The Ultimate Guide To Ebook Readers We Care About

There are too damn many ebook readers and it's a struggle to figure out what's worth buying and which reader will even survive the market. To make things easy, here's our guide to the readers that matter - for now.

Of course we're skipping some of the many ebook readers floating around, but quite frankly we can't really stomach all of them. We decided to focus on the ones that matter to us& - whether because they stand a shot of surviving the over-saturated market, or simply because they are examples of what we think matters about these gadgets. Feel free to let us know if you disagree with any of our survival odds or if you think we missed a significant device.

Barnes & Noble Nook

When we reviewed the Barnes & Noble Nook, we decided that it was pretty damn good all around. At the time, we mainly focused on pitting it against the Amazon Kindle, but even without that limited comparison the Nook remains a rather good device:

It's got a second screen which actually serves a useful purpose

Expansion and evolution possibilities of this very device are great, especially with touchscreen and Android OS

Lending and in-store Barnes & Noble action will be huge

Native ePub support

A little thicker than Kindle, but as a trade-off, it's a little smaller footprint

Wi-Fi doesn't seem to matter now - hopefully it will prove to be an advantage later

LCD and other features mean less battery life than Kindle, but still adequate, "measured in days"

Many of the Kindle killer functions, like lending and in-store perks, weren't tested, as they are rolling out this week

Current software is buggy and sluggish in spots; hopefully fixes and optimisation will come soon

Second-screen possibilities are great, but current implementation is cautious and conservative

Taking all those features and shortcomings into account, we think that the Nook's survival chance is 80 per cent - if it can fix its firmware and get production up to speed.

Entourage Edge

A hands on of the Entourage Edge left us hesitant about whether there's actually a market for something that has the price tag of a good netbook and barely more features than most readers:

It does have two full screens on which actual work can be done

Can run Android applications and be used to browse the web

Wi-Fi built-in, so you're not stuck relying on 3G

Two built-in microphones for noise-cancellation, but unfortunately no synchronisation with notes

Note taking can be done using a stylus

Switching between the screens allows for websites to be loaded on one screen and "pushed" to the other

Just as with most other readers, you can highlight, annotate and bookmark

It's three whole freakin' pounds (1.4kg) and ridiculously bulky

$US500 price tag.

The Edge shows us what happens when you try to make a reader into what it's not - a pseudo netbook or tablet. We think the device's survival chance is 0 and consider it pretty much DOA.

Plastic Logic Que

We liked the feel of the Plastic Logic Que when we got our hands on it, but we didn't like the price tag. The device is mainly aimed at business folk who want to carry a notepad-sized device instead of a stack of documents, but it could make a rather nice reader if you crave for a large screen:

At 8.5 x 11 x .33 inches, its about the size and thickness of a standard notepad. It weighs about half a kilo. Like a heavy notepad.

The screen is huge - and I mean huge. Over 10 inches.

Because of Plastic Logic's obsession with its namesake material, the Que is light as a feather

Formatting from magazines and other publications is maintained on the screen

The interface seems snappy and intuitive

Que Mail and Que Calendar services allow email and calendar updates to be pushed over Wi-Fi and 3G networks

While odd to look at, the wide bezel actually makes the Que a lot more comfortable to hold than some other readers

The back of the device is a magnet for fingerprints. It's annoying, but not unusual for shiny toys like this.

$US650 for the 4GB model with Wi-FI and $US800 for the 8GB model with Wi-Fi and 3G are quite the prices to swallow

We think the Que's features, design, and business as well as consumer appeal leave it with a survival chance of 70 per cent - higher if businesses feel like spending so much on a device that will certainly help cut back on paper use. Or if Plastic Logic manages to cut back on that price.

Spring Design Alex Reader

Our hands on of the Spring Design Alex Reader left us thinking that the Nook might have some serious competition, but even on its own the Alex is a rather good device:

It's thin - we thought we'd break it just by holding it - but it turned out to be surprisingly sturdy

You can run any Android app including the browser, email client and music player apps

The interaction between the two screens doesn't seem fully worked out

No news about whether there's a data provider secured for the device

$US399 makes the Alex a wee bit pricier than the nook

Assuming that a data provider is secured for the Alex, we could see its survival chance being 80 per cent - higher if there's a price drop to bring it closer to the Nook's.

Sony Daily

When the Sony Daily Edition reader was announced, we got a bit excited about its electronic library program and wide screen, but alas, we're still waiting to actually get one of these devices into our hands to check out all the features:

Sony's got plenty of partners for this device to provide content

The on-screen content is rotated automatically to allow viewing in a nice, comfortable, and super wide landscape format

Native ePub support

The electronic library program will let you borrow books from your local library's electronic collection

Free 3G service is included—but limited to accessing the Sony Store

$US399 is a bit much for a device with so few tricks up its sleeve

Until we actually take a Daily for a test run, we're deeming its survival chance as 40 per cent - mostly because the library program is appealing along with the push for EPUB formatting.


In our review of the Amazon Kindle 2, we discovered that it's not too different from the original model, but we still liked all the features:

The rounded design makes the device appealing to hold and look at

Zippy interface, decent refresh rate

Plenty of internal storage and long battery life

Text-to-speech book reading

Crisp, sharp display

It's hard to read longer, more complex books

While the Kindle 2 wasn't a huge leap from the first generation, we still think the device about an 80 per cent chance of survival, especially if Amazon works on improving the interface and how the device treats flipping through book sections.

Notion Ink Adam Pixel Qi

When we got our hands on the Notion Ink Adam Pixel Qi, we discovered that it's more of a tablet than it is a reader and that it tries too hard to be both:

The device runs on Android 2.0

There's a snappy Nvidia Tegra 2 processor lurking inside

10.1-inch panel that can switch between backlit LCD mode and low-power electrophoretic reflective mode

3G service, which is becoming fairly standard among readers

LCD colours aren't as vivid as a plain LCD

Despite having "ink" in its name, the Adam falls too far into tablet territory for us to take it seriously as a reader so we give it a 40 per cent chance of survival in that particular market. As a tablet device though, it might actually do rather well.

Any Others?

Those are the ebook readers we think deserve some discussion right now. There are plenty we left out - super cheap ones, poor imitations of readers mentioned already, and some that just plain make us gag. We didn't want to promote crappy products or those where "you get what you pay for" rings a bit too true. That disclaimer aside, we welcome discussion and mentions of other readers, simply because it's always possible that we omitted something worthwhile by accident. So let's hear it in the comments.

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