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back to article 2011's Best... E-book Readers

World+Dog might fancy a glossy, colour tablet, but for the more literary inclined an e-book reader will likely prove a more suitable option. Yes, they're not as flash as fondleslabs, but their screens are legible both indoors and out, and their batteries last an age between charges. And, to please the canny gift buyer, they're …

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Devil

Read them on the tube before reviewing

The "girly" embossing of the Kobo makes it considerably more convenient then Amazon's offering for reading on a tube or commuter train because it allows for better grip. I have both the Kobo and Amazon's offering in the house and the Kobo gets more use.

In fact, everyone who sees it wants one.

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Anonymous Coward

Kobo

aye, i have one too, was never a big fan of these things but im really happy with it, cant believe how small it is an its been dropped a couple of times to no ill effect. I had a wee play with that vox device WHSmith have now (oh the fun watching the staff cringe when asked complicated questions), its not too bad at all tho, but the touch Kobo still has my vote, its small, its light an easy to use, a perfect wee "book" no messing about, it just does what it says on the tin!

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FAIL

Kobo £67..

Asda are doing the non-touch Kobo for £67. (£107 for the touch).

3million books on Kobo 750k on Kindle. Same hardware, same screen, no lock-in and cheaper.

No brainer to me....

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Headmaster

Kindle Tied to Amazon?

Well, sort of, in that you can only make purchases/automatic downloads from there.

You can copy DRM-free MOBI files on through a variety of means though, and get most eBooks into that format via Calibre. So it's not a very tight tying.

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Stop

Provided you redefine the meaning of tied.

Ahh.. The Amazon astroturfer is out again I see.

1) All e-book readers read more than one format. And usually all but one are DRM free.

2) Free ebooks are not just available in Mobi, which since the Kindle came out, has pretty much been abandoned by Amazon. So really.. You are more likely to need to convert even free books to mobi. But can download direct with ePub.

3) Calibre (great tool) supports pretty much EVERY e-book format, so converting from Mobi is just as easy as converting to mobi. And there are few, if any readers that Calibre does not recognise.

4) Amazon and Apple are the only ones who tie your book purchasing to their store. Everybody else uses ADE. So everybody else allows you to choose who you do business with.

Now stop trying to mislead people.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Provided you redefine the meaning of tied.

Clarification. Kindle is tied to Amazon in as much as if you want to buy e-books, almost all of which are DRM-protected - O'Reilly offerings being a very notable exception - you really have to buy from Amazon.

With the Sony, say, you can buy from a variety of different bookshops.

You are still tied by DRM, though. If you buy a second e-reader, and it's not a Sony, you still have to make sure your new reader handles Adobe DRM. Fortunately, many do.

Reg readers may be able to strip Amazon-sold e-books of DRM, but lots of folk can't - or won't for fear of it requiring what they may perceive as dodgy software off the net. So, if they buy into Kindle, they're stuck with Kindle to view ebooks purchased from Amazon.

Now, Amazon at least supports iOS, Android and other platforms so its e-books can be read on other devices. That may be true of DRM'd ePub e-books too, but it's a while since I checked - Adobe Digital Editions software p**sed me off so much, I vowed never to use it again.

Does tie-in matter? No one here likes it, me included, but Amazon is not going to go titsup anytime soon, so you can argue your purchases are safe. If an ePub seller goes under, you can still read their offerings on any ePub DRM-supporting device.

The only barrier is the ePub-to-Kindle, and that is surmountable with third-party software if you need it. So, more a hassle than a barrier.

So, none of these devices are truly open, but they are openable. But the hassles are the fault of publisher-imposed DRM, not Amazon, Sony or Kobo.

Heck, even Apple dropped DRM from music the first chance it got.

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FAIL

"Ahh.. The Amazon astroturfer is out again I see."

@John Bailey: "Astroturfer"? "again"? You mean I could be getting paid for this? And I've done it before? Damn, it seems you know things about what I'm doing that I didn't even know myself - I'm so impressed!

No idea why you're quite so fixated on Amazon being teh bad, and anything that's not actively hostile to them being misleading (even if, somehow, it's also correct - I notice none of your comments actually say anything I posted was wrong), but I'm sure in your head you're right. Keep up the paranoid work.

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WTF?

@John Bailey

I own a Kindle, I have no trouble using Calibre to put pretty much any e-book I can find onto it. If your point is that it doesn't handle competing DRM systems as used by other e-book sellers than Amazon, then so what? I won't buy the e-books from them, it really doesn't bother me.

Does this make me an astroturfer? I neither work for or have ever been paid any money by Amazon (except for refunds on things I have bought where the price has subsequently dropped between ordering and dispatch). Generally I have found them a good company to do business with. Criticising people or calling them names for stating this seems to be more of an ad-hominem attack than anything else.

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Gav
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Unhappy

'teh bad

Amazon are not 'teh bad'. They have an excellent online shop. Kindle is a nifty piece of kit. Amazon are also not likely to go out of business any time soon and leave anyone stranded.

But a lock-in to a propriety format and single retailer is totally "teh bad". It's a inexcusable policy, that only ever benefits Amazon to the disadvantage of their customers. Yes, there are ways of circumventing that lock-in, but they are a hassle I do not wish to saddle myself with and most people will not be able to do it..

This is why I won't be buying a Kindle in its current format.

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Re: Teh bad

"But a lock-in to a propriety format and single retailer is totally "teh bad"."

I will vote for any politician who will undertake to make DRMs illegal as a concept. A vendor must not be allowed to have any control over the product he gives to the customer from the moment the money changed hands.

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Go

I can't believe you said....

I can't believe you said 'simples'.

Go stand in the corner and think about what you've done.

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Paris Hilton

Just because...

...I have an Amazon account does not mean I want to buy all my eBooks from them. So for me the Sony wins.

Paris: because she would love to be able to read

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Sony has one big advantage

It can download books directly from library websites. If it can download audio books too I might just upgrade from my 350.

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Thumb Down

I would love a Kindle....

If only Amamzon would let me buy one from the UK instead of making me buy one from half way around the world! I have a UK account with Amazon.co.uk, but they refuse to ship to the Netherlands forcing me to buy from the .com site instead :(

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Stop

What about amazon.fr?

They're available on Amazon's French site (in euros, of course) but maybe Amazon would still insist you order from their .com site - worth a try, anyway.

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Facepalm

Why care, you can use the same login on the US site, same creditcards etc.. It's at yout door in 2 days so no difference. So, what's your problem?

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Have you tried Currys/PC World? I don't know if they sell abroad.

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Anonymous Coward

Ask nicely...

And one of the UK residents here will let you ship to us and then forward it on.

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Anonymous Coward

I got my kindle shipped from the states to Spain, and then promptly registered it with my UK account... No trouble so far... though I'm blatently flouting the rules.

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Similarly

I'd love a touchscreen kindle to replace my ageing Be-book, but for some strange reason the only way to buy one is to have it shipped from America, which I'd rather not do!

I'll probably end up getting a kobo.

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Sony PRS-T1

I've just bought a PRS-T1 and it's bloody lovely. For me, the extra £40 over the Kindle so I could make use of my local library's digital lending system - directly through the reader itself (plus wifi) - was a no brainer. Might have merited a mention in the review, the library-lending capability, although not all library services offer it (yet).

Also, I think the Sony manages the eInk Pearl screen better than the Kindle does. The Sony does a blank on each page turn which the Kindle only does every five page turns. The text after the third or fourth refresh without blanking looks decidedly jaggy to my eyes.

Fits into Kindle cases as well, which is handy.

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Silver badge

Thanks for the tip-off on Kindle cases! The Sony ones are chuffin' expensive. I asked my local library at the weekend and to my surprise they knew what the hell I was on about. Apparently it's being rolled out soon; they're just waiting for the related website to be polished off.

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Can you download audio books as well?

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With the latest firmware the Kindle can refresh the display after every page turn.

The text always looks smooth to me.

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http://digitallibrary.norfolk.gov.uk/ has audiobooks for lending, but I haven't tried borrowing any. Other library services may vary.

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"Who doesn't have an Amazon account these days?"

That's somewhat missing the point. A more pertinent question is "Who cares so little for competition that they want to be tied to Amazon for all their purchases?"

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Wouldn't choose to be tied to one supplier but I suspect that I wouldn't really care very much in practice - and I don't think I'd let a minor point of business principle decide things for me.

If Amazon are wildly more expensive people will quickly switch to another reader - there's no huge financial barrier to doing that given the price of these devices and so the next time there's a good reason to upgrade there'd be a good reason to switch if Amazon was abusing its position, so I reckon they'll stay price competitive and I won't mind shopping with them.

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You're missing the point

"If Amazon are wildly more expensive people will quickly switch to another reader"

So people have bought 20 books on a Kindle you think they're just going to jump platform and lose that "investment"? These proprietary systems are poison. They're sticky - the more you buy the less inclined you are to leave. Even if Amazon jacked up their prices, or started charging for repeat downloads, or started charging a subscription for cloud storage, their audience will be captives to the service.

This tying is anti competitive in the extreme. You are locked in, you cannot move even if you wanted to, you cannot avail of offers or deals on other services, or books not sold by one vendor but sold by another, you cannot move your collection outside of Amazon's grasp. It's abusive, it's anticompetitive. It might seem great now that Amazon are subsidizing their readers but they are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.

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Stop

Yeah but....

Have you tested these through an airport x-ray scanner?

My mate is on his 3rd or 4th kindle after going through customs as the x-ray scanner fries the screens. I believe this is the new version too.

Just a warning for anyone who travels via air a lot.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Yeah but....

Sounds like FUD.

I've taken Kindles through X-ray scanners to Europe, Australia and the US, and back again with no screen damage.

Airport staff inspecting bags without taking care of your kit? Now that I can believe.

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In agreement with Tony Smith

My Kindle, which has retroactively become a Kindle Keyboard, has come with me on a couple of trips to the US and a couple of trips to other countries in Europe and been fine. So that's eight trips through airport customs with no issues, at least as hand luggage.

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Black Helicopters

Re Airport security: Took mine to Thailand, no problem at all. I'd suggest switching it off though.

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FUD

Mines been through Brussels, Birmingham and Munich airports scanners multiple times in its 1 year life with no damage to the screen. it has got some dead pixels now but that was where i dropped an mp3 player onto it (luckily its intthe margin area)

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FAIL

@Scho

I've taken mine through airport scanners at a number of european airports, a number of times (probably well into the double digits). The only trouble I have had is a tiny dead patch on the screen where it got a knock against something hard in my bag. This is slightly annoying, but I believe Amazon have a policy of fixing such things for free if I could be bothered to send it off to them.

AFAIK, other readers use the same screen as the Kindle anyway (I think the WH Smiths one does anyway)

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Alert

Bookeen Odyssey

Number one on the list, the Bookeen CyBook Orizon is an old model - the latest touchscreen model from Bookeen was released last month.

I was hoping for a review from El Reg (as it's supposed to have the fastest e-ink refresh rate), but that's not going to happen... you don't even appear to know it exists.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Bookeen Odyssey

It's not out yet, or wasn't late last month when we put this together. Besides, not having looked at it yet, how can we say whether it's any good or not?

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Fair enough, though it was released on the 22nd of November.

Hope you can review it soon - before xmas?

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PRS-T1 for me

Functionality is always key for me, and with the quick hack demonstrated on here recently the Sony Reader becomes a Kindle as well. I'm actually kinda surprised that wasn't mentioned in the article; El Reg did report on it.

I had a play with one in a Sony store and it's unbelievably light for its size. Fits nicely in my jacket pocket, runs Android, does everything I need and doesn't lock me in to anything or argue with me about file formats. It's the obvious winner for me, so I'll pay the extra £30 (or less if you go on Play.com).

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FAIL

Less cheap looking?

*tap, tap*?

The 'new' Sony Reader has lost the nice aluminum body of the PRS-650 et al, and added battery-hungry wifi.

"Less cheap looking"? Smoking one's socks isn't a particularly good idea.

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FAIL

Kindle - "one of the best 6in e-ink screens around"?

Not according to toms hardware and a few posts I've seen on ereader forums:

"We called up E Ink Corporation to ask if this was a batch-related issue, and was told that this is most likely due to Amazon choosing a particular grade of display panels. So, while the new Kindle comes at a lower price, the company is probably cutting its costs as well by using a slightly cheaper display."

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/kindle-e-book-reader,3040-3.html

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Mat
FAIL

Kindle 4

... Only does a full page refresh every 6 pages - this is why the text looks a little less crisp on the 4th and 5th page turn - The latest firmware allows a full refresh (like the Kindle Keyboard) on every page turn.

Fail because fail to read the posts above you!

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Oh ffs, the Kindle is not tied to amazon, has the author never heard of calibre?

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Having to use a third party tool to untie Amazon book is pretty much the definition of tied in my book.

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Calibre

I have, I use it, and it is wonderful, but since Calibre works with all readers that I know of, that gives one even less reason to yoke one's self to Kindle.

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Context

What they probably mean is "for your average pleb user who just wants to buy it and use the inbuilt facilities for downloading and storing books rather than fuck around with extra software, converting, etc it is tied to Amazon."

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I know it must be fun for some

"fuck around with extra software, converting, etc"

But I'd rather fuck around with my wife in my free time...

Having said this, I've spend the last Saturday de-DRMing my son's Kindle book collection. Which only reinforced the above point for me further...

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Alert

Kindle models

Kindle Keyboard gets lower than lower functionality Kindle 4. Surely some mistake?

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Anonymous Coward

Kindle Keyboard has browser + free 3G net access

Worth mentioning that the Kindle Keyboard comes with a browser to take advantage of the free 3G net access.

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Stop

Browser, schmowser

Also worth mentioning that the browser is so shit as to be practically unusable, in my experience.

I do like the keyboard though...

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Thumb Up

It's true, the browser is bad (hence it's listed under "Experimental" in the menus rather than being listed as a feature), but it does as a last resort if you have no other alternative.

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