Ever since we first started this website, I’ve been staunchly anti-Kindle. I’ve disliked like Amazon’s DRM scheme, its reluctance to adopt library ebooks, its inhuman use of “Locations” instead of page numbers, its attempt to hardball Macmillan by refusing to sell Macmillan books, the list goes on.
When a Sony Reader was the only decent non-Kindle choice, I bought a Sony Reader. When the Nook Color came out, I got one of those. I’ve given my sister another Sony, and my mother a Kobo, and I’ve stayed firmly Kindle-less for more than four years now.
But that changed last week, when I broke down and ordered the Kindle Paperwhite ($120), which appeared (until that day) on our Ereader Comparison under the category “Those we don’t like.” We’d passed over it in favor of the Kindle Touch (which has been discontinued), and the Kobo Mini ($80, touch capable, more below).
Here’s why I did it. Some of these reasons might be more subjective than others, and some I’ve researched more thoroughly. And, because most of my reservations about the Kindle are philosophical ones, some of my understanding of its hardware and interface might be flat-out wrong. I’ll be updating and posting again when I actually start using it. …
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The Kobo Mini is Chamber Four’s official first pick among E-Ink ereaders, but until yesterday, I’d never tried it (our budget is small enough to step on and crush). The Mini got to our top spot for two reasons. One: we gravitate toward basic models when picking E-Ink ereaders (if you’re thinking about getting a $180 Kindle Paperwhite with 3G, for example, we think you’d be better off with a $200 Nexus 7). Two: Kobo is the only major ereader whose default store sells universal ebooks. That means that if you want to switch to another ereader, you can take your Kobo books with you, which is emphatically not true of a Kindle or a Nook.
Anyway, I bought my mom a Mini for Christmas (hopefully she doesn’t read this blog very often), it arrived yesterday, and I couldn’t resist “setting it up” for her (i.e., trying it out). And so I figured I’d jot down a few quick thoughts. I’ve only played around with it for a bit, so feel free to tell me where I’m wrong, but this is stuff I would’ve liked to’ve known before I bought it (though I still would’ve bought it).
Size and Best Usage
This is probably the defining feature of the Mini, hardware-wise. It has a 5″ screen, a full inch smaller than either the base Kindle model or the base Nook. The Mini also has a pretty thin bezel around its screen (unlike the Nook) and no hardware buttons to take up space (unlike the Kindle). If you put those elements together, the Mini feels very small. From a glass-half-full standpoint, it’s the difference between sticking the Mini in your pants pocket and having to put it in your backpack. For me, that’s great. The only ereader I’ve used that came close to this was the Astak Pocket Pro, which was still bigger because of its hardware buttons (and anyway doesn’t appear to be available anymore).
These days I do most of my reading on an iPad or iPhone. I never take the iPad out of the house unless I’m going on a trip, primarily because of bulkiness. So out in the world, I read on my phone. That system has advantages (no second device to carry), but also big disadvantages (reading late at night will keep you up).
Most of all, I’m starting to believe the (somewhat anecdotal) evidence that says I read less when I have the option to hop over to the Internet with two taps. Of course, I get distracted most often when I’m reading a bad or mediocre book, but I’ve definitely noticed a problem, and I’m not alone.
That opens up a niche (despite doomsayers) for current and future ereaders: they can survive as a cheap second (or third) device that has one function, reading. For this function, the Kobo Mini is pretty great. …
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[Updates: An alert reader pointed out that Kobo does do ebook previews---I think I just missed it. However, there's still no search and the page-turning/page number situation is still simply awful. On balance, I still think you shouldn't bother with Kobo.
On a happier note (for iBooks fans), iBooks has adopted the Nook's hold-and-swipe highlighting feature, which was my favorite thing about the Nook app. Really, the only thing I liked. Definitely no reason to even try the Nook app now. Three years and counting until Barnes & Noble is bankrupt.
I'll try to keep this space updated with new features, but probably won't.]
Merry Christmas! Several thousand people at least will be unwrapping an iOS device today. Here’s a list of the major ereader apps, and their pros and cons. We’ll see you again on Tuesday, when we go back to regular programming.
iBooks: Perfect for iOS readers
Pros: Buying books through the app store. Great highlighting, syncing, dictionary, and a ton of layout options. Two-page layout on the iPad, and fewer glitches than any other app.
Cons: Doesn’t work on any non-iOS device. Not your Kindle, not your Nook, not any E-Ink ereader. If you want to use one of those devices, you’ll want to use a different app. There isn’t even a desktop version of iBooks, you can only use it on an iPhone or an iPad. There’s also no real iBooks website, and navigating through the Books section of iTunes is a proper pain, so you’ll need to come to the app with a title in mind.
The gist: iBooks is also the only app that will let you buy books through the app store and your iTunes account—that ability is turned off for all other ebook apps. But that ease-of-buying-books is not what makes iBooks the best ereader app; instead, it’s the fact that all the others have significant downsides. iBooks has all the core functions—note-taking, highlighting, search, dictionary, and layout options—and they all work. If your iPhone and/or iPad is your main ereader, look no further for your new favorite app.
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