by Sean Drysdale
In a world of tech this and tech that, you think that something
like a book would always be a book, right? Wrong.
That's right, folks. Because of
technology we don't have to pack books in our suitcases anymore before
going on vacation: we can download them
digitally. A lot of people have known for awhile about the ability to download
books from the internet onto your computer; For those who didn't, let me
now inform you that indeed, yes, it's possible.
While this concept of getting
your books digitally is not all that new, each day more products
hit the market that are. From smart phones to your laptop to
Amazon's Kindle, and now Barnes and Noble's Nook, there is almost an
infinite amount of ways to read on the go or save
some space on your bookshelves. Let's take a closer look at the top two hand held devices, Amazon's Kindle 2 and Barnes and Noble's Nook, to see which better fits your needs.
Let's get into the technical details and tell you what both of
these have in common. First off, both use eInk and do not use a backlight, which
means that the screen won't hurt your eyes like a laptop screen will over time as you read. Second, they have built in WIFI and AT&T 3G
capabilities—although Nook offers a WIFI-only model—that offer
the ability to download books directly through the device. The readers also share a number of features, including the ability to change the
text size and the font itself, to bookmark pages and create highlights
on what you are reading, and to play MP3s; both have a built-in web browser and batteries that last almost 2 weeks on one charge.
From here things
begin to differ. The Kindle 2 has text-to-speech, which means it can read
books aloud. This feature is popular
with an older demographic and others who might have trouble seeing. However, it is very robotic, and quite honestly, if you have sight problems then the
device itself probably isn't for you, since it would be extremely difficult to download books in the first place. Kindle 2 can also read Microsoft Word
documents. This is the one feature
that people seem to want that the Nook doesn't have.
While the Kindle 2 has a nice button keyboard, the Nook uses an LCD screen as its keyboard, much like a smart phone. It is a bit unresponsive, but with free downloadable upgrades it can be made very smooth.
And this isn't the only difference. The Nook displays book covers in color, and uses icons similar to Apple's Apps
to access all modes of use. The Nook has the ability to
update itself with new options, such as games, faster page turning, as well as
general upgrades from month to month that keep the Nook in competition with
everyone else. Also a nice feature on the Nook is that you can add
more memory with a Micro SD card. The battery is easily replaceable as well, so you
don't have to replace the item itself when the battery
dies. A drawback, however, is that the Nook freezes up from time
to time, which is an easy reboot fix, though it can be annoying when it
The two greatest perks of being a Nook owner are: one, it's the
only device that allows you to share books with anyone; and, two, if you
walk into a Barnes and Noble, you can use the Nook to read anything for free
for up to an hour every day of the week. Additionally, Nook owners who visit the store with the device in hand have access to coupons and free downloads (selected by B & N Corporate, of course). One more thing to keep in mind: while the Nook cannot read Word document files, it does read
more files than the Kindle 2, such as ePub, which is fast becoming the top
format for eBooks.
While the Kindle 2 has a much smoother performance over the Nook
with no freezing problems, the Nook really wins with its ability to add
more memory, and the downloadable updates mean you won't need a new
device in the next 6 months to a year. Kindle, on the other hand, is set to release Kindle 3—which coincidentally bears a resemblance to the Nook—not even a year after Kindle 2 was released; soon after that, a business version called the Kindle XD is slated for release. The Nook also uses downloads from both Barnes
and Noble ebooks and Google ebooks, giving it far more titles to choose from
than Kindle's Amazon store. In the end, the Nook gets my
vote for its ability to share content and update, and for being
attached to a brick-and-mortar store.
Remember when it
comes to gadgets, always get what meets your needs and your own personal
aesthetic. Please always think it through before you purchase; occasionally you can't get your money or your time back! And be on the lookout for good eReader deals: the battle for the most desirable features has turned into an all-out price war. No doubt the consumers will be the victors.
© Sean Drysdale, 2010