International eReader Dilemma
January 1, 2013 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Which is the best eReader for a Canadian who wants access to lots of free reading material?

I received a Kindle for Christmas. Yay! But I, and also my Kindle-giving girlfriend, want to make sure that I can get lots of reading material for free. She wasn't aware that Canadian library systems were lending ebooks, so that wasn't the one of the factors she considered in choosing the Kindle, which unfortunately doesn't work with Canadian library systems.

If I keep it, I'll be registering the Kindle in the US (where it was purchased) to maintain access to the wider selection of magazines etc. My girlfriend's library card will give me access to the NYC library system as well, but I haven't been able to find any information online about whether or not that would work when all of us (me, her, the Kindle, the library card) are in Canada.

Otherwise, the Kindle will be returned and replaced with a Kobo or a Sony eReader (unfortunately more expensive than the original gift, so probably ruled out)... which obviously comes with its own set of questions. My priority is really to have free access to a wide variety of reading material, preferably by borrowing rather than pirating. I prefer not to have a touch screen, and I don't care about lighting options or screen size. I like that the Sony isn't locked into a DRM system, and my understanding is that I could buy epub books directly from Canadian publishers with either the Kobo or the Sony, which while not free is still a plus.

What's best? Stick with the Kindle and hope I will be able to access the US library system--even though that's not quite above-board, I might have access to a better selection? Do Canadian Kindle owners have more free book access than I think? Or should I return the Kindle and get a Kobo or a Sony eReader, allowing me to borrow library books in Canada?

Thanks for your help! (Oh, and yes, I know about Project Gutenberg et. al... this question is about contemporary fiction. I'll be reading free classics regardless.)
posted by snorkmaiden to Technology (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure about the vagaries of Canadian lending systems, but is there a reason you're not considering the Nook?
posted by dd42 at 3:26 PM on January 1, 2013

Consider getting yourself a tablet like a Google Nexus or something similar. That way you get a nice bright colour screen and access to a whole bunch of different e-reader apps. There's a kindle app, I think there's also a kobo app (which I think is what works with the books in the library system). And you also get all the other functionality that comes with an android tablet.
posted by wabbittwax at 3:39 PM on January 1, 2013

A friend checked out ebooks from the Brooklyn Public Library onto her kindle (or maybe kindle iphone app) while in France, so you'd probably be ok in Canada.
posted by moonmilk at 3:39 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A Nook is a huge pain in Canada.

In general, libraries in Canada use epub. But the local libraries here are . . . miserly with their selection of ebooks. I'd try to use the NYC library first, and if you continue to have access to it, I'd stick with the Kindle.

Otherwise, Sony and Kobo are fairly similar (although I prefer the Sony's organizational abilities), and only the Sony has physical buttons (huge plus, though it also has a touch screen). I have access to both, and if you decide to go epub you're welcome to try them out.

It's very easy to buy books from Kobo, strip the DRM (which is illegal as of a few months ago, depending on how you read the law exactly, though they can only recover actual damages, which is presumably zero in the case of removing DRM in a book you have bought in order to use it on a different device) and put it on your Kindle. It is equally easy to do the reverse.
posted by jeather at 3:53 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

The situation with libraries and ebooks is pretty complicated and I don't know that things will shake out in a positive way anytime soon. One librarian I know who's in a high position in one of the New York library systems got a Kobo specifically so she could read epub books, which the Kindle can't do (except with Calibre, which doesn't work with library DRM.)

NYPL's ebook lending is only going to check that you have a valid library card -- but library cards don't stay valid forever; you don't say whether your girlfriend lives in NYC, but she won't be able to renew the card if she doesn't have a permanent address in New York State. If not, then you'll definitely want to go with something that's compatible with Canadian libraries.

(In the Brooklyn library system cards expire after 3 years, but I'm not sure whether it's the same with NYPL.)
posted by Jeanne at 3:53 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I prefer not to have a touch screen, and I don't care about lighting options or screen size.

I believe all current Kobo models have a touchscreen, but still has the old Kobo 6" eBook Reader with Wi-Fi (RG-N647-G) refurbished for $69.99 CDN.

I second that ebook availability from Canadian libraries is extremely disappointing, especially when it comes to literary fiction and anything but the most popular of non-fiction.
posted by Lorin at 4:02 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just purchased my mom a Kobo Glo in Canada for Christmas and she previously used a Sony, so I have a bit of experience with both.

Many of your questions have already been answered, but I wanted to add two things:

1. While both the Sony and the Kobo support borrowing from Canadian libraries on the surface, the Kobo's software doesn't inherently support this. In our case, it meant installing a copy of Adobe Digital Editions and having to maintain two pieces of software for one device. The Kobo software allows access to materials in the Kobo store, and ADE must be used for anything from a different source. A bit cumbersome.

2. The Kobo's touchscreen is a bit slow/unresponsive at times. The Sony, although a less flashy model, was more reliable in terms of responsiveness and ease of use.
posted by bkpiano at 4:28 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In regards to having access to the U.S. Kindle bookstore from Canada, with registration and credit card to a U.S. address, no problem. ereaderiq daily lists free books for the Kindle. Most are independently published and and you really have to filter through them, but I find several gems a week. Also, perusing the Kindle forums will lead you to other free and reduced price books.

I can't speak to the other concerns. Also, magazines are delivered with no problem to the Kindle.
posted by batikrose at 4:54 PM on January 1, 2013

Are you guys Amazon Prime members? If so, you get access to the "Prime Lending Library." Just be sure you register the Kindle to the account that bought the Prime membership.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:59 PM on January 1, 2013

A Google Nexus or something similar means you can use the Nook Ap and the Kindle Ap to access pretty much any of the books they can get. You can install an Ap called Overdrive Media that works with libraries around the world to give you access to borrowing books from any of the libraries listed if you are a member.

A quick search of libraries shows a large selection of libraries in Canada, Quebec area has 11 libraries listed, with Ontario showing easily 100 libraries available if you are a member of them. I access my old home town library in Australia and 2 local ones here in the US with no problems using the app. I haven't used it with a Kindle so I can't comment on that. But it has worked with my Nexus and transferring the books to my Nook touch to read no worries.
posted by wwax at 5:12 PM on January 1, 2013

Amazon Prime is not available in Canada.
posted by bonehead at 6:02 PM on January 1, 2013

I would just keep the Kindle and use Calibre to strip the DRM from the ebook so you can view it on your Kindle.
posted by Jairus at 6:37 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can use Calibre to add books to your Kindle, ... including ePubs, because Calibre can also do format conversion.

Otherwise the Nooks are pretty good ... they support ePub and PDF out of the box, and can be rooted into a basic Android tablet to support other formats.

There are many free books available from various online sources, with varying legitimacy. A google search of "title ebook free" will often turn up something in the first page of results.

posted by jannw at 5:40 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a Kindle in Canada. I borrow books from my local public library and just run them through Calibre to convert them for my Kindle. The links above will help. The added "benefit" of doing this is that the DRM disappears.
posted by smitt at 5:57 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks very much for all of the great answers! Knowing that the selection available from Canadian libraries is generally not great (and that there's a workaround as well if I really want to do that) makes this decision for me. I'm going to stick with the Kindle and figure it all out from there.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:29 AM on January 2, 2013

With your American connection, it sounds like the Kindle is a better choice (much largely catalogue of ebooks).

But just to clarify: the Kobo devices are not locked to Kobo books -- the devices don't support Amazon's mobi format, but you can load DRM'd epubs from other sources (eg Google) so long as whatever DRM system they use is compatible with the Kobo (so anything using Adobe Digital Editions, like Google or my public library). I don't know if Sony is even more open, but the Kobo devices are open to other stores in this way.
posted by jb at 9:17 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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