Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Do I Need An eBook Reader?

Recently, I've been enjoying reading The Iliad on my Droid X using Kindle for Android. The eBook was free and I needed something to read during lunch breaks.

The nicest aspect of reading a book this way is that I can highlight a word and pull up either its definition on or its Wikipedia article. The Iliad is not an easy read because the characters can go by several names. For example, Agamemnon is also referred to as The King of Men, Atreus' Son, and Atreides. To make matters worse, the last two names could also refer to Menelaus, Agamemnon's brother, who is also a Trojan War combatant. The instant, no-typing Wikipedia look-up is a great aid to comprehension.

I've started to seriously consider buying a Kindle. I'd always thought that a dedicated eBook reader would be a waste of money. Why buy a Kindle when for a bit more money you could buy an iPad which could serve as an eBook reader and so much more? After some thought and research (Ha! Mostly reading Amazon's pro-Kindle propaganda!) I decided that there would be advantages to using an eBook reader:
  • Legibility
  • Battery Life
  • Convenience

If you've ever tried to use your smartphone or a car navigation system in bright sunlight, you know how difficult it is to do. Since the Kindle uses "E Ink", the screen is (purportedly) legible in direct sunlight, just as a physical book would be.

When I used reading glasses, at first I couldn't use them for computer work. The glasses made the view of the screen sharper, but that meant I could distinguish the pixels that made up the letters of text. The text on a Kindle screen is sharper and more easily legible than the text on a standard computer screen.

Battery Life

I plug my Droid in several times a day to recharge. I haven't used an iPad, but I'm pretty sure they need to be recharged daily when heavily used. The Kindle uses power to render a page of text on the screen but does not require power to maintain the image. For that reason, the Kindle would only need to be recharged every 2-4 weeks. That's a huge difference, especially if you wanted to read on a trip away from home.


Since the Kindle is a dedicated eBook reader, it's more of an "appliance" than a computer. In many ways it's hard-wired to do what you want it to do.


If you buy a Droid phone, you've got to drink the Google kool-aid. Likewise if you buy a Kindle, you've got to drink the Amazon kool-aid. I've been an Amazon customer for a long time, so I'm fairly comfortable with them as a company. Still, as I accumulate a collection of eBooks, I have to accept the fact that they'll be locked in a cabinet to which Amazon holds the key. Technology evolves and formats change. There will always be a chance that my eBooks could become unusable with little or no warning. Given the number of books that I've read once and then packed away in boxes in the basement, I think I'm willing to run the risk of losing most of my collection. There are some books that I reread or that I refer to occasionally. I'll either want physical copies of those books or find a way to back up the eBook in a non-proprietary format.

The Decision

I'm waiting to hear the opinion of a librarian/author friend before I place the order for a Kindle. I'm sure she's thought a lot about eBooks and she might point something out to me that I hadn't considered.

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