Tuesday, May 24, 2011

E-Readers 101 - A Basic Guide.

This morning Barnes and Noble unveiled a new 'Simple Touch' e-reader due out June 10th. Barnes and Noble has had success with the Nook Color which was released in November, but the Simple Touch is an easier, less frills model that uses e-ink, sports a touch screen, weighs only 8.5oz and is only $139.  In short it's a lot like the Kindle and will give it some decent competition.

E-readers continue to pick up steam. As a matter of fact Kindle e-books are outselling print books on Amazon. And an e-reader is really one of those devices that once you pick it up you "get it".  I get a lot of questions on e-readers so I wanted to provide a 101 Rough Guide for anyone interested in looking to pick one up.

What you should first know is that there are a lot of e-reading devices in the market but the two big players are Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
  • Barnes and Noble makes the Nook Color and now the Simple Touch
  • Amazon makes the Kindle
If you've wanted to pick up an e-reader but were overwhelmed by the choices I've broken it down by user.  This is subjective of course!

User: The Real Reader - wants an e-reading device only for reading books, no extras.  Reads as a hobby, picks up a book when he or she commutes, probably would take on vacation or keep in purse or briefcase.

Go with the Kindle.  Its a reading device and nothing else.  It's inexpensive at only $139 and weighs only 8.5 oz. It holds up to 3,500 books and can download them in under 60 seconds. Plus, the battery life is great - it can go nearly a month on a charge. It uses e-ink which is easy on the eyes and also lets you read in direct sunlight - perfect for summer pool lounging.  The Kindle also has a new feature too that allows you to check out a Kindle book from the local library - this will be out later this year. 

I haven't had a chance to get my hands on the Simple Touch Reader, announced today, but it appears fairly comparable to the Kindle.  It too weighs 8.5 oz, has an e-ink screen.  The e-ink screen is also a touchscreen which is interesting.  It goes two months with one charge which is generous.

User: The Average Reader/Tech User- Interested in an e-reader, okay with tech, likes magazines, maybe has grandchildren and free time on their hands, would enjoy simple games.

Go with the Nook Color.  The biggest difference is obviously the 7" color screen which adds a unique hook of being able to purchase color magazines (which is actually luring in more females) and colored kids books.  With the kids books there is an option for them to be read aloud with the touch of a button.  The Nook Color is touted as an e-reading tablet because it has internet capabilities, access to email, app selection as well as a few games that can be played, etc. It only weighs around a pound, holds 6,000 books but is a bit pricey at $249 so make sure you want all those extra frills. 

The User: Wants it All. If you want it all; access to your photos, videos, internet browsing, hundreds and thousands of apps, and even on board cameras for taking pictures and video then go with the iPad.  It's going to run you a bit more starting at $499 but its a one stop shop including e-reading.  To use as an e-reader you simply download the Kindle or Nook app and read books without having the devices or you can use Apples iBooks app and access e-books that way. (These apps are free.) The downside is it's a bit heavier at 1.3lbs and compared to the Kindle will feel like a mammoth.  It's also is heard to read in direct sunlight so forget taking to the pool.  But on the flipside its truly a one stop shop for having it all.

Bottom line? It's really is all about preference.  My sister is a reader and loves her Kindle.  I got my mom the Nook Color and she returned it for the iPad.  And I prefer the iBooks app on my iPad.

If you have any questions at all on e-readers feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment below.  I've also attached a past segment from The Early Show where I showcased a number of e-reading options. 


  1. Insightful and relevant, as always! I especially liked your statement that an "...e-reader is really one of those devices that once you pick it up you "get it"." Before I got my iPad, I mocked e-readers, stating authoritatively that I'd "never curl up with a piece of hardware"... A perspective that changed as soon as I did just that.

    One additional thought though... Beyond basic functionality, the choice of vendor bears consideration. For example, specific to Barnes & Noble, I purchased a nook for my mother (as you did (smile)) last Christmas so that she and I could share e-books via B&N's widely advertised "Lend-Me" feature... A feature B&N withdrew in January, with little explanation and no consolation to customers. Regardless of whether "Lend-Me"'s demise was due to Amazon's related offering and/or publisher's actions/reactions, their lack of sensitivity couldn't have generated any positive brand equity.

    Beyond the "Lend-Me" debacle, B&N has consistently treated their "digital offerings" as 'second-class step-children', charging almost as much for e-books as they charge for paperbacks, but excluding e-books from all promotions (e.g. mailed and e-mailed promotions, Facebook/social promotions, bookfairs, etc).

    Bottom line (for me at least), is that anyone considering a dedicated e-reader might want to consider which vendor is more committed to supporting and promoting such technology... Which might lead one to give Amazon additional consideration.

    Just my 'two cents'. ;-)

  2. Tim, really appreciate these insights and agree with you. Also, I do think the lend me option is a big deal especially for family members and friends. I also like with the Nook how you can share and export passages/quotes to social networking sites.

    Back to the lending...I learned there is a group of 75 year old women here in nyc that have a Kindle book club. They can read and then share - how cool is that?

    VERY INTERESTING on your digital offerings note. I dont understand why they wouldnt offer more digital coupons for any user - that is rather poor customer service. Further thought - As a B&N member (it was like $25 for the year) I get decent coupons in the mail and online. Why couldnt they include these in the batch -- they could gain more members and more loyalty this way. I am going to follow up with their PR team on this and see if I can get some more answers on the promotions...thanks!

  3. Katie: All very good points. When you follow-up with their PR team, you might also bring up extending their B&N member discounts to digital offerings as well. As someone who's been a B&N member for more than a decade, I perceive it as adding insult to injury that, not only have the not pushed the major publishers to restore support for "Lend Me" (which is B&N's response to the debacle, that the publishers decided to withdraw support, a response that seems a bit one-sided considering B&N's industry clout), I also don't get a member discount on digital offerings. Which is causing me to question why I'm continuing to pay for my membership, being that I now mostly purchase digital media.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing great technology advise. Your unbridled enthusiasm has reminded me that being nerdy can still be cool. ;-)



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