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Those ever-evolving e-readers

Ebooks and their e-reader devices have been with us since about 2007, but there’s no comparison between those original e-readers and what’s available today. A friend of mine recently remarked: “I have an ancient Kindle, and it is really good for playing Scrabble.”

Which got me thinking about my recent venture into the e-book age, via a retail store where I could get my hands on the options to try them out.

"What do you want your e-reader to do?" the sales clerk asked.

No seriously, it's a legitimate question.

Do you just want to read books, or do you also want to surf the Internet, watch videos in color, Skype, and more?

Do you want to be able to read in low-light conditions, like on a dark bus, or in bed at night with the lights off so as not to disturb your partner?

Does reading on your computer screen for prolonged periods of time cause eye-strain?

Are you going to want a battery that can go for days without charging?

See what I mean? There's a proliferation of e-book-reading devices, which I’ve learned fall into two basic categories. "Tablet"-style e-readers are really computers (Surface, iPad, Kindle Fire, for instance). They have color displays with high resolution and rely on backlighting (hence drain batteries more quickly). Since they’re basically computers with loads of other features too, they’re a bigger investment price-wise. "E Ink"-style e-readers, on the other hand, are dedicated almost exclusively to e-book reading (Nook, Kobo, Kindle Paperwhite). The backgrounds have a more easy-on-the-eyes "paper" look, they're monochrome, and the batteries need to be charged less often. The price is not as steep, either, making them more affordable, for instance in this gift-giving season.

As I entered the e-book world for the first time, I had additional concerns.

If I started downloading e-books, how would that impact my beloved local bookstore? In this respect, the situation is not as dire as it was at the start. There is now a site called Indiebound.org that offers more than 3.5 million titles. As long as you access Indiebound through the portal on your local bookstore’s web site (this works for participating Indie bookstores, including Island Books), 8- to 10-percent of the proceeds go to your local store. It’s not a huge financial boon, but every little bit helps. The Indiebound e-books work on all devices except Kindle, which have been designed to work exclusively for Amazon e-books. Every month, it seems, the e-book alternatives are expanding. Library books can be borrowed via download onto your e-reader. And there are even apps making it possible to download e-books onto mobile phones.

While I’ve taken the plunge into e-books, I continue to purchase old-fashioned paper books. Mainly, I use my e-reader for travel and publications available in digital format only. The upshot of it all: I’m reading even more.

Islander and author, Claire Gebben has returned to write for the Reporter. For more, go to clairegebben.com.

 

 

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