What's the best e-book reader?
March 22, 2007 3:36 PM   Subscribe

What's the best e-book reader?

I initially asked this question on my work blog, but I figure the MeFites may have some good advice for me and my readers as to which stand-alone device is best. I'm uncertain about the best product for my needs. I'll mainly be using it to read PDF/text files of free books like the ones listed in the post. I know everyone is down on the Sony Reader, but what about the Iliad? Is a PDA good enough? (I don't own one now.) Should I wait for the iPhone? And on a related note, what's the best e-book store to buy books at?
posted by showmethecalvino to Technology (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
PDA's have very poor support for PDF's, great for most other formats.

I like my Nokia 770 because it has a fairly large screen and nice font rendering. I don't even bother to read PDF's on it.

As for the Illiad, I don't think e-paper technology is good enough at this point (especially if its like the Sony e-book reader, very poor refresh rates.)
posted by mphuie at 4:00 PM on March 22, 2007

I'll vote for my Sone Reader - I dearly love it. But I would never read a PDF on it... I've tried, and tried, and tried. They convert just fine, but the font is so small it's unreadable. Maybe I'm doing something wrong?

Other than that, it's been a very handy little reader.
posted by matty at 4:00 PM on March 22, 2007

should have added:

I don't mind the refresh rate on my Sony in the least - it's just as fast as turning a page. It's not made for gaming.

The brighter the light, the better it looks - I haven't had any eye strain like I did from reading books on my old Rocket Ebook.

Sometimes, if you leave it on for a while on one particular page, you'll have some 'burn-in' until the capsules have had a couple of chances to rotate.

The book selection is acceptable, but I don't have much to compare it to.

I read daily on the Metro - about 1.5 hours a day 5 days a week. I go about a month before needing to recharge it.

I have about 35 books on it at the moment.

At least twice a week, someone asks me what it is.
posted by matty at 4:05 PM on March 22, 2007

I think ereaders are not ready for the market yet.

From my online research, it seemed like the Sony Reader was the best one and I bought one when it first came out. I returned it in week.

The screen was a light grey, like the color of an old 20yr paperback or the color of a pulp magazine like Analog. I thought the page color wouldn't bother me, but it did. Without a backlight, I started wishing there was more contrast between white and black on the screen.

PDF's were hard to read and the Reader had problems with soft wrapping text with txt/rtf files. Page refreshes were the worse problem for me. Refreshing a page annoyed me since it would flicker black, then white, then display the next page.

I've given up on all the currently available ereaders, but to be honest I'll probably be in line to buy the next models.
posted by Cog at 4:16 PM on March 22, 2007

I really like Mobipocket Reader.

The reader is free, but it's mostly a way for them to get you to buy ebooks from them (not necessary, though). I have mine on a hi-res+ Sony Clie and it takes advantage of the full screen. Reads standard prc and pdb files. Can access external memory (memory stick, &c).
posted by porpoise at 4:22 PM on March 22, 2007

I still use an old Visor Prism for ebooks (converted from text/html files only, so I can't speak to the PDF issue). It's a color display with backlight so it's nice and crisp and high-contrast, although it's a little iffy to read in very bright sunlight. If you're not liking any of the stand-alone readers currently available and uncertain about using PDAs as readers, perhaps you could try hitting eBay/Craigslist/etc. for older color PDAs to use as an inexpensive trial run, then you can always upgrade to a shiny newer model if you like the experience.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 4:31 PM on March 22, 2007

I've been using PDAs to read ebooks for about three years now. For the last year, I've been using an XDA IIs with Mobipocket Reader, and I'm delighted with it. I cannot evaluate the best of the newer dedicated e-book devices, but some of this might be useful.

I spend at least an hour a day reading, and have spent 6-8 hours while travelling. I usually charge it for ten minutes a day, it only lasts about two-three days without charging. Bear in mind this is not only using it as an ebook reader, but as an mp3 player and mobile phone as well.

The screen is 3.5" 65,536 colour LCD (240x320 pixels)
When I first started getting used to reading on a PDA screen, I started with the text set to the default size and after a month or so, I was able to reduce it to the minimum size.
The backlight makes it possible to read the screen in the sunlight, and best of all, in bed at night without waking photosensitive husband!

So far, I have been able to get any book I wanted in a readable ebook format, and I carry about 250 books on a 1gb SD card. I typically read .txt files and ebooks in .prc format. PDFs are just pants, no point even trying.

It is light enough to hold easily in one hand, and to slip into my pocket, and as it is also my phone, I always carry it - it's great to be able to read when I'm in a queue. Only big drawback is that I jump about a foot in the air if I'm reading and someone calls me.

I would consider upgrading for a lighter version with a larger screen size - but that would be for watching video, not for reading. Oh, or for something sandproof to take to the beach.

posted by weegreentoad at 4:52 PM on March 22, 2007

can't beat this app

posted by complience at 5:00 PM on March 22, 2007

I've commented on this previously.

I have a Nokia 770. I have read ebooks for about 8 years as the majority of my reading. I have read around 250 novels in ebook format, starting with the Palm IIIxe. The Nokia 770 is the best ebook reader I have ever used.

It has the most intuitive, perfect design for reading ebooks. The reader on the device, FBReader, opens almost anything you throw at it (not pdfs). It officially supports at least OpenReader, FictionBook, HTML, plucker, Palmdoc, zTxt, TCR, RTF, OEB, Non-DRM'ed mobipocket and plain text. The 770 basically fails at opening pdfs, as other people have mentioned. The screen is the most crisp screen I've ever seen on a portable gadget (800x480 in a form factor smaller than an index card). The screen is incredibly bright (but not readable in sunlight).

I have a picture and small article online that shows how amazing the reading ebooks on the Nokia 770 is. The picture will probably make things more clearer.

It's only 250 dollars or so.

Summary: The Nokia 770 is awesomer than you can possibly imagine, unless you want to play video at 30fps or read pdfs
posted by adamwolf at 5:06 PM on March 22, 2007

I enjoy reading Mobipocket ebooks on my Treo 650, but PDFs are nearly impossible on it.

For PDFs, I bought a small HP tablet TC1000 for $500 on ebay (they go cheaper now). It's only 3.5lbs, 10" display, and you can hold it like a book. Worth looking into.
posted by bumper314 at 5:46 PM on March 22, 2007

Response by poster: I forgot all about tablets. I'll check them out.

Sounds like nothing works well with PDFs. But I think most of the writers who give away freebies do so in HTML format as well, so that's OK.
posted by showmethecalvino at 6:33 PM on March 22, 2007

The screen on the 770 that adamwolf recommends above would be way too small for me, I think.

I've read (books) almost exclusively on my very aged Thinkpad at 1024x768 for about 8 years now, with a few apps that I've become accustomed to and like, after much trial and error.

But I'm totally going to buy a Samsung Q2, I think, when the Thinkpad finally gives up the ghost, and if my wife lets me. For the extra expense beyond a dedicated reader or small-screen PDA, I get a fully-featured PC that I can cart around with me as well as a reading-in-bed machine.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:50 PM on March 22, 2007

As far as pdf files go, this is what I use on my laptop for pdfs, and what I would use on the Q2. It's pretty good, and way better for the purpose than Acrobat.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:52 PM on March 22, 2007

I was pretty happy with my Sony Reader until it broke (less than a month after I bought it) and Sony quoted me $269 to repair it...
posted by qvtqht at 7:13 PM on March 22, 2007

I find that my Zaurus SL-C1000 works pretty well for reading books and long articles, either in HTML or PDF format. It's got a 640x480 color screen and a keyboard, but it's still small enough to fit into my pocket. About $450 Canadian.

Some examples of books that I've read recently on the Zaurus: the memoirs of Philippe de Commynes (HTML); Jeffrey Herbst, The Politics of Reform in Ghana (HTML); Jaccard, Rivers, and Horne, The Morning After: Optimal Greenhouse Gas Policies for Canada's Kyoto Obligations and Beyond (PDF).
posted by russilwvong at 11:12 PM on March 22, 2007

I third the Nokya 770 (or the new N800). It does handle PDF, but the 800x480 screen is just too small for some files. Some PDF files are just fine, but if a file uses the full page width, then you either have to zoom out and deal with small fonts, or soom in and scroll horizontally as well as vertically. But it's better for PDF than any other pocket-sized device.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:48 AM on March 23, 2007

The PDF viewer that I use on the Zaurus, qpdf2, has a "View Text" button that lays out the text in the document to fit the screen. This makes it easy to read without having to scroll horizontally or zoom out. It's similar to the "small screen layout" option in the Opera web browser.
posted by russilwvong at 4:04 PM on March 23, 2007

I'm arriving late at this thread, so let's see if someone is still reading. :p I'been pondering also getting an e-reader, and here in Australia there seem to be around the Franklin eBookMan 911. Anyone has experienced this one? Looks reasonable in cost (I can't afford those amazing super PDAs or UMPCs, sigh), and decent features. Then again... vendor hype and such, hm.
posted by Iosephus at 12:19 AM on March 24, 2007

I have one of the Sony readers. The thing that is great about it is that it doesn't have a backlight. So, you're not pummeling your eyes with that sunlight-bright white light the entire time. PDFs take work to get to work "right," but there are lots of options outside their closed store for getting content.
posted by jeversol at 8:39 PM on March 24, 2007

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