations as to whether I should get that (or even get an e-book reader at all)

At the outset, I should state that I have a surfeit of mobile devices from which I read (an LG Optimus, an iPod Touch and a hand-me-down iPhone 3GS).

The main problem I have with these devices is the screen size and the comfort (or lack thereof). Thus, I'm looking to get a e-book reader. At this moment I'm leaning towards the Kindle Paperwhite, not so much for the backlight, but more because it has the latest e-ink screen.

The majority of the books I read are in EPUB format. I'm not so concerned about the e-book store, since most of my books are self-created (e.g. news sources and journal articles).

1) Should I be concerned that the Kindle Paperwhite cannot read EPUBs? Are there any other e-book readers I should consider? (I'm aware of Calibre, but are there any caveats with using it?)
2) How big is the difference between the Paperwhite's screen vs. something from the last generation, e.g. B&N Nook Simple Touch?
3) How trashy is the PDF support? I'll mostly be reading journal articles where PDF files are concerned.
4) If I do decide to get it, would it be worthwhile to wait for the Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales? Or does Amazon not do discounts for the Kindle?

Your advice is very much appreciated!
posted by titantoppler to Technology (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have an older Kindle so my experience might not be relevant, but I had a poor experience reading PDFs on Kindle. It butchered graphics, tables, and often failed to nicely display columns.

I wound up switching to an iPad with a piece of software called iAnnotate PDF to let me read (and make notes on) my collection of PDFs.

As such, I'd advise you to find somebody with a Paperwhite and confirm that PDF support is up to par for your needs. It might be completely fine now, but it definitely used to be lacking.
posted by grudgebgon at 6:57 AM on November 4, 2012

The paperwhite is amazing, and the screen is beautiful. That being said, if what you're looking for is primarily epub and pdf support, you're better off with a tablet. Kindle fire, Nexus, ipad, and ipad mini (goodreader is a fantastic pdf reader for iOS) are all solid choices.

I have an ipad that I read on all the time, and its flexibility is a lifesaver. I can read kindle books on the kindle app, epub books on the ibooks app, and pdfs on goodreader, and it works great.
posted by nickhb at 7:04 AM on November 4, 2012

A clarification - PDF support is nice to have, but not critical; this is because I can get my journal articles in text format as well.
posted by titantoppler at 7:12 AM on November 4, 2012

Reading PDFs on a Kindle sucks. Even when it doesn't actually have any issues correctly rendering the PDF, if it is formatted for an 8.5"x11" page, it will be too small to comfortably read on the Kindle. Yes, you can switch it to landscape mode, but then you're paging back and forth at the end of columns, the text is still smaller than is comfortable, and it is generally a crappy experience.

I use the command-line tool ebook-convert that comes with Calibre to convert .epubs to .mobis and have generally not had any problem; however, the one exception is DRMed Overdrive library ebooks. I know that Overdrive is starting to support the Kindle but at my library many books are still epub-only. Because of this and the fact that there are usually waiting lists for any interesting book, I've never actually borrowed a library ebook.

All that said, I love my (pre-Paperwhite) Kindle, I read much more than I would without it, and I think Amazon is simply able to sell a better device for the price than competing ereader makers who are not subsidizing their devices by selling millions of ebooks.
posted by enn at 7:15 AM on November 4, 2012

You should check out the Kobo Glo... it supports epub and can do *landscape* mode for pdf's. which is the only way it's going to possible to read non-reflowable pdf's on a 6in screen.
posted by at 7:28 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

> 4) If I do decide to get it, would it be worthwhile to wait for the Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales? Or does Amazon not do discounts for the Kindle?

Amazon says to expect shipping on December 17 (!!!) if you order right now, so discounts at big box stores are unlikely, since there might not be any to discount.

I love my Paperwhite. Love it. I use Calibre to convert things that need converting, and to strip DRM from Amazon-bought books (for backup), and have had no troubles at all. The Paperwhite has landscape, and this makes reading PDFs marginally less painful, but it's still less than ideal. PDFs that have lots of charts and graphs and whatnot? PITA. So go with text-only whenever you can.

I used to read on my phone, and it was fine and I still do sometimes, but e-ink is really different, and awesome.
posted by rtha at 7:42 AM on November 4, 2012

Kindle's can display PDFs in landscape mode too. However, if your existing book collection is all ePub, then you'd probably be better off with the Kobo Glo which (IIRC) uses the same screen as the Kindle and can display ePubs natively.
posted by pharm at 7:48 AM on November 4, 2012

If the majority of the books you read are EPUB, do the books you read in the future also have to be? I torrent all my books and there is no shortage of MOBI files available!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:55 AM on November 4, 2012

Nook is great for ePub and reads pretty much all book formats so there is less having to convert things in Calibre or rip out DRMs (though Calibre is very good at that). They are at similar price points to Kindles. If you read a lot eInk is so much easier on the eyes than tablets.
I have a cheap ass Nook touch and a Nexus and much prefer reading on the Nook having said that the nexus handles pdfs with no worries other than screen size.

Your best bet would be to go to Best Buy or the like and try them out side by side and see which one you like the feel and look of better as Calibre makes the swapping formats reasonably easy if you go with the Kindle and it's more limited range of formats it reads you should be able to convert your ePubs to read on it. I ended up picking the Nook not only because of how it felt but I got fed up of mucking around converting and ripping DRM out of books.
posted by wwax at 9:09 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm aware of Calibre, but are there any caveats with using it?

I can't really imagine owning an ebook reader and not using Calibre. If you take the extra step of installing a plug-in to break the DRM on purchased books, you never have to worry about switching ecosystems in the future -- the books you buy today will be readable on the device you buy tomorrow. Sure, you may lose out on the convenience of having the reader on your phone, laptop, and device all synchronize your bookmarks, but if you do all your reading on the device anyway, that's not such a loss.

wwax has it right: go to somewhere you can pick up and play with a range of devices and see which one feels best to you. Thanks to Calibre, it doesn't matter which devices support which formats. (Except that PDF support is pretty terrible on all the e-ink devices I've tried.)
posted by hades at 9:46 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a cheap ass Nook touch and a Nexus and much prefer reading on the Nook...

Same here. E-ink is perfect for long-form reading.

For me, the BW nook has an advantage over the Kindle because it has physical page-turn buttons. With a Kindle you have to touch the screen to turn pages. Plus, the nook's native EPUB support is exactly what you want.
posted by General Tonic at 2:22 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want ot read epubsI would recommend a Nook. Sure, you can use Calibre and blahblahblah.... but you can also skip that step and just buy a device that will work on the documents you want to read without a bunch of dinking around.

I've had two e-readers now, the original Nook and Nook Simple Touch and used a friends Kindle (not a paperwhite) and tried to read a book on an ipad (so hard on the eyes) and the Nook Simple Touch is the best reader I've used hands down, especially for the price. It's tough, well balanced and the screen is fast. I love mine.
posted by fshgrl at 3:03 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Converting from EPUB in Calibre is such a non-issue that I can't believe anybody would recommend different hardware to avoid it. You push maybe three buttons and it converts everything. It is not hard, does not take very long, and only needs to be done once. Just pick the hardware and ecosystem (i.e. Amazon vs. B&N) you like most.
posted by sinfony at 4:57 PM on November 4, 2012

Well you need a computer sinfony. The Nook has removable storage, I generally exchange or load epubs and pdfs via wireless or the card. I don't carry a laptop around with me everywhere I go and I don't want to need a laptop pre loaded with calibre so I can load stuff on my ereader.
posted by fshgrl at 7:06 PM on November 4, 2012

I would second the Kobo Glo for reading epubs -- I haven't compared to a Paperwhite, but the screen is also e-ink, very clear and the side lighting works well. The screen is bigger than an IPod Touch (my backup reader) but it's still light enough to read one-handed. I can even walk and read while carrying a travel mug.
posted by jb at 9:46 PM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another happy user of a cheap Nook with Calibre here. (It's permanently in airplane mode; I almost never buy anything from B&N.)
posted by tangerine at 11:13 PM on November 4, 2012

But how do the screens (separate from the backlight) of each reader compare with each other? I've heard fantastic review about the Paperwhite's higher resolution screen and crisper text. Is this a very strong factor?

I do not have a place to test out the readers, unfortunately; I'll probably have to buy the reader blind.
posted by titantoppler at 5:53 AM on November 5, 2012

There are some good comparison video reviews online, looking at resolution, quality of the light, how they handle PDFs, etc.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Kobo Glo

Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Glo and Nook Glo - all three compared.

I watched the whole of the first video - they are very thorough.

It sounds like the e-ink clarity and resolution is very similar between the latest Kindle and Kobo, but the lights are very different in colour and brightness (Kobo brighter, Kindle whiter and more like lit paper). The Kobo natively supports epubs and has more settings for fonts, line spacing etc (I use the Kindle IOS app and the lack of choice there annoys me), but the Kindle offers quicker and more intuitive PDF zooming. Obviously, the Kindle doesn't read epubs, but with calibre you can convert them all to mobi.

In terms of stores, that will depend on your country. In Canada, I've found the Kobo store to be better than Canadian Amazon, but I've heard that the US Amazon is much better than US Kobo -- I actually get free books from US Amazon. Kobo does, however, allow you to read DRM'd ePubs from other sellers (like Google Books or direct from publisher books) -- but if you already remove DRM, this is a moot point. Similarly, if you want to use it for library books, you should check out what your local library supports (mine lends epubs and so can be used on a Kobo without stripping DRM, but American libraries may lend Amazon-format books).
posted by jb at 7:38 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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