After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to purchase an E Ink e-reader, and done just that.
This is more of a troublesome decision than you might imagine. I didn’t want to spend too much money, although thankfully there’s so few options in this area really (compared to the myriad of tablets available, for example), it’s quite difficult to spend a lot. I narrowed it down to something from Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (The Nook, models of which have just recently become available in the UK) and something from Kobo.
I ruled out the Kobo models almost immediately due to a load of average reviews of the interface, and complaints about the speed of use. It’s apparently the most popular eInk eReader in Canada (but then according to something else I read, apparently you can’t buy Kindles in Canada). It’s about the same price as the rivals, at £59.99 for the base models (either a 5″ “mini” version, or a 6″ version.)
This left the Nook Simple Touch, and the Amazon Kindle.
The Kindle (E Ink model – £69).
Everyone who likes reading books has one, it seems. And yet, they seem difficult to love, to me.
Despite the fact that the most common form of ebook is in the .epub format, Kindles can’t read them. I can’t download free .epub books from the internet and add them to the Kindle. Yes, I know there’s unofficial workarounds using software like Calibre that converts epub books to things that the Kindle recognises, but it irks me that Amazon have decided not to support the accepted common ebook format. They can, but they choose not to. It’s a bit like if Apple decided the next iPod wouldn’t be able to play mp3 files. It is their device, they can do it if they want, but everyone would think them a dick for doing so.
Free library books
British libraries now loan out free ebooks to members. Free ebooks for (free) members. Free ebooks that is, except on the Kindle. Due to something to do with the copy protection used, you can’t use them with the Kindle (I’m sure there’s dubious methods to get around this too, but as before – using device as it is intended). But you can use them with the Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader and pretty much all other eReading devices. See the full list of supported devices, here.
Amazon has its own library where you can borrow books for ‘free’, but this is only available to Amazon Prime members. As I’m not one, that would cost me £49 a year, before I could access this ‘free’ library. Not really worth it for me, I don’t think. If you’re a prime member though, it’s a good extra for you at no additional cost.
The Kindle has some things in its favour obviously. Amazon’s enormous bookstore, obviously (according to Amazon, “Over one million books, newspapers, and magazines, including latest bestsellers, Kindle exclusives and more”), and the fact that it’s a known quantity. I know enough other people with Kindles, and their experiences seem favourable.
Email to Kindle
The ability to email a file from anywhere directly to your Kindle (called the “Kindle Personal Documents Service”) is a nice one, that isn’t available on other e-readers.
There are potential costs attached to using this via 3g, but as I’m only considering the wifi-only e-readers, this won’t be a problem for me, as that option won’t be available to me anyway.
It’s free if you send it to yourself from wifi, and your Kindle is connected via wifi at the time. And you could always tether your Kindle to your smartphone and use that for Internet access.
I use Instapaper a lot, and the developers of that service have a way of emailing the text from that, to your Kindle. Good stuff.
The lack of a keyboard or touch screen on the base model Kindle I think would be awkward. Apparently you use a kind of control pad to go [A -> right button, right button -> D] and so on for each letter. It’s the same way I search for things on my TV (or if you’re using a PS3 without a keyboard), and it’s crap.
The Nook Simple Touch (£59)
It’s been available in the UK for just a few months, and I know nobody else with one. However, reviews online seem favourable from the American users, and seem to put it on an even footing with the Kindle in terms of interface/screen quality/etc. There are some things the Kindle does better, and some things the Nook does better, it seems.
It’s currently selling for a reduced price in Argos and John Lewis. £59, instead of the £79 it seems to be in most other places. That’s £10 cheaper than the Kindle. Good news.
Lit or unlit?
Nook have recently (just prior to Amazon by a matter of days, from what I can see) released an e-reader with a light built-in, but the thing is that because the non-lit version is reduced in price, that makes the lit version some £50 more. I’m not sure £50 for a light is worth it, considering I read very little in the dark (I’m trying to sleep when all the lights are off – reading in bed does not help me drift off, as I’ve discovered with my iPhone), and there are potentially some technical problems with the integration of this functionality, according to the reviews on the official Nook site.
It has both physical buttons for page turns, and a touch screen for typing on (which you can also use for page turns). Good stuff.
Some people online dislike Barnes and Noble’s return processes. Apparently Barnes and Noble never refund ebook purchases, whereas sometimes Amazon do. Some users also complained of the problems with returning faulty hardware to B&N stores. This is less of a problem in the UK where there aren’t any B&N stures, so I would have to return it to the place I bought it, in this case either John Lewis or Argos (as they both have it on special offer), who are both excellent in this area of customer service. I can imagine someone reading this going “Argos? Excellent customer service?”. Never have I returned something to Argos for them to give me the sort of “oh – well we’ll need to send it away, some other place will see if they can repair it, and you should get it back within 28 days” nonsense that you get with some electronics places (I’ve had this exact scenario at both Comet and Novatech. In the case of Comet, after the 28 days was up, they sent me a handwritten sprawl on a compliments slip saying they were still working on it. When I eventually collected my repaired product, they tried to express how much money they’d saved me by covering the repair cost (as if they had any choice, given it was less than 3 months old, still very much under warranty), and the repair cost was less than £10 cheaper than if I’d just bought a new one in the first place. Totally uneconomical repair.)
A relative of mine once returned a vacuum cleaner to Argos that stopped working while she was using it. It was still half-full of the dog hair she was vacuuming at the time. They just gave her a replacement, right then and there. You can’t say much fairer than that, can you.
Side note: And while I’m on – I’ve had the same delay/time-without-your-device crap from Amazon in the past. I bought an iRiver mp3 player once that broke in the first about 45 days. Amazon wouldn’t accept it back. I had to send it back to some third party repair centre of theirs who said they’d received it, then said they’d fixed it, then denied ever receiving it and said they wouldn’t do a thing unless I could prove they had done. Luckily I had sent it via courier, and could do so. Despite this, they refused to accept the online courier confirmation, and insisted I faxed a paper copy of something from the courier (not just a printout of the web version). I was without the device for nearly 3 months, and this company’s proud advertising of the fact they did all of iRiver’s UK repairs has ensured I never buy anything else from that brand.
What swung it for me slightly though, other than the fact it’s currently £10 cheaper than the Kindle, AND supports books from the library and .epub’s standard, as..er..standard, is that (despite what I said earlier about using the device as the manufacturer intended) there are numerous sites and videos online that show you things you can do with the Nook Simple Touch if you change the firmware. You can apparently install Android apps on it (it’s an Android tablet underneath it seems). There are videos online showing everything from web browsing, to email, to Angry Birds, on this. The quality is not that of a real LCD tablet, as you might imagine, but interesting nonetheless.
In theory, IF I changed the firmware, I could install a real Instapaper app. Not only that, I could presumably install the Kindle Android app (see here for video showing someone who has done JUST that), so I could read Amazon’s format of ebooks as well, if need be (I have bought a couple of very cheap books on there already, which I attempted to read on my iPhone but the constant glare of a tiny screen was too much for me to get into it really). This kills the Kindle exclusivity, dead, and means a full cross-platform e-reader.
Note: There is apparently a danger of stopping the Nook working altogether if you screw up this rooting procedure. There are sites that tell you how to fix it though, and if all else totally fails, at least you’ve only broken the cheapest e-reader on the market.
And so I walked into Argos and parted with £59 of my money.
I’ll let you know how I get on. (I’m not rooting it immediately. I want to get some use from it before I potentially brick it.)