Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Beginners Guide to E-Readers Part Four

So, you've decided you want to read ebooks, or you want to help someone else to do so by buying them some gear, and you've rejected the mobile phone, PC and iPad/tablet options.
OK then, what is out there? Well, quite a few choices are available and I'm going to signpost a small number of them. I'm ignoring the real low end e-readers that are popping up, partly because I don't know a great deal about them but mainly because the limited tech specs I've seen indicate that they're going to be too restrictive in terms of file types.

I'm going to look at two Amazon models, two Kobo models and a further two from Sony. I'll be honest here, I think the main battle this year is going to be between Amazon and Kobo, but Sony have been in the game a long time and and it wouldn't surprise me if they bounced back. Please be warned that this is going to be very UK-centric review, all six models are on sale in the UK and prices are in Pounds Sterling. Having said that, thanks to the much maligned Global Village I'm expecting all six to be on sale in most countries although it's not unusual for the US and Japan to have access to newer models sooner. As far as prices go, as you will know if you've read my other blogs, I expect the dollar price to simply replace the Pound sign.

The two Amazon models are the Kindle Keyboard 3G and the (new, basic) Kindle.

The Kindle Keyboard 3G is probably the most recognisable model, given the exposure it's had over the last year.

With the keyboard, this is the largest of the six models featured here (see table at end of blog).  It's also the most expensive at £149, a price that appears to be driven by the 3G feature.  Unlike Apple's 3G offering, this is a one-off cost.  Once you have bought the device you have fee-free access to 3G for searching Amazon for books, downloading plus fairly limited and basic web surfing. 

The model also boasts the largest capacity of the six models featured at an advertised 4GB, which is helpful given that there isn't an expansion slot, however see my comments on capacity in an earlier blog, plus keep an eye on the Amazon Cloud which may put an end to capacity issues completely.  Or maybe not, information is still a little thin.

You may wonder why I've chosen the 3G version, I've hardly enthused about the feature and the associated cost.  Well, that's because it looks like Amazon have quietly dropped the non-3G version that's been so popular over the last year as they introduce the new Kindle.

This is now the entry model, features the same 6 inch screen found on the Kindle Keyboard 3G.  Size-wise it's within a millimetre of the Kobo Touch.  As the screen shot shows, navigation is by a five way controller.  Like its big brother it boasts the largest amount of supported filetypes (but not the industry standard EPUB) and has a maximum 1 month battery life inbetween charges dependant on usage.  Capacity is much smaller thant he keyboard version, advertised at 1.25GB (although also declared as 2GB on a different page - typo or generous rounding up?)  Its advertised price is £89, which makes it the least expensive of this group of six (but only just).

Both Kindles are available from Amazon, naturally, but also in the UK in a number of major retailers including Tesco.

Kobo are entering the UK market through an alliance with WH Smith, who have 750 outlets available for them as well as an established online presence. 

The first one to look at  is the Kobo Wireless, which competes with Amazon's Kindle 3G in size and their basic Kindle on price.

Again, a 6 inch screen is featured (as it is on all these models save the Sony PRS 300).  Unlike the Kindle approach, Kobo devices show book covers as icons, not text titles.  The capacity of this device is the second smallest of the six at 1GB, but it is expandable to 32GB using micro SD cards.  The battery life is quoted as 10 days, which is low for this type of device and the lowest of this group with the exception of the Sony PRS 300, possibly - I couldn't find a definitive claim for that model.

It also is more limited compared to the Touch in terms of font versatility - see my blog on the Kobo models for more information on that.

The Touch is undoubtably the flagship of the Kobo UK launch, coming in at only £20 more than the Wireless, as compact as the Kindle basic model and matching on battery life.

While the adverts imply that the model is discounted by £60 it looks from adverts run on US sites that the £110 price is pretty consistent with the States right now.  For my money, the difference in e-reader capabilty between the Wireless and the Touch is more than £20 whatever way you look at it.  I don't know how long Kobo intend to discount, but as all the indications are for a brutal holiday season in terms of market competition, so my guess is that we have until the end of the year.  But don't blame me if I'm wrong, please!

Sony seem to have two models featured, available from John Lewis, Argos and, interestingly, Amazon in the UK.  first there is the PRS 300 mentioned a couple of times already.

While both Sony devices appear to be pricier than the competition, they do seem to exude a degree of quality.  This device, retailing for £120 is the only device in the round up that doesn't have a 6 inch screen - it has a 5 incher instead which contributes to its compact size, the smallest and most pocketable in the group. 

There's also the Sony PRS - T1 to consider.
Also very compact, very aesthetically pleasing and featuring touch screen technology, this is a model worthy of close inspection.  Like the Kobo devices it appears to show thumbnails of the books, however that evaluation is based on advertising shots and not through personal experience.  The T1 is currently selling for £129.

The data compiled for this review is reproduced below.

I can be followed onTwitter - @RayASullivan

email me on

Visit my books on
Amazon (for Kindle owners) and Smashwords (for access to all other formats and access to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony and many other good ebookstores

Now on WH Smith!

No comments:

Post a Comment