Monday, March 15, 2010

Wired's Roundup of current E-Readers and Tablets

Wired's Roundup on 10 E-Readers and Tablets You Can Get Right Now focuses on the consumer who wants only to read books on a device and if that's so, why pay $500 or more for it, as their reporter Dylan Tweney puts it.

 In fact, to get, on the iPad, the favored feature of being able to download books to the e-reader within a few seconds, just about wherever you happen to be be (the unique feature last year that propelled the Kindle device to the head of the e-reader pack), you'd have to pay $629 + $29 for a file transfer kit and $30/month for the over-the-air browsing and downloading that this year the Kindle, Sony, and nook all can do with their stores (although the Kindle can also slow-browse mobile-device-optimized versions of websites from almost anywhere).

  The iPad's iBookstore, in fact, is not selling books internationally until the end of the year.

Of the ten devices they've done reviews for, they say:
' Most of them are really only good for reading. But they're arguably much better for long bouts of reading, because their reflective, E Ink screens won't tire your eyes the way an LCD like the iPad's will.  And, with one or two exceptions, these e-readers are all much less expensive than the iPad. '
The e-readers compared include the EnTourage eDGe;  Archos 9 PC Tablet;  Sony Reader Daily Edition;  Coolreaders Cool-er;  Astak 6" EZ Reader;  IRex Digital Reader 1000S;  Barnes & Noble nook (B&N does not capitalize the 'n'); Kindle DX;  Apple iPhone 3GS;   and the 6" Kindle 2.

  The Roundup has a very brief summary of the factors for each and applies a number-of-stars type rating for the devices.  The Kindle DX is up there but is relatively pricy, and the highest rating in this article goes to the 6" $259 Kindle 2.  Its summary:
' The Kindle kicked off the e-reader craze, and it's still the one to beat.  Version 2.0 of the Kindle, released in early 2009, fixed most of the original version's flaws.  It's our top pick for an e-reader. '
  Again, this was focused on which would be the best fit for a consumer interested only in reading on a (carry-around) device.

  Thanks to Kindlezen for the Twitter alert. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. I think the iPad will be a better reading device than most people seem to assume, 'despite' its LCD screen. I think the fact that it is hand held will make a big difference, ergonomically and in finding the sweet spot for comfortable reading, when compared to netbooks or laptops which typically need to be resting on something. And there are many people who are entirely comfortable reading backlit screens for hours on end, and some who find reading e-ink's 'page flash' annoying to the point of distraction. Everyone is different and it will be interesting to see if anyone changes their minds once they can experience it physically.

    I won't argue the point about price, but if you need large format screen, for reading PDFs etc., you'll be spending upwards of $500 regardless. I am not going to spend that much unless I can do more than reading with it.

    As for connectivity, I personally would prefer a wifi only device, assuming that saved money on a wireless contract, or on the device itself. whispernet is not 'free' - the costs are built into the selling price (what if a wifi Kindle were only $199?). I have free wireless in my home and in most of the places I would go to read, so 3G (or the sluggish 1X my Kindle gets where I live) is actually not preferable in any way.

    But yes, I agree Kindle is still the best, especially at its price range. Not planning to replace it any time soon.

  2. Tomster, this is in two parts :-)
    I'm one of the -fewer- number who are fine with holding a DX, which is lighter than the iPad, so I'm not sure about the part about holding it, for most people.
    I generally use two hands with the Kindle DX and one will be used for the touchscreen with the iPad. Not as much of a prob with the e-reading part. The back will need to be propped against something too.

    I read on a computer monitor for hours on end, so I have a tolerance for it. Yet, there comes a time when the eyes tire and I have to squint even when the whites are dimmed very low.

    At that point I quit and wind up with the Kindle to just read for awhile. No strain involved. I don't know if you feel the difference. Your eyes may be in tip-top shape :-)

    Yes, some others will not like dark gray on light gray, especially w/o a clip-on light for when the light's dimmer inside and some certainly don't even want to think about a clip-on either.

    Others read just fine on the iPod's little backlit screen. I suspect that's less tiring as there is less at a time coming at you.

    No -- random jumping around, browsing the net, newspapers, articles, forums, is not at all like reading in serial fashion without the relief of eye movement and difference when looking directly at the light source.

    The background becomes even more important.
    My netbook has a beautiful 10.2" matte screen and I can turn the white down to almost nothing. Yet, while I can read on that for hours with no problem, I can't read a -book- on it for more than 1/2 hr. Long-session, sequential reading is just harder for some with that.
    Maybe with a younger crowd, it'll be fine, but some are getting it for non-computer-interested grandparents, etc.

    With either Kindle, I can read book content for hours, so there is a difference that I experience and that many Kindle owners talk about on the forums.

    Some WILL like the iPad e-reader better. More to the point, most people don't care to read books that much these days and prefer the distractions that having the web and email easily at hand and in eye-pleaseing color would bring. In a way I am like that!

    But then reading just on an e-reader, with e-paper type screen is very relaxing and calming for me.

    I plan to get something like an iPad 2 someday, as multitasking, one normal USB port, SD slot, and not having blank rectangles for flash video on the web actually -are- important to me (even if I hate flash-based websites).

    Those who find the web of bigger interest than straight reading will love the iPad and probably the Adam (which if nearly as good as some spec, will be a real competitor to the iPad).

    Re the web-browsing on the Kindle not being "free" - hey! nonsense :-) Once you've paid the $259, which of course includes projected estimated costs for wireless, it IS free. You can use it all you want after the cost of the device, without paying anything additional thereafter for retrieving info from the web. But, iPad could be a nice e-reader? Sure.
    I love seeing the color in the books on my netbook too.

  3. Part 2 of 2.

    I'd never prefer a more-limited device though unless I just needed to save money. Families who use it for entertainment would miss that they could use the web while on a car trip. I use mine a lot when out even though it's slow. All I need is information. I don't surf for fun on the streets. Others take their portables with them and hope to surf where they are though - friends' homes (w/o wifi etc).

    ANY wireless where you happen to be should be preferable to No wireless there. There's a lack of capability right off. Now, if you're talking about wanting to pay less for it, then sure, you're 100% right. Then it's better not to have it if you don't feel you'd want or need it.

    The WiFi-only is right for you, which is what I said in the pricing analysis I did.

    Those who use it only at home, office or where they can find a good hotspot (I don't hang out at Starbucks or McDonalds) would have no need 3G.

    There is no question, though, that if some are used to a Kindle or Nook for quick downloads of books from wherever they are, they've found this an almost defining feature of the Kindle and would miss it.
    Most Kindle owners I know who are interested in the iPad want it as a supplement, not as a replacement.

    I think the book-reading in the iPad will be much more pleasing in design and that would be more than enough for a lot of people. Anything that pleases you will just be more enjoyable which will make you feel better.

    As for the DX being too costly, I agree that the DX should come down in price now that it's been out for awhile, but none of the other readers that are successful so far (iRex's 8" and Sony's 7" are not getting good reviews) use the 9.7" screen. It's expensive and for some, unwieldy.

    I never use the Kindle's web-lookup at home of course! unless in the middle of a book and wanting to look up a highlighted word (starting a highlight and finishing w/space bar copies the word or phrase to your search bar), but its slowness is ok for me when I'm away from home and need to look up restaurants and reviews, nearby movies and times, addresses, phones, and even product reviews while shopping.

    As long as there are no add'l charges for being able to browse, especially mobile-device-optimized versions of websites, I'm patient.

    To not be able to do it at all under those conditions would be a real pain for me.

    But I agree that e-reading on it will be pleasurable. For how long a session will be the question, depending on condition of eyes, etc.
    Thanks for the feedback and making me think :-)

  4. Omigod, Tomster,

    IX reception at home? It would be even more painful. I missed that the first time... You'll love it with the WiFi for sure.

  5. Andrys said: "Re the web-browsing on the Kindle not being "free" - hey! nonsense :-) Once you've paid the $259, which of course includes projected estimated costs for wireless, it IS free. You can use it all you want after the cost of the device, without paying anything additional thereafter for retrieving info from the web."

    My point was that amazon has to factor in the cost of providing 3G access in coming up with the Kindle selling price. If Amazon had a wifi only model, it should be cheaper than a 3G-capable model because they wouldn't be paying a provider for 3G. But maybe they aren't paying very much for it - must be less than $1/month per Kindle?

    But Apple is charging $130 more for a 3G-capable model (while leaving the customer to pay for the 3G), which begs for an explanation: why so much more? It can't be due to manufacturing costs. The Nook, for example, includes both 3G and wifi for the same price as a Kindle 2. Pricing theory would have something to say about this, no doubt.

  6. Tomster,
    That's right. In a blog entry I made last year, the apparent average cost of the Sprint access is something like (during the first year of the Kindle) something like an incredible deal of $2/mo. though I don't really believe that either.

    I did read that publication delivery (daily or a few times a day) included percentages that were split with Sprint.

    The thing is that $259 is the total cost for us for a Kindle.
    But the regular cost of web data ON TOP OF phone data (which makes it possible to pay less for it) is $30++ per month, or $360 per year.

    That is $100 more than the cost of the Kindle.

    Example of how much it costs otherwise: netbooks sold for about $100-$200 with Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T have plans at $60/month with contracts for 2 years at that rate.

    That's how much unlimited web data plans cost on just a plan you're committed to when it's not piggybacked onto phone charges.

    To get web data plans *without* a phone plan, the average cost for unlimited (which is actually something like 5 gigabytes) really is $60/mo. That's $720/year.

    Now the genius of Steve Jobs's plan is that it's "only" $30/mo. with the iPad -- even though there is no phone plan involved and also there is no contract either. That is very attractive.

    So you can see exactly how good the Amazon deal is if you are interested in 3G wireless on a slow, as-needed basis whenever needed.

    Bezos' own genius was to bundle unlimited wireless into an ereader and making a deal with Sprint that allowed him to offer such a thing.

    There are estimates re the leftover bandwidth being used at Sprint and that actual usage is less than one would expect but there are no hard numbers. As I've said, I don't believe it's only $2/mo as guessed by someone based on new signups at Sprint at one time.

    And now the new Kindles are on AT&T including roaming situations in the rest of the world.

    That extra $130 for the 3G radio modem or whatever they call it is not unexpected, knowing they need to make a profit off these things. Why so much more than anticipated for the monthly plan on top of the modem charge?

    Because it's that much monthly for smart phones when piggybacked on monthly phone charges and also it is $60/month when taken alone.

    It is very expensive and most have not realized that. Some of us are in envy of the $30/mo. plan w/no contract, as we would love to have that on our netbooks!

    The nook is not equivalent because it doesn't offer the entire net to the nookreader.
    I use the Net often on that Kindle wireless, but nook owners can't. They are stuck with the company store.

    Therefore B&N are not charging less just because they have wi-fi capability in there.


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