Inside the E-book Wars: Best E-Reader?

By William Stanek
December 3, 2009 | Comments: 5

William here. On 12/3, Business Week picked the Kindle 2 International Edition as the Best Gadget of 2009 because of it's "inclusion of free, high-speed wireless access that lets users download books on the go." But is it really the best of class or simply the best of the ones the editors could get their hands on?

Kindle2.jpg

I'd like to know because in my opinion Sony's Reader Daily Edition (PRS-900) and Barnes & Noble's Nook are the best of class devices at the present time. Six months ago, it was a different story. Three months ago, ditto. Yeah, last month too. But today?

Reader Daily Edition and Nook all the way. Yes? No?

Right now, I think so. For starters PC World recently ranked Sony's Reader Touch Edition as #1 over Kindle 2 and Kindle DX. But Reader Touch Edition doesn't even have wireless. What is has is:

  • A fantastic 6" touch screen with a touchscreen keyboard for note taking.
  • Access to over 1 million public domain titles through Google Books
  • Compatibility with multiple ebook stores
  • A borrow from library feature
  • Two expandable memory slots: one pro duo and one SD card

That's a bunch of excellent features and why it was ranked #1 in late October/start of November. Fast-forward a month, and lately in the e-reader world that's a long time, and both the Reader Daily Edition and the Nook are shipping. Reader Daily Edition has a 7" touchscreen and free 3G wireless. The resolution on the screen is 600 x 1024, much better than the 600 x 800 of 6" screens.

Nook has a 6" eink screen and a 1.5" x 3.5" color touchscreen. Nook has free wireless 3G and wi-fi. For the full scoop on Nook, here are pointers to my 5 part feature:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Both Reader Daily Edition and Nook are better than Kindle 2 in my way of thinking. To be fair though, I've only tested Kindle 1, but Kindle 2 doesn't have the features I'm looking for. Primarily, a touchscreen and expansion slots. What the international edition does have, however, is global wireless. Although you need to check availability of wireless services, this is a pretty cool feature.

Plus software update 2.3 gives Kindle 2 International:

  • A longer battery life for Kindle. Up to 1 week with wireless on and up to 2 weeks with wireless off.
  • Manual screen rotation between landscape and portrait views.
  • A built-in PDF reader

So you decide. Agree or disagree about which one is best. Let me know.

Thanks for reading, time for me to get back to work! Hope you'll take a look at my new book Windows 7: The Definitive Guide. Also just released is my book Exchange Server 2010 Administrator's Pocket Consultant.

William R. Stanek
williamstanek at aol dot com


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5 Comments

The Nook seems very cool, but the thing that really makes me want a Kindle is that Amazon's store has way more technical books that Barnes and Noble's (which doesn't even have a Computers and Internet category the last time I checked a few weeks ago). I have also noticed that Amazon's books are significantly cheaper than all the other ebook stores I compared. For a lot of the books I want, Amazon was (my best guess) roughly 5- 10 dollars cheaper per book (if not more).

I agree book price and availability are important factors to consider. Nook is just out. Its availability will strengthen B&N's position and this will help to attract more publishers. And as sales pick up and options increase, book prices should become more attractive. This is happening now with Sony's selection.

What we need is an e-book format standard, analogous to the MP3 format. However, and unfortunately, with DRM wars continuing, something simple like this is unlikely to happen.

The e-book and e-readers remind me of the early days of Sony Walkman, then everyone jumped in with their versions.

I prefer a real book; however, in the end, as with any new technology, be prepared to waste some $$$ while you experiment with the latest toys. It's just how it is.

Next year and the year after, there will be even better devices. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Apple eventually sneaks in to this e-reader market!

Hi Forrest,

Catching up with comments today! I wouldn't call it "DRM wars" rather best as "E-book reader/format wars." And, there actually is an accepted standard format. That format is:

EPUB

which is available in both DRM and DRM-free formats, is reflowable and has good graphics handling capabilities. More on EPUB in an upcoming post.

I agree that you can easily waste a lot of $$$ experimenting with e-readers, but the earliest adopters of the tech knew this going in. Sort of like plunking down $399 for the 1st gen iPod brick I have.

Unlike iPods, however, the good news with e-readers is that we're now at 3rd gen. B&N's Nook, Sony's Reader Daily and Sony's Reader Touch are all good 3rd gen devices.

Amazon's Kindle is getting there, but not in the same class in my opinion, especially as compared to Nook and Reader Daily. The upcoming Kindle 3 should be quite different, however. And Apple is late to the party...

Best,

William

My main reason for wanting an e-reader is my large collection of technical e-Book PDFs, published by O'Reilly, Manning, Sitepoint, Apress, and others.
Do the O'Reilly staff have a preferred e-reader for their own PDF files?

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