Your best ebook reader might not be an ebook reader at all

I am extremely glad that the last few years have brought ebook readers into the mainstream. However, I am also a big believer that the best solution for a particular need is not necessarily the same for everyone. We are unique individuals and as such one must weigh the pros and cons as they apply to our particular needs. For this reason, despite the current slew of ebook readers on the market, the Nook, the Kindle, the Pandigital, etc., and despite the fact I was reading ebooks long before any of these devices ever existed, I still don’t own one. I can see their appeal, and I can certainly see how they are the perfect solution for many people, and one day, I may very well buy one myself. So far though, I haven’t purchased one because I haven’t needed one. I already have devices that I use to read ebooks on, and they meet my needs well enough that I haven’t felt a need to improve on them.

I first started reading ebooks on a small Palm device with a monochrome screen and low resolution. I read a lot of books on that device. It was part of why when the Kindle ebooks with their monochrome eInk screens came out, I could see they would be a great solution for a lot of people.

Since that time the devices I use for ebook reading have changed. My first upgrade was to a higher resolution Palm pilot, which still worked fine. Then I moved up to a Nokia N770 tablet. Despite having a much larger and much higher resolution color screen, the reading experience wasn’t that much better on that device. More text was displayed on the screen, but it was a bit bigger, a bit bulkier and the screen had quite a bit more glare. I still used it though, because I always had the device with me, so I could pull it out whenever I had some time to read. My current devices for reading consist of two devices, each much the same. One is a fourth generation iPod touch. It makes an excellent ebook reading device. It has an excellent screen and is miniscule in size and weight making it very portable. My primary device for reading now though is my Android phone, an Optimus V from Virgin mobile. Why? Despite the fact the screen resolution and clarity is not as good, I always have it with me and I often end up reading when I have time. It works fine for me, which is not to say it is for everyone, but I find the small size and the convenience of always having it has prevented getting an eink device a priority.

I have often thought of getting an eink device, but even now, where they are so affordable as to make it almost an impulse purchase, I think of the fact that I would then have two devices to deal with. I might use the eink device at home, but I am pretty sure I would never bring it with me, because I wouldn’t want to carry two devices and I know if I want to read, I can do so on my phone, unless I am outside in the sun. Up until this point this has continued to be enough to prevent me from getting something else. As for the tablets, such as the Nook tablet, the Kindle Fire, the iPad, or the various Android tablets, I often think these would be nice to have as well. But they are bigger, they are heavier, and again, for reading they don’t really offer any benefit to me over something like an iPod touch or my phone. The only benefit would be having more text on the screen per page, so you wouldn’t have to tap the screen as much to turn the page. For that advantage, you have to give up the portability a smaller device provides. For that reason, I haven’t bought one of those either. I can certainly see their appeal, but I already have a laptop, a netbook, a phone, and I don’t see how adding yet another device to my life would make it better.

So the point of this post is to simply point out for someone considering reading ebooks for the first time to possibly look at some of the devices you already own. Just because something is not labeled as an ebook reader, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work well for that purpose. Just because ebook readers are roughly the size of existing books doesn’t make them better. Books are the size they are because to make them smaller would result in a book too thick to comfortable handle. Electronic devices don’t have that problem. In fact the device I think might get me to buy a stand alone ebook reader would be an eink device with a screen the size of a phone or iPod touch. One that was easily pocketable and had amazing battery life. Something the size of an iPod touch, but with an eink display. The iPod touch fills that spot nicely for the moment, but if you didn’t need all of its added functionality, an equivalent eink device would be nice to have.

4 Responses to “Your best ebook reader might not be an ebook reader at all”

  1. Thanks for this post. Like you, I have a 4th gen iPod Touch and an Optimus V. I’ve stuck with the iPod for reading due to the better screen. But, yesterday I decided to try Aldiko on my phone. I’m not sure what I think about it yet. The resolution is, of course, noticeably worse.

    Which app do you use on your Optimus V? And what are your settings in regards to font, font size, etc.?

  2. I use fbreader on my Optimus V. I use the night setting with the screen dimmed as low as it will go for night reading. I use day mode with the sepia background when reading during the day. I use Droid sans font size 20. Since writing this I have bought an eink reader and it does provide a good reading experience but the majority of my reading is still on my Optimus V for the simple fact I always have it with me.

  3. Thanks. I may have to try fbreader since I’ve heard good things about it. I went with Aldiko since it can sync with other Android devices. My dream come true would be a reader that can sync across iOS and Android and still let me load my own ePubs!

  4. The syncing feature seems like it would be worthwhile. The reason I use fbreader is I have been using it for years and years on other platforms: Windows, Linux, my Nokia tablet, etc., not to mention it is open source.

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