Which illuminated E-reader for me?
June 4, 2013 5:12 AM   Subscribe

Time for a new e-reader, and of course nothing will give me everything I want, but maybe ebook-loving Mefites can help me choose. I'm currently looking at the Kindle Paperwhite, the Kobo Glo, and the Kobo Aura HD. Because I'm reading for work online all day (on my laptop), my #1 priority is ease on the eyes when reading for pleasure on an e-reader. I have a first gen Kindle, but I'm currently reading on iPad with retina display, which doesn't seem to strain my eyes, but battery issues and weight are a problem. All other details after the jump...

My wants, needs, desires & deets:

I really need the kindest display for eyes

I read ebooks almost every day, about 85% of the time at night, in bed, so I need an illuminated display

I'm not in the US / UK / Canada, so cost will be higher and availability can be tricky

All my books are either mobi (or other Amazon format) or epub, and I'm not concerned about other reading material on this device (comics, graphic novels, magazines, etc.)

I'm adequately conversant with Calibre, so conversions and DRM issues aren't a problem

What I totally adore about reading on the iPad is that I can open my Kindle books in the Kindle app or read my epub books with iReader (I usually load them on dropbox, and open them from there). For simple ease of access for different formats, I don't think anything else will come close to being so convenient, sadly

I don't care about color display, or, really, online browser functionality aside from what I need to get books onto my reader, but working access to my books on dropbox would be super sweet

+ & - aspects of the readers I'm looking at:

PAPERWHITE (wifi) – Plusses = great display, easy to read my Amazon books. Minuses = expensive for me ($200 with postage and customs); probably the most difficult to load with non-amazon titles, and I really really don't love the USB transfer method; no SD card.

KOBO GLO – Plusses = is supposed to have a great display; least expensive (around $170 for me via ebay) and easiest-to-acquire option for me; has SD card. Minuses = I've heard the interface is clunky and unpleasant; other problems are unknown.

KOBO AURA HD – Plusses = Company hype positions it as the "premium" e-reader now, and many reviews say it's better than the Paperwhite (comparative specs); has SD card. Minuses = Definitely the most difficult for me to acquire (I'll have to have it sent to someone I know who lives both here and the UK, and get them to physically bring it back for me); expensive (around $215 if sent to UK friend); some say that because it's a limited edition it will be soon (?) followed by less expensive and/or better version; at least one review says the casing feels cheap/unpleasant; other problems are unknown.

Note: Since I have not had a wifi-enabled e-reader up to this point, I don't have experience with trying to transfer books using Calibre, but I assume that will be the best way to transfer most books?

So, Paperwhite has a great rep, is pretty much a "known quantity" and would be convenient for my Amazon books; Kobo Aura HD appeals because it's supposed to be even better; Kobo Glo would probably be fine if the display is as good as the Paperwhite, plus it's less expensive and it's the least troublesome for me to obtain. Regarding the iPad, I really like it, but worry about the LED backlighting, hate to see the battery draining like mad, and I fall asleep and bop myself in the face with it, which, ouch! it's really heavy.

Based on these details, fellow readers, what are your recommendations regarding these (or other) readers?
posted by taz to Technology (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure the Kindle is that expensive? If you order from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de you will not have to pay customs. The Paperwhite is 109 GBP/129 EUR and it qualifies for free Super Saver delivery, which according to the Amazon UK text should also be valid for shipping to Greece.
posted by blub at 5:44 AM on June 4, 2013

Response by poster: I actually tried to order from Amazon UK, but the checkout page sent me to "Amazon international" with the price plus postage and customs that I quoted above. I don't know what is typical, actually, but I may be an outlier, because my CC and Amazon details are based in the US. Maybe I can try it again with my husband's acct and Greek CC.
posted by taz at 5:51 AM on June 4, 2013

I really love my Paperwhite. I played with my friend's Kobo Glo before I made my decision, the Paperwhite was clearly better.

Getting books on it isn't as simple as Dropbox on the iPad unfortunately, but you can email .MOBI files directly to the device which I use regularly.
posted by frenetic at 5:52 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: (oh, I should add that I order from Amazon UK all the time with my account, and I never have any trouble with extra charges, which is why I just assumed it was a location issue rather than an acct issue. We'll see!)
posted by taz at 6:09 AM on June 4, 2013

Yeah, I just convert epubs to mobis in Calibre and then e-mail them to my kindle, it's very very easy. If I'm doing a bunch at once I'll find a cord and connect it and load that way, as it's faster and I get the books instantly, but e-mailing them to yourself takes 15 minutes at the outside if it's a large file and amazon's being slow. Generally it takes under a minute.

I don't have a paperwhite yet (I've got a kindle keyboard) but I've played with friends' and family members', and the screen is SO pleasant, especially for reading at night. It's got such nice fine-grained control of the light and it's so easy on the eyes.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:15 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a Kobo Glo, and the interface is pretty clunky. But for actual reading, it's good, and with the wifi off (but the light on), the battery lasts forever. I've played with the Aura, and I don't think it feels much cheaper or less cheap than anything else, and the interface looks about a million times better and it is more responsive. There are concerns that it won't be maintained properly since it's a test case and it uses different interfaces, but to be honest I've not found any compelling reason to update to new firmware anyhow.

The Glo works fine with Calibre, and you can always just go on to the Calibre server if you have it running and download books from there. However, you can't email-to which would be nice, and it does take some time to process new books.

My issues with the Glo are as follows:

- I'm too lazy to appropriately tag my books, which would shelve them properly
- the front page has room for 5 covers on it, and the book you read gets put on the front, but if you add more than 4 new books while you're reading, it gets pushed off the front
- also the front page is really ugly (this and the previous issue seem solved by the Aura)
- no physical buttons

Only the last option affects reading really. The screen is great, the light is great.

The paperwhite was a huge pain to buy in Canada for a while, and I don't want my Amazon account to be forcibly pushed to a Canadian one, so it was never on the radar for me.
posted by jeather at 6:18 AM on June 4, 2013

Datapoint about eyes and the Paperwhite: I love my Paperwhite. My eyes HURT SO MUCH with LCDs in the superdark at night (and I like it DARK when I sleep) but this thing does not bother me in the least.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:20 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

My current e-reader is an iPad 2. I've had a 3rd-gen Kindle and still have a Kindle Paperwhite but I always go back to my iPad, despite the weight. As you say, the iPad supports multiple formats effortlessly. It's not as great in direct sunlight but I usually read indoors. The Paperwhite is miles ahead of the 3rd-gen Kindle, but the interface still feels like I'm poking at it with a stick compared to an iPad. If I was looking for a new e-reader, I'd be looking at the iPad mini which improves the pixel density and the size and weight over a full-size iPad.
posted by zanni at 6:21 AM on June 4, 2013

For easiest on the eyes, I'd go with an e-reader. I have the Paperwhite, and for me (someone who also spends all day looking at a screen) I find the display more restful and less headache inducing than trying to read on a tablet. The interface is definitely not as spritely as a tablet, but it does what I bought it for very, very, well.
posted by canine epigram at 6:48 AM on June 4, 2013

Sorry for the wrong price info on European Amazon stores. I just tried to order one (Dutch address, Dutch creditcard) and both sites redirect me to Amazon International as well. They could have mentioned that on the page itself where it says the Kindle qualifies for Super Saver delivery and then when you click on "learn more" it says that this is valid in most European countries and it doesn't mention anywhere that this does not apply for Kindles.
posted by blub at 7:24 AM on June 4, 2013

I have an iPad 4 and a Kindle Paperwhite.

I primarily read on the iPad, it's fast, the text is sharp and I can connect to the cloud to get more of my books from dropbox easily.

The Paperwhite is a strong contender mostly because of battery life. It's greatest weakness is that it does not include a text to speech function that most of the other kindles had. There is no speaker or headphone port.

content of almost any type can be converted for free to .mobi or .pdf by the great piece of shareware software Calibre.
posted by bobdow at 8:02 AM on June 4, 2013

I have been looking at the Kobo Aura myself - not because of the even lighting etc, but because of the increased screen size. I find my Kindle's screen (same as Kobo Glo, Paperwhite etc) is just big enough for me now, but I would ideally like something a little larger. Larger screen also = longer battery as there are fewer screen presses.

For me, and the amount I use these, the difference in price would be negligible in the long run.
posted by smoke at 6:11 PM on June 4, 2013

I have an iPad, iPhone and all of the Kindles. My favorite device is the Paperwhite. The battery life is great as is the screen, plus it weighs almost nothing.
posted by ill3 at 8:03 AM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: This Gizmodo review has sort of put me off the Kobo Aura idea (plus the fact that it's also a pain in the ass for me to buy). Also a couple of the videos I viewed (here's one) show that the larger screen only yields a line or two more text because of the formatting, which can't be adjusted for the space between paragraphs or side margins, and that sideloaded books cannot necessarily be adjusted with font, etc. controls.

I'm pretty much leaning very strongly toward Paperwhite at this point, though I'm not happy that it will cost me ~$60 more than the regular price, but that's life on the outer shores of the global soup! (I haven't had a chance to check on this w/my husband's account because he's out of town, but blub's experience suggests that this is the way it's typically handled for countries that do not have a native Amazon presence.)

Ultimately, well, I already have an Amazon account with lots of books on there, even though I have a lot of epub books as well... but I'm pretty much not going to be buying from the Kobo book store, so I might as well have the device that accesses one of my book-acquisition vectors really handily. And doing some more reading, I see that dropbox is accessible via the "experimental browser" (for some, at least; we'll see) so that may be okay. I'm sorry that I won't get an SD card, but honestly? I hardly use my digital camera anymore because I don't feel like connecting via USB or popping out the SD card, when I can transfer stuff wirelessly with the iPad and dropbox.

My biggest sadness is that I won't be able to just open a book of whatever format instantly pretty damn easily, and if it weren't for the much shorter battery life of the iPad, I don't think I'd bother with a separate reader, since, aside from the weight, the reading experience is really nice for me.

I'll update with info, whatever I do; thanks, everyone!
posted by taz at 9:42 AM on June 5, 2013

Personally, I wouldn't have felt ripped off if the Paperwhite cost $60 more.

Someone mentioned it upthread and I know it isn't Retina, but have you considered an iPad mini?
posted by frenetic at 9:59 AM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: If it were retina display, depending on battery life, I'd absolutely be considering it as a top possibility. I know that that this will probably be coming up sometime this year... and maybe I'll wait around to see.
posted by taz at 10:16 AM on June 5, 2013

I've ordered my Paperwhite from Amazon.com, and shipped it via Shipito Airmail Priority. Choose the Oregon warehouse to avoid Sales Tax.

For your reference:
Weight: 0.95 lbs.
Dimensions (L x W x H) : 9.20" x 6.60" x 1.40"
Cost via Shipito Airmail Priority + Insurance: $20

I believe items under €200 don't incur taxes in the EU
posted by Sharcho at 12:39 PM on June 5, 2013

I love my Paperwhite. I find it very easy on the eyes and not at all glarey. It's also very lightweight and comfortable to hold. I've used an iPad and the Nook color, and found them both to heavy for my comfort. Getting books via Amazon and Project Gutenberg is dead simple. Anything else you can convert and email to the device with no trouble. I'm not terribly impressed with the "experimental browser," as I've found it very laggy. But even with that, I highly recommend the Paperwhite.
posted by lawhound at 5:12 PM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: Okay, I've ordered the Paperwhite. :) I went ahead and ordered through Amazon "International."

Sharcho, thank you for that! Unfortunately, as far as I can work out, what we have is not exactly customs tax (on items under X euros), but an "import fee" on non-EEC purchases (above a certain amount), which will apply for anything significant from the US. This is a charge for examining the item, basically. Even if it were sent from Shipto, I'd have pay the extra here -- and maybe even be forced to go to the airport to pick it up. *shudder* If Amazon were willing to ship from the UK, then I'd just be able to pay the regular UK price without the import fee. I did check out a UK business like shipto, but the price difference (versus Amazon) turned out to be negligible.

Thanks to everyone! I will share my observations here once I get it.
posted by taz at 2:46 AM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: Okay, I've had the Paperwhite for a about 10 days now, and here's how it's working out for me:
  • Transferring non-Amazon books (epubs converted to mobi, for example) is not the problem I anticipated. Amazon has a right-click "send to Kindle" app that instantly transfers acceptable filetypes to your device(s) and this is fine.
  • Surprise, I'm dumb. It didn't occur to me that, yeah, despite the name, Paperwhite does not have an option for a sepia/cream colored page. I'm used to that being a choice on all the reading apps I've used on various devices, and I just assumed it would be an option – but, duh, it's not, and I'm really not fond of the cold light at night. I really miss the warm page look.
  • I don't much like the default font, but the other options feel worse for legibility. I've sideloaded some alternative fonts that are usually great for text, and they look very bad. Additionally, you don't have a justification choice – text is full (left to right) justified, which looks terrible at any font size above the three smallest choices because there's way too much space between words usually, and distracting text rivers – all made much worse by the fact that they don't hyphenate words. (Actually, now that I've looked at it with the large sizes, it looks like they've kind of rolled their own justification scheme, left justifying lines with fewer than X words, with full justification for the rest. It's weird and bad (as the sole option), and I really wish they offered left-justify as a choice.) One book that apparently was formatted from the publisher as left justified looks so much better. I think I can force that myself with Calibre on books I convert.
  • There are three options for line spacing, and for me, using the smaller size and default font, these options feel like: super cramped, very cramped, and cramped. Using a small font so the justification won't be horrible works okay, but would be so much more comfortable if I could have a little more line spacing.
  • Weight, size, and battery life are great! Love. I can hold and carry it easily, and go backwards and forwards using only my left hand, which is how I almost always use it. (Holding in your right hand, you won't be able to go backwards one-handed so easily... unless you have pretty big hands, I suppose.) Charging via USB isn't the pia I expected it to be, so I'm glad I didn't spend extra for the charger / power adapter.
So, the way it's turned out, I actually use the Paperwhite to read a lot more during the day now, since it's so easy and portable, and the display doesn't look too blue-white bright in the daytime. At night, it kind of bugs me and bothers my eyes – so on that front, for my preferences it was not a great success.

Visually, the retina-display iPad looks and feels much better in every way, in my opinion. Except for when I hit myself in the face with it.

So the iPad is heavy, reflective, can't be held for long, isn't manipulable with one hand, and the battery drains quickly. But it looks faaaahbulous. The Paperwhite typography issues can be quite distracting to me and the cold light/page bothers my eyes at night, but the physical characteristics and battery life are wonderful. I'm glad to have the Paperwhite, because I can just have it with me all the time and I'm reading a lot more than just at night before sleeping.
posted by taz at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

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