What You Need To Consider When Buying An Ereader

Ereader or Tablet? Which should you buy? A bit of help for you here…

It can be very confusing when you think you might like to leap into the world of ereading and ebooks.  There are so many different models out there, and the considerable problem of the various ebook formats as well.


To help you a bit in making a choice I shall discuss some of the main considerations you should take into account before parting with your hard earned money and committing yourself to one or other model of ereader.

Does colour matter to you?

The first thing to consider is do you want to read novels rather than ebooks with loads of illustrations or magazines or comics?   If the answer to that question is comics, magazines and other reading matter with lots of colour and illustrations, then you need to consider a tablet rather than a dedicated ereader, as most real ereaders are monochrome, and not really very good to view images with.

There are a number of ereaders with LCD screens which can manage colour OK, but their screens tend to be too small to be really pleasurable to view images with.   But with things such as the iPad and similar tablets, comics, magazines newspapers and coffee table ebooks and similar are a real pleasure to read and gaze upon, given the brilliant colours they can offer you.

If on the other hand you want to read ebooks that are basically text – novels and similar, then probably a real, dedicated monochrome ereader is what you want, as they are specifically designed for this form of reading, and are totally optimised for such ebooks.

So that is your first decision.  Colour and images = tablet.  Text and almost no images = dedicated monochrome ereader.

Screen size.

This is perhaps the next consideration.   If you are suffering from any sort of eye troubles, then the larger the screen you can get is something you should think about. Since if you have a smallish screen, and need the text size to be large, obviously you can then only fit so many words onto the screen at a time, so with a small screen you will be turning pages like a mad thing, but with a larger screen you will be able to have the letters quite large, but still have a reasonable number of words per page.

Currently the only large screen dedicated ereader I am aware of is the Kindle DX, which has a screen that is 9.7 inches diagonally across, room enough to make the letters huge and still have lots of words on the screen, otherwise you should consider a tablet again.

Most dedicated ereaders these days have a screen that is about 6 or 7 inches diagonally, which if your eyes are OK, is much like reading an average paper back.

So, if your eyes are OK, then any dedicated ereader will work for you , if not, consider a tablet with a much larger screen whatever sort of ebooks you want to read on it.

Front light or clip on reading light.

Increasingly dedicated ereaders are being made with built in front lighting, which means you can read your ebooks in any lighting situation, as dedicated ereaders are not like computers, whose screens are lit from behind, ereaders are exactly like a paper book in this respect, they do not give light, so in the dark you have to have some way to illuminate the screen, as with a page in a normal book.

If you buy a model with built in front lighting, then this problem is solved for you, but if you prefer to buy a cheaper, older model ereader, then you will need to buy some form of clip-on reading light to enable you to read in dim lighting situations..  But there are hundreds of such clip-on lights available from a few dollars upwards, so not really a problem.  It is more a matter of convenience really.  With the built in front light you always have the light with you, with the clip-on lights you have to remember to bring them with you, and their batteries die on you at the worst moments too, of course.

Obviously with any tablet you don’t have this problem, as their screens are exactly like computer screens and are visible in low light situations – However, unlike dedicated monochrome ereader screens, tablet screen are terrible in bright sunlight (take your computer outside in on a bright sunny day and you will see what I mean).  Dedicated ereader screens are fine in any lighting situation, exactly as with a paper book.

Ebook formats.

Unless you are reasonably computer literate, and are happy to use software to convert ebooks from one format to another, and also to strip the DRM (copyright protection software) from your ebooks, you need to consider where you will want to buy or borrow your ebooks from as well.  This section by the way only applies to dedicated ereaders, as with tablets you can download Apps (small software programs) that will enable you to read ebooks from more or less any ebook seller or library on your tablet or smartphone.

Most ebooks are sold with one of two main ebook formats, which are incompatible with each other’s ereaders.  Amazon, who make and sell the Kindle range of ereaders use an ebook format that is unique to Amazon, and wont work on any other ereader than a Kindle.  This one is called Mobi.   All other ereaders use a format called ePub.   So on the face of it, one might say that it is best to buy yourself an ereader that works with ePub, and thus be free to buy your ebooks from any ebook seller (by the way, most libraries who lend ebooks use the ePub format too).

However, as Amazon sell an incredible range of ebooks, if you plump for a Kindle, and thus for buying most of your ebooks from Amazon, you still have hundreds of thousands of titles to choose from, and plenty of other online ebook sellers now offer their ebooks in both Mobi and ePub, so you still have a good choice of reading matter with a Kindle.

But, if you plump for an ereader that supports ePub (such as the Nook, the Kobo and dozens of models made in the far east and Russia), you will have a truly astronomical number of ebooks to buy and borrow.  Also if your language is not English, there is a much larger choice of ebooks in all manner of languages in the ePub format.

From the point of view of the reading “experience”, there is really no noticeable difference between Mobi and ePub, so as far as that goes, your choice is really a matter of what model is obtainable in the country in which you live and the price you are prepared to pay for an ereader.

So, in conclusion.

Here are the main points to consider when deciding which ereader you want to buy.

  • Screen size
  • Colour or monochrome,
  • Ebook format, and thus ebook supplier,
  • Mainly borrow ebooks from libraries? The ePub is for you.
  • Built in reading light or not.
  • Chiefly reading novels or magazines and comics.

I hope this short look at some important points will be a help to you as you try to decide which sort of digital reading gadgets to buy yourself.   Obviously if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line with your queries, and if I can, I shall offer suggestions or answers to them.

Share with us.

Do any of you have anything you feel might be useful to add to what I have written above?  if you do, please share them with us here.

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