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back to article The best e-readers for Christmas

Digital reading devices separate into two basic types. On the one hand, you have the traditional e-reader, based on e-ink technology, and designed specifically reading. But now we have the 7in tablet, an altogether more sophisticated gadget, but one now starting to challenge the old-fashioned e-reader on price, especially when …

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JDX
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So basically they're all great? That could've been a much shorter review!

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.

It was more like "they're all worth considering", but which one is right for you will depend on your individual needs".

Which seems fair.

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Re: .

"Which seems fair."

Perhaps, but equally pointless...!

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Frankly they can sing and dance

As its not gonna matter, the tablets are gonna make all the eReaders other than the Kindle look as dated and worthless as 8-tracks. I mean put yourselves in the shoes of one of my customers, I tell them that for $130 I can get them a nice eReader, or for the SAME PRICE I can get them a 7 inch tablet that not only read eBooks but can ALSO play music and watch movies and plays games and even comes with Angry Birds and Cut The Rope? Its really not a hard choice for them, I have yet to have one say "I'd rather just have an eReader, thanks".

The ONLY reason the Kindle will survive and thrive is because Amazon has spent crazy money to make it so, both with the deals with the carriers they made for the "free 3G" and by willing to take a lesser cut from authors so they have an incredible selection at cheap prices. All of the book lovers I know have switched simply because of the combination of it being cheap ( and it having such a huge selection at great prices.

So I have a feeling this time next year the other eReaders will be toast or nothing but a standard Android color tablet with an eReader app, they simply can't compete with the Android tablets that grow ever more powerful while becoming ever cheaper. Heck I pointed a customer to one of those $70 tablets on the week of Black Friday for her grand niece, she loves it so much after seeing how nicely it ran she ended up going back and buying tablets for all her friends. Can't say as I blame her, 1.2Ghz, 512Mb of RAM, 4Gb of space, and with all the apps like FB that people want as well as a bunch of games like Angry Birds? At prices that low most of the eReaders don't stand a chance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Frankly they can sing and dance

I really enjoy reading from my Kindle in a way that I don't using a PC or a Tablet and while I suspect you are right in the long term i.e. colour paper screens will arrive, I suspect that the market for Tablets and e-readers are distinct. Of course, the market for people wanting devices specifically to read is probably much smaller than the sales of e-reader would suggest. But what do you expect, humans are somewhat pathetic and buy on a want not need basis.

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Re: Frankly they can sing and dance

I have yet to have one say "I'd rather just have an eReader, thanks".

I'm not one of your customers (I assume), but I'll say that. I have no interest in a tablet. Play music? My phone and my MP3 player do that. Watch (or rather show) movies? That's why I have a TV and DVR. Games? I rarely have time and inclination, but when I do, I have a PS2 (and an XBox I got from a neighbor, though I've never so much as plugged the thing in) and a laptop. Angry Birds? No thanks.

My wife and stepdaughter have Kindles (and laptops, and smartphones), and haven't shown any interest in tablets. Ditto a number of my acquaintances.

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Thumbs up for Nexus 7

Runs the apps I want to run, and is now my default e-reader. Haven't picked up my Kindle 3 since I got the Nexus. Battery life not as good, sure, but it's good enough that I don't have to charge it every other day or less. Recommended.

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Re: Thumbs up for Nexus 7

I've asked for one for Christmas. The rest of the family has iPads.

//independent streak

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Happy

Re: Thumbs up for Nexus 7

Don't entirely agree with you.

My Kobo lives in my inside coat pocket, which means I always have it with me. (The Kindle 4 is exactly the same size, so works as well).

The Nexus 7 is too heavy to carry in a coat pocket, and imho still a bit too heavy to use regularly as an e-reader.

With the Kobo/Kindle, I only have to charge it twice a MONTH. Rather better than every other day.

But as mentioned in the article - they are now cheap enough to have BOTH, and make your own mind up.

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Re: Thumbs up for Nexus 7

Sorry to contradict, but a coat pocket is exactly where my Nexus 7 lives when it's not in use. Fits in the big pockets on my winter overcoat; fits into the pocket inlay in my denim jacket when I'm wearing that. Likewise the inner and outer pockets of my Berghaus hiking coat.

I charge my Nexus every week or so, but I do keep the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS (don't need this, personally) turned off. Wi-Fi goes on once a week to check for updates, and that's it.

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JB
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Re: Thumbs up for Nexus 7

Mine's the one with a Nexus 7 in the pocket. :)

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Re: Thumbs up for Nexus 7

Yep. More than 40 books this year, and 90%+ on the Nexus7 (and it's Playbook predecessor). A great multi-function device!

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Re: Thumbs up for Nexus 7

Yep, mine fits in my motorcycle jacket pocket too. For my suit jacket inside pocket, I often need to take it out of its case, but it fits fine.

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any recommendations for a 70 year old with parkinsons?

i want to get my dad a tablet for xmas.

he loves music and has loads of audio books.

any recommendations?

im thinking of the nexus 7, nexus 10 or ipad. not sure how easy the buttons will be to use on the 7" tablets. the ipad mini needs a new version from what i read, not that anyone can buy them at present.

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Re: any recommendations for a 70 year old with parkinsons?

32gb Nexus 7 - 179 quid atm from CarphoneWarehouse. 3% cashback if you use quidco too :)

http://www.carphonewarehouse.com/mobiles/mobile-phones/ASUS_NEXUS_7_WIFI_32GB?&colourCode=BROWN

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Re: any recommendations for a 70 year old with parkinsons?

I'm very much a fan of the iPad (I'm currently on my second), but it's got a rubbish speaker. If there's any background noise at all, then you won't hear it. To be fair, it's pretty decent quality, not much distortion for a little'un. I can't remember which of the 'Droids I saw reviewed that came out better - either Nexus 7 or one of Samsung's I think. Of course, if he's going to listen on headphones or dock, then I'd go iOS, because my experience of Android last year was that the music apps weren't too good.

And iTunes (though somewhat horrible) does manage podcasts (and music) in one simple-ish place - at least for someone who's not willing to spend a bit of time setting up something better.

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Re: any recommendations for a 70 year old with parkinsons?

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 - 10.1" screen for £258 (and a fifty quid cashback, so only £208 eventually).

(Used to be £238 when I bought it two weeks ago from John Lewis.)

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Windows

Re: any recommendations for a 70 year old with parkinsons?

My mother-in-law (93) has no parkinsons and even so it is very difficult for her to get iPad-icons to behave. Either she points at the wrong ones and is lost or she doesn't take her fingers away quickly enough so "they all start to wiggle" or something else happens - her nurse has to help her so often the iPad has no appeal. I'm not sure any device without solid knobs is fit for people with parkinsons.

Let him try your smartphone - if he is able to open a website and navigate it you can get him a touch-thingy, otherwise look for something else. With

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@I ain't Spartacus

The Nexus 7 may be a great tablet - but if you don't like the ipad speaker, then beware of the Nexus.

Quiet and crap quality. This also goes for when you're using headphones/earphones too.

Otherwise a great (cheap-ish) tablet.

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Re: any recommendations for a 70 year old with parkinsons?

good call Michael Sauerbrey

might let him try my iphone, see how he does with a touch screen.

he has asymmetrical parkinson's so his left side isnt as badly affected as the right. pity for him he was right handed!

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Re: @I ain't Spartacus

cheers Jason Hall

i think sound quality is the least of his worries!

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Re: @I ain't Spartacus

Citizen Kaned,

I wonder if it's worth looking at a Windows RT tablet? I've not played with one, so I'm not recommending it, but I do have Win Phone 7. The Metro buttons and writing get regularly criticised for being too big. Well, that's an advantage in this case, and with WinRT you can now make them even bigger.

Onscreen keyboards are going to be a problem, but you can get one that's not too heavy with a slidey keyboard, or get the Surface with a clip-on one. That's if he wants to send emails.

As another thing to test, I wonder if he'll find it easier to point with a stylus than with a finger? Worth an experiment. If so, full-fat Windows 8 on a tablet might be a bit of a stretch, but Samsung do a 7" and a 10" Galaxy Note.

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Re: @I ain't Spartacus

I ain't Spartacus - cheers bud.

yeah, i need to look into surface. is it just the metro or is the desktop available? i was thinking about that earlier.

stylus might or might not be good. i just dont know. he used to be a draughtsman and decent artist until this bloody terrible disease.

does anyone know of any shops that have all these tablets to look at? is surface RT available to buy offline (i.e. shops?)

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Re: @I ain't Spartacus

From memory MS aren't selling Surface anywhere except online, or in their own shops. For some idiotic reason known only to their internal bureaucracy... Oh, and I don't think they have an shops in Blighty.

Surface doesn't have a stylus though, as I don't believe WinRT can handle them. For that you need full fat Windows 8. Again, WinRT has a limited 'desktop mode' only for MS's own apps. Basically to get the lightness and power-savings of ARM chips, MS have given you a bigger Windows Phone/Metro, rather than a cut down Windows. WinRT will be the cheaper tablets to rival the 'droids/iPad, Windows 8 is the touchscreen friendly update, and will be on the ultrabooks, convertible tablets and more expensive (heavier) kit.

If he used to be a good penman, then it's definitely worth trying him out on something with a stylus. Also try and find the ones with the fattest stylus you can? The old HP Wacom digitiser ones were brilliant, and really comfortable to hold. Thin ones are hard for people who aren't ill to use.

Carphone Warehouse have a decent selection of tablets, with iPad, Nexus 7 and various others. I don't remember seeing a Samsung Note one though. PC World have got some Windows 8 / WinRT ones, plus had the Samsung Galaxy Note 10", iPads and various smaller 'droids. John Lewis also have a small selection.

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Re: any recommendations for a 70 year old with parkinsons?

They're not tablets, but the Sony Reader line has audio out and supports MP3 playback. If you dad likes reading it might make a good buy.

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Re: @I ain't Spartacus

cheers again I ain't Spartacus

talked to dad last night and he wants office on the tablet. after looking it seems surface RT comes with basic office, which will do him.

also talked stylus as his right side is knackered now i think a stylus isnt going to be of any use.

also said a physical keyboard might be better for him. plus at least he knows how to use windows so looking like surface RT with the better keyboard might be the best option.

thanks for your help guys!

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Re: @I ain't Spartacus

All that seems sensible. Although using WinRT isn't like using Windows. It's basically Metro, which you can see on Windows 8 laptops, or Windows Phone. Even if you can't find a Surface tablet to play with. So you might want to make sure he's aware of that. It's very easy to use, easier than Android in my opinion, but you do get less control.

The full fat keyboard seems like a sensible idea. On-screen keyboards are probably the worst option for someone with Parkinsons. Although saying that, it may be worth considering the Swype keyboards on Android. Because with those, you put your finger on the glass, and then slide it round, which might lessen the shaking and make it easier to control - seeing as your hand is supported by the tablet. Rather than pecking away at the normal type. But having your hands resting on the home keys of a proper keyboard seems like an even better option to me.

Hope it works out well.

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Re: @I ain't Spartacus

cheers again. from what i have read surface RT still lets you access windows desktop too. am i wrong here?

ive tried win8 pro on a laptop (non touchscreen) and it wasnt to my liking but im thinking for basic web, music, office, email etc it will be fine for him.

cheers for your help mate! merry christmas!

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Re: @I ain't Spartacus

cheers again. from what i have read surface RT still lets you access windows desktop too. am i wrong here?

Citizen Kaned,

I don't want to contradict you if you've actually done some research, which I haven't. My memory is that there is a desktop available on WinRT, but it's limited to MS programs. So I guess you might use it for the Office stuff that comes with it and possibly Internet Explorer. Everything else would go through Metro. Given how easy to use Metro is, and that you can change the size of the icons, so the ones you use most are bigger, I don't see why you'd bother with the desktop - unless maybe you were working on multiple documents. Which doesn't seem a very tablet-y thing to do. Until I've played with it, or read a full review of it, I can't be much help.

PC World may have a WinRT tablet from Asus or someone to play with to check out how this works.

I had my first little look at full-fat Windows 8 on Saturday. I'm not sure about Metro. Although, to be honest, I don't use my home PC for all that much any more anyway. It gets used for music and BBC iPlayer, managing photos, internet, a bit of very light spreadsheetery, and a very small amount of light gaming. It's years since I played an FPS or EVE Online. So I'm tempted by it, as a cheap way of saying goodbye to Vista. I don't think there's a massive amount wrong with Metro, it's just not what I'm used to, and will probably annoy me and force me to work round it. In fairness, it's probably no worse than hunting through nested menus of programs. For the 10 or so programs I now mostly use, it may actually be better than the desktop.

It's not going anywhere near my work PC though. But as I said, for basic use I suspect it may actually be better.

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Re: any recommendations for a 70 year old with parkinsons?

The speaker in my Nexus 7 is *much* quieter than the speakers in the iPad mini. It's one of the weakest points of that tablet.

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FAIL

Sooo.......

Battery life?

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Re: Sooo.......

That's the e-ink device appeal for me, I've got both an iPad and a Kindle (recently upgraded from the original to a backlit one). You can argue to your hearts content whether an e-ink reader is easier to read than a tablet but the killer feature for me is that I can sit down on a plane, pull my Kindle out that I've not touched for 2-3 weeks and not charged for months, and the battery will still be at 80%.

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Re: Sooo.......

Exactly. The Nexus is too heavy and eats battery; the Kobo Touch (I'm investigating the Glo this weekend) last for weeks and is half the weight.

Different tools for different jobs; jacks of all trades rarely seem to be masters of any.

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Re: Sooo.......

I reckon my Sony e-reader must have a duff battery. If I leave it switched off for 2-3 weeks, I can almost guarantee that next time I want to use it, I'll need to charge it overnight first. The odd thing is, not only has it always been like that, but it seems to last longer if I use it regularly.

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I'm currently using an HP TouchPad running Android for reading. It's a bit too hefty to take to work, but it's fine for around the house and was fine on the plane when I went on holiday last week.

I use it to watch NetFlix and play the odd game too, but I'm considering a Kindle for serious and more portable reading.

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EInk: Battery and readability

In addition to Nightfox's battery remark, for me EInk (I have a iRiver story HD) is way better.

While backlit tablets read better in low lighting, reading a lit surface in a dark area is more fatiguing. So unless you specifically target places with bad lighting (planes mostly), I'd go for EInk.

Between EInk devices, ask around, battery life and startup time can be worth shelling out a few tenners extra if you are a heavy user. (my old story HD takes nearly a minute to come from sleep and load the book. Not a dealbreaker, but any improvement would be great, as long as it doesn't reduce battery life too much)

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Advice please.

Can I tap the hivemind of the Commentardiat please?

I'm helping someone with the triple play of macular degeneration, cataracts and arthritis. Looks like they can't nuke the cataracts any more without risking making the MD worse. Oops. So her eyesight is going to deteriorate further, but seems to be going slowly.

What's the picture like for large ebook readers nowadays? I believe there's no-more Kindle 10", but are there any other decent bigger ones out there? The problem is that getting the text to a big enough size for her to be able to read it on a 5" ereader means that the words are so big you're only getting one per line. That makes it unusable.

If I go the tablet route I'm thinking we'll have the same problem with the 7 inchers, but there's the Samsung 8-piont-someting and a mid-sized Motorola. The iPad 10" is too heavy - plastic and thin is better here. I need to get some info together before taking them to the shops for a little hands-on testing. Sadly the local charity resource centre for visually impaired people only has specialist kit, and doesn't seem to have realised that there's cheap and excellent mainstream shiny out there to do this job now.

Any thoughts on the above gratefully received. Also she wants library books, so I've got to cope with Adobe Digital Editions DRM. Spit!

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Re: Advice please.

I assume she'll be doing her reading at home... I'd honestly suggest that you get her a 17" laptop, rigged to start up with an e-book reader app, such as Mobipocket, etc., with font preset to a suitable size. Learning how to use a mouse should be easy and the cursor can be made big and obvious.

"I've got to cope with Adobe Digital Editions DRM." I'm not saying anything at this point, except that you can easily manage to wrangle stuff with Calibre and do some internet driving for her every couple of weeks or so. :)

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Silver badge

Re: Advice please.

A playbook is a decent choice (it has overdrive as an app) but if you can wait until June next year:

http://www.techradar.com/news/portable-devices/other-devices/pocketbook-boasts-about-front-lit-ereader-before-device-has-a-name-1112335?src=rss&attr=all

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Re: Advice please.

frankly,

She's got a laptop, but they're very hard to manage. In order to get the screen close enough to be readable it's got to be sat on a tray table at the armchair, or she's got to be sitting at a desk. Which was why I thought a light tablet was a good idea. Also, I want to see if eInk is going to be easier on her eyes than a backlit screen. That seems to be entirely a matter of personal taste.

Ergonomics is as much of a problem as text size / clarity. Most people with visual problems are older, and large print books weigh a ton...

Finally you have a good point about DRM *ahem*. However I don't believe that her or her husband are going to be up to hacking their books and converting formats. They'll struggle just to authorise devices. I'm trying to persuade them to go the Kindle app route, and pay for books, just for ease of use. Otherwise my suspicion is that the difficulty of getting the bugger to work will mean no books - which is worse than fewer books due to having to pay.

If my Mum wanted ebooks, I'd send her the Kindle route. Even though I don't totally trust it, any other option is too much hassle for people who don't want to learn more complicated processes.

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Re: Advice please.

James,

Interesting, thanks. I think 8" is the sweet-spot. Not so interested in colour here, but that's an interesting product. Although I'll take their June release date with a whole cellar full of salt.

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Re: Advice please.

Ah, this turns my usual advice upside-down.

I normally recommend the e-ink devices, but in her case the ability to easily increase font size plus lighting the screen trumps portability and long battery charge. (Yes quibblers, I know one can increase font size on an e-reader, but it's a bit more easy and effective on a tablet.)

Since there are Kindle, Kobo, and Nook apps for Android devices, she's covered there.

Huh, I just checked, and Calibre has an app too, although it uses the books stored on a local wi-fi network.

(I would be pushing Calibre as a dedicated option too -- it's the best e-book program out there -- except you said that the laptop option wasn't really for her.)

Good luck.

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Re: Advice please.

John,

Thanks. Using Calibre as a wireless book server makes some sense. They've got a laptop, and they need to authorise the books with Adobe's programme on the laptop. I don't believe Adobe digital editions has a tablet version. That's another thing to check. But the 8.5" Samsung does look like a good option.

Also, I am worried by the more limited number of font sizes on the eReaders. I'm hoping for someone with direct experience of the bigger ones to comment.

Thanks for the suggestions guys.

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ssu

Samsung Tab 7 an option?

I had a look at small tablets in a couple of retailers and the Nexus 7 was hard to read in shop light, let alone in sunlight. The Samsung Tab 2 7 next to it seemed to be far more readable to me.

But for ease of use and readability in direct sunlight the non touch Kindles are the best bet, Adding touch also adds a bit of a gloss surface. I have a non touch Kindle and it has been fine in the brightest of sunlight and even copes well on a yacht with the added reflections of the sun from the sea.

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Re: Samsung Tab 7 an option?

Did you try adjusting the brightness? I was playing with a phone in the shop the other day, and it had the auto-brightness setting on. The shop was dark-ish, but there was a spot shining straight onto the screen. So I turned the brightness to manual and full - screen then looked really nice.

I struggled with auto brightness on both Android and Windows Mobile, and ended up doing it manually.

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Go

Ownership

To be fair you don't actually own the information in a copyrighted tree-book either, just the ink and cellulose. In practise it's fairly difficult to separate the two of course.

Now that the e-reader market is getting mature you can pick up a reading device on eBay for £15-20 or so. Load it up with as many of your books as you like, slap on a hard password to lock down the OS and you can lend somebody your entire library. If they don't give it back (and I've lost count of the books that I've got on 'permanent loan' with somebody or other) you can deregister it from the bookseller's system and you're only down the price of a hardback. And you can still read the books yourself.

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Re: Ownership

Can't remote-wipe a tree-book unless they burn down your house. But at least with an e-book you don't have to insure your library in case of fire - if you e-reader goes up in smoke, by a new one and just re-download.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ownership

I bet the publishers would see that as unauthorised copying of digital content - in the same way the microsoft's 'you can use this OS on x devices at home' doesn't stretch to installing on 5 machines and 'lending' them to 4 of your mates.

If you're going to bring on the wrath of a media organisation then you may as well just 'install' copies of the book onto a USB and 'lend' that instead. If you don't get it back then you're down the cost of a cheap usb stick and don't have the hassle of deregistering a device.

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Headmaster

Re: Ownership

Not true.

Our kobo account is hooked up to two e-readers, three tablets and a netbook. I've heard the limit is eight simultaneous devices.

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Paris Hilton

Tablets v e-readers

Is there a comparison to make here? 1 is a multimedia device with "an app for that" (reading) and the other is solely for displaying the written word....

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