Posts Tagged ‘ereading’

Ereading still causes a lot of confusion.  I thought it might be useful to put together a post of some common questions regarding ereading and to do my best to answer them.

What is eReading?
Simply put, ereading is reading a book, comic, magazine or other similar content on an electronic device rather than in hard copy.

Why should I give up my paperback and switch to ereading?
Like many things, ereading is not an either/or activity.  There is no reason why you cannot read books in both hard copy and ebook formats.  It is very much a personal choice.

Having said that, there are pros and cons to ereading.  I have listed some here to help you decide if ereading is right for you.

Pros:
Convenience
.  With ereading you can carry your entire library around with you on your eReader, smartphone or tablet.   Can you imagine carrying around all 14 hardback books in the Wheel of Time series?  With ereading that is no issue. Likewise, if you’re living in a small space, an ereader takes up much less room than forty shelves of books.

Accessibility.  Most ereaders and ereading applications allow you to adjust the font size to suit your eyesight.  This is a real lifesaver if your eyesight isn’t what it was.

Never lose your place.  Most eReaders and devices keep your place for you, and some automatically synchronise over multiple devices.  Amazon even synchronises between the Amazon Kindle ebook and the Audible audiobook.

Additional cool features.  eReading gives you lots of extra features.  These range from such inbuilt dictionaries (if you’re unsure of the meaning of a word, click or tap on it and the definition will pop up) to additional background information and references and social sharing of your reading.

24-hour bookstore.  Imagine the scenario.  You finish a real page turner of a book at 2am and you really can’t wait to see what happens next.  With eReading, a few clicks later you can be reading the sequel, often by 2.01am.  Also, if you’re anxiously waiting for that hot, new release by your favourite author, most new release books are released at 12am PST (in Canada) and delivered automatically to your device at that time if you pre-order.  Of course, if you’re trying to watch your book budget, that Buy Now button can be more of a con…

Millions of free books.  That’s correct.  Thanks to efforts like Project Gutenberg, there are millions of legally available free ebooks for your ereading pleasure.   

Free ebooks on Amazon
Free ebooks on Kobo 
Free ebooks on Sony 

Your books are backed up by the store.  If anything happens to your eReader, you can rest assured that you have not lost your entire library.  Simply log back into the store and redownload them.

Cons;
You’re renting not buying.  When you “buy” an ebook, you’re actually buying a licence to read that ebook on your devices, not an actual ebook.  This means that, in theory, it’s easier to lose access to your entire library if, say, your ebook provider goes out of business.

Read eBooks cannot be resold, donated or regifted.  Linked to the above, the licence you buy cannot be resold, donated or regifted to another person, at least not at this point.  This may be a deal breaker for some of you who like to share your reading material with others.  Amazon Kindle customers in the United States do have limited options to lend Kindle books to others, but this is highly restricted by the publishers and usually allows only one loan per ebook, and on very select titles.

DRM is a pain in the neck.  DRM – or digital rights management –  is software applied to ebooks to prevent your illegally sharing them or changing their format.  It locks the ebook to a specific format and sometimes account and device.  It means, for example, that you cannot read a Kindle book on a Kobo eReader and vice versa.  There is no way to legally convert the ebook to make this possible.  

eReaders and devices are more fragile than paperbacks.  If you drop a paperback in the bath, you’re only out $7 or so.  That cost is considerably more if you drop your eReader…

These are what I see as the pros and cons.  It is really your personal preference if any of these are deallbreakers for you.

I like to borrow my books from a library.  I can’t do that with eBooks, can I?
Certainly you can!  Let me refer you to my post on borrowing eBooks.

I need a specialised eReader, don’t I?
Not at all.  If you have a computer, smartphone or tablet you can get started on eReading.  You would need to download an application.  Many are linked to a specific eBook store.  Here are some of the most popular.

AmazonKoboSonyBarnes & NobleApple

There are other, more general applications, but if you are new to eReading, I would recommend you begin with one of the major providers.

You may also prefer to start off with a free application to see if ereading is for you before investing in a dedicated eReader.

OK, I’m interested.  How do I get started with eReading?
Excellent!  The first thing you would need to do is choose an ebook provider.  I would recommend you try some of the free ebooks from one or two providers to see which one best suits your needs and is best for you.  

Here are links to the main stores (for Canada):

AmazonKoboSony 

In each case the steps are very much the same.

  1. go to the site for your preferred ebook store
  2. register for an account if you don’t already have one (look for a sign in or register link)
  3. download the application for your computer, smartphone and/or tablet
  4. sign in to the application with the store account
  5. browse the store for a book you’d like to buy
  6. add to cart and go through the payment process.  
  7. in the ereading application look for a “sync” function to have the book downloaded to the application if it doesn’t appear there automatically

And there you have it – your first ebook.  Congratulations!

Which dedicated eReader should I go for?
This is a very personal decision.  It really depends on what you want and what is important to you.  Please check out my eReader reviews for some suggestions or please feel free to get in touch with me if you have more specific questions. 

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Recent Reads and Audible

Posted: October 6, 2012 in Uncategorized
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This last few weeks, I’ve not taken much time to write reviews of my recent reads (well, the new TV season has started!) so I thought I’d write a few notes.

The Timekeeper by Mitch Alborn

This was rather a sweet story about a boy who was the first to mark time (in the sense of dividing it into years, months, weeks, days, hours) and how it became an obsession for him. In the story, he becomes Father Time. His tale is interwoven with those of a young teenage girl and a dying old man. While I loved the story, I felt the moralising about appreciating the time we have was a touch heavy handed.

Still, I gave The Time Keeper 4 stars out of 5

Les Chevaliers d’Emeraude – L’Enlevement by Anne Robillard

OK, I admit it, I’m a complete sucker for this series. I love Robillard’s understanding of character. Even though they are in a fantasy setting, they feel fresh and timeless. After all, a man in love with his best friend’s wife is still conflicted and in pain whether he’s a 21st century person or a heroic mediaeval knight.

One thing I’m noticing about this series is that it is more episodic than many I’ve read. By that I mean that in many epic fantasy series each book has its own “quest” if you like, feeding into a larger series arc. With Robillard there seems to be a lot more mini character development arcs – at this point it seems that character is far more important to her than plot development. In that sense, she reminds me a lot of George R.R. Martin.

I have to say though, I’m really happy the first series is already complete – it would be so frustrating to have to wait five years for the next book a la Martin. Having said that, as I’m reading them in ebook format I do need to wait on the publisher releasing them.

Naturally, I gave L’Enlevement 5 out of 5 stars.

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

This is the second in Weeks’ Lightbringer series – the followup to the Black Prism. I’ve not enjoyed this series quite as much as his Night Angel trilogy, but it is still a great read. Weeks develops his world and characters with the trademark WTF???? Weeks moment. I look forward to seeing where he goes with this.

For the first time I split this book between the Audible audiobook and reading on the Kindle. I really got into the book, so I was so happy to be able to continue listening while doing necessary chores. I did get some strange looks from my husband walking round the apartment as I laughed at a particularly funny quip from Kip or froze to think “what??? Did he really do…?”

I gave The Blinding Knife 4 stars out of 5

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

There was a recent special offer on this book so I decided to give it a go. Gaiman did say in the accompanying blurb that this book was not for everyone, and I have to say that was the case for me. I can’t even say with any certainty why I struggled to get into this book. It was original, imaginative, well written. At times, it could be violent and crude, but that has never turned me away from A Song of Ice and Fire.

I suspect it was because the characters were unsympathetic to me. I personally felt that I could neither relate to nor like Shadow, which meant i struggled to like the book.

I gave American Gods 3 stars out of 5

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

As a Harry Potter fan, I was anxiously awaiting the release of JKR’s first adult novel – or at least her first novel geared towards adults. I’d had it pre-ordered for my Kindle, so I was very very disappointed on release day when the book was unreadable. Although the publisher and Amazon fixed this later in the day, in the meantime, I’d returned my order and bought it from Kobo. Rather a poor start to a major book launch.

The Casual Vacancy is VERY different to Harry Potter. There is the odd flash of JKR’s great humour, and understanding of character, but other than that, it’s a character study along with some political soapboxing. I enjoyed the beginning, getting to know the characters and the setup, the middle lagged for me somewhat, and although the ending picked up, I found it very depressing. This was the first book I read on my new Kobo Glo though.

I gave The Casual Vacancy 3 stars out of 5.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Although this Heroes of Olympus series is for young adults, I love it. Riordan’s style is light, witty, and fun and he knows how to end a chapter on a cliffhanger. His world building is also imaginative and fun; Greek and Roman gods wandering around our world. The Mark of Athena is no exception to his high standard. I look forward to hearing more of the seven demigods and the next great prophesy. I also listened to this on Audible as well as Kindle, which enhanced the experience.

I gave The Mark of Athena 4.5 stars out of 5.

As I have mentioned a few times now, I’m starting to get into audiobooks a lot. Jeff Bezos sucked me in with the Whispersync for Voice and the great deals on bundling the ebook and Audible book. I can imagine I’ll do a lot more listening.

This last few weeks, I’ve not taken much time to write reviews of my recent reads (well, the new TV season has started!) so I thought I’d write a few notes.

The Timekeeper by Mitch Alborn

This was rather a sweet story about a boy who was the first to mark time (in the sense of dividing it into years, months, weeks, days, hours) and how it became an obsession for him. In the story, he becomes Father Time. His tale is interwoven with those of a young teenage girl and a dying old man. While I loved the story, I felt the moralising about appreciating the time we have was a touch heavy handed.

Still, I gave The Time Keeper 4 stars out of 5

Les Chevaliers d’Emeraude – L’Enlevement by Anne Robillard

OK, I admit it, I’m a complete sucker for this series. I love Robillard’s understanding of character. Even though they are in a fantasy setting, they feel fresh and timeless. After all, a man in love with his best friend’s wife is still conflicted and in pain whether he’s a 21st century person or a heroic mediaeval knight.

One thing I’m noticing about this series is that it is more episodic than many I’ve read. By that I mean that in many epic fantasy series each book has its own “quest” if you like, feeding into a larger series arc. With Robillard there seems to be a lot more mini character development arcs – at this point it seems that character is far more important to her than plot development. In that sense, she reminds me a lot of George R.R. Martin.

I have to say though, I’m really happy the first series is already complete – it would be so frustrating to have to wait five years for the next book a la Martin. Having said that, as I’m reading them in ebook format I do need to wait on the publisher releasing them.

Naturally, I gave L’Enlevement 5 out of 5 stars.

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks This is the second in Weeks’ Lightbringer series – the followup to the Black Prism. I’ve not enjoyed this series quite as much as his Night Angel trilogy, but it is still a great read. Weeks develops his world and characters with the trademark WTF???? Weeks moment. I look forward to seeing where he goes with this.

For the first time I split this book between the Audible audiobook and reading on the Kindle. I really got into the book, so I was so happy to be able to continue listening while doing necessary chores. I did get some strange looks from my husband walking round the apartment as I laughed at a particularly funny quip from Kip or froze to think “what??? Did he really do…?”

I gave The Blinding Knife 4 stars out of 5

American Gods by Neil Gaiman There was a recent special offer on this book so I decided to give it a go. Gaiman did say in the accompanying blurb that this book was not for everyone, and I have to say that was the case for me. I can’t even say with any certainty why I struggled to get into this book. It was original, imaginative, well written. At times, it could be violent and crude, but that has never turned me away from A Song of Ice and Fire.

I suspect it was because the characters were unsympathetic to me. I personally felt that I could neither relate to nor like Shadow, which meant i struggled to like the book.

I gave American Gods 3 stars out of 5

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

As a Harry Potter fan, I was anxiously awaiting the release of JKR’s first adult novel – or at least her first novel geared towards adults. I’d had it pre-ordered for my Kindle, so I was very very disappointed on release day when the book was unreadable. Although the publisher and Amazon fixed this later in the day, in the meantime, I’d returned my order and bought it from Kobo. Rather a poor start to a major book launch.

The Casual Vacancy is VERY different to Harry Potter. There is the odd flash of JKR’s great humour, and understanding of character, but other than that, it’s a character study along with some political soapboxing. I enjoyed the beginning, getting to know the characters and the setup, the middle lagged for me somewhat, and although the ending picked up, I found it very depressing. This was the first book I read on my new Kobo Glo though.

I gave The Casual Vacancy 3 stars out of 5.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Although this Heroes of Olympus series is for young adults, I love it. Riordan’s style is light, witty, and fun and he knows how to end a chapter on a cliffhanger. His world building is also imaginative and fun; Greek and Roman gods wandering around our world. The Mark of Athena is no exception to his high standard. I look forward to hearing more of the seven demigods and the next great prophesy. I also listened to this on Audible as well as Kindle, which enhanced the experience.

I gave The Mark of Athena 4.5 stars out of 5.

As I have mentioned a few times now, I’m starting to get into audiobooks a lot. Jeff Bezos sucked me in with the Whispersync for Voice and the great deals on bundling the ebook and Audible book. I can imagine I’ll do a lot more listening.

I've had my hands on the Kobo Glo for a few days now, and it is a very nice device. I took some pictures to compare it with my Kobo Touch and Kindle Touch.

Here is a picture of the three devices with the Kobo Glo unlit
Kindle Touch, Kobo Touch and Kobo Glo unlit

To my eyes, the Kobo Glo's screen is noticeably lighter than the Kobo Touch's and on a par with that of the Kindle Touch, making more of a contrast between the screen and text. With its 1GHz processor, page turns on the new Glo are considerably faster than on the Kobo Touch and the Kindle Touch.

You may notice from the images that the Kobo Glo has dropped the physical home button. Personally, I'd have preferred that they keep it. Access to the Home screen is now via on-screen menus.

The Kobo Glo comes with a slightly updated UI, which, according to the forums, and my own experience, is still rather buggy. Once or twice I noticed that the device got stuck on a page and I had to turn it off to get back to reading. I imagine a firmware update will be coming soon to fix this. It's annoying, but not a deal breaker for me.

The big selling point of the Glo is of course the in-built lighting. "Comfort light" as Kobo markets it. Here is an image of the Kobo Touch vs the Kobo Glo with the screen lit

Glo lit

On my device at least the light is not perfectly evenly distributed. There is shadowing at the bottom of the screen. Kobo has quite cleverly got around this by reversing the menu bar at the bottom so it is white on black to disguise that somewhat. I understand from the forums that some people find the shadowing too irritating. My own feeling is that it doesn't bother me at all, and that the Comfort Light is a great improvement over book lights or less than ideal ambient lighting.

One thing on which I am undecided – whether or not to leave the Glo light on in all lighting conditions. Amazon recommends that you do so on their Paperwhite, whereas Kobo suggests only when you need it. In any case I've had it on a lot and noticed no significant drain on battery power.

All in all the Kobo Glo is a great upgrade to the Kobo line. If you're buying a first Kobo, the extra $30 for the Kobo Glo over the Kobo Touch is worth the expense in my opinion. Of course, as an entry level ereader, for $79 you can also get the Kobo Mini which looks so cute. If you already have a Touch and are thinking of upgrading that's probably more a case of personal preference. If you read a lot in less than ideal lighting conditions it might be a great purchase for you.

Sigh. I really should not have spent yesterday evening looking at reviews for the Kindle Paperwhite eReader. They unanimously give the device a “glowing” review. Now I really, REALLY want one. This is a device I use on a daily basis, so it’s something I don’t mind paying for. In addition, it appears Amazon has discontinued the Kindle Touch, so there will be no more software updates. That is my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

As I live in Canada, I am unable to purchase directly from Amazon, so I’ve had to go through shopereaders.com. They called me yesterday to confirm my order, and I will likely receive it the first week in November. Their first batch is 20, and I’m the 30th preorder. Other than the front lighting, new screen and capacitive touch, I’m very excited about the updated UI. From what I’ve seen on the review videos, it looks so much nicer with the book covers.

On the other hand, I won’t have to wait as long for my Kobo Glo. Tracking indicates it’s halfway between Mississauga and Montreal, so I imagine it will arrive tomorrow. I’m very much looking forward to seeing it in person. I have been searching the web for reviews/unboxings of the Kobo Glo, but there seem to be very few. In a way, it’s sad that it’s been overshadowed by the Kindle Paperwhite launch. Naturally, I will post a review once I have it.

I could have really done with my Kobo Glo this morning – I was awake at 4am and wanted to read. I didn’t want to wake my husband, so ended up reading on my Nexus 7 tablet.

On a different matter, I mentioned in a recent post that I’d been blown away with Amazon’s new Whispersync for Voice and I’ve been experimenting with it. In fact, I’m enjoying it so much I’ve even reactivated my Audible account. The book with which I most appreciated using it was Brent Weeks’ The Blinding Knife. I really got into this book, but as we were expecting weekend guests, I didn’t have time to sit and read a lot. With the audiobook, I found I was able to listen to it while i was working around our house, switching to my Kindle when I took a break. Tor has decided to delay the publication of the final Wheel of Time as an ebook until three months after the hardback – boo, hiss, Tor – and as I really don’t want another hardback, I will be getting the Audible version on release day.

I will not be doing my Most Difficult Books this next week or two as I’m busy with other things, but will catch up at some point. My next post will likely be the review of the Kobo Glo – see you then!

So in the last 48 hours both Kobo and Amazon have released details of the next iterations of their ereader products. Full details can be found at the Kindle and Kobo websites. It should be noted that I watched the Amazon press conference, but all I know of the new Kobo offerings is what Kobo has put on their website.

At the lower price point end of the scale, Amazon has refreshed the screen and reduced the price of their base model Kindle – it now costs just $69. It doesn’t have a touch interface. The Kobo base end model is now touch based, but reduced in size to a 5 inch screen. It costs just $79 dollars. As an advocate of e-reading it’s great to see that the entry level models are so reasonably priced.

Naturally, I was most interested in the touch readers. The big selling feature of both the new Kobo and Kindle touch devices is the front lighting to allow you to read when in a darkened environment. I often like to read in bed in the morning when I wake up, and don’t like to disturb my husband sleeping next to me, so this is something to which I was looking forward. I have had the lighted Kindle cover, but that adds a lot of bulk and weight to the device.

For once Amazon and Kobo were playing catchup to Barnes and Noble who launched their Nook with Glowlight six months ago. It remains to be seen if Amazon and Kobo do it better.

Both new touch devices are offering enhanced displays. Kobo is offering the 6″ Pearl E Ink touch screen, Plus XGA High Resolution with 16 levels of grey scale. The new Amazon Paperwhite offers 25% more contrast compared to the current edition with a 6″ Paperwhite display, 212 ppi, optimized font technology and 16-level gray scale.

In terms of battery life, Amazon appears to have taken the lead here. Amazon states that a single charge lasts up to eight weeks, based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 10. Battery life will vary based on light and wireless usage. Kobo states one month per charge… with the footnote that that is with the light turned off. With the light on, you can only expect 55 hours of reading. That’s probably not much more than I would expect from my Nexus 7 tablet.

Two other things jumped out at me regarding the new Kindle Paperwhite. The touch screen is capacitive (like the iPad or Nexus) rather than the infrared of the current Kindle Touch. Capacitive allows for faster response than infrared and does away with the need for a large bevel, making the device thinner. I found an interesting info graphic regarding the differences. When typing on my eInk infrared touch devices I’ve grown used to typing a letter – breathe – type the next letter – breathe – next letter. It will be interesting to see how much better that is on a new Kindle capacitive touch device.

The second thing to jump out at me was that Amazon has FINALLY updated the UI for the Touch. All I can say is Halle-frickin’-lujah. It was about time. Lines of text as a navigation system are so last millennium. They’re finally switching to using book covers. I hope that with the faster touch response time this will make a wonderful experience.

Oh yes, one other new feature that Amazon has added is a guide as to how much time it will take you to finish the current chapter. That may be a gimmick, but it could be useful. I imagine I’ll just have to try for myself.

Both these devices look great, and I hope to add them to my collection. I had planned to purchase the Kindle Paperwhite first, but Amazon’s US centric focus foiled me: “this product is not available in your country”. So I went ahead and placed my order for the Kobo Glo. It should be with me on or around the first of October. I will certainly do a full review.

With regard to the tablets, I’m going to direct you to the Kindle Fire and Kobo Arc product pages. With my disappointment in the Kobo Vox, and the Kindle Fire’s lack of availability and content in Canada, I’m hard pressed to recommend either of these devices over a more open tablet such as the Google Nexus. Of course, your mileage may vary, as they say.

One other thing from the Amazon press conference which did absolutely blow me away was Whispersync for Voice. Amazon owns Audible, one of the main suppliers of audiobooks and now through Whispersync the two media are tightly integrated. You can listen to the audiobook in the car, then pick up the book on your Kindle when you get home and, get this, it will track your progress, so you will never lose your place. That just blows me away. Also, Amazon is now offering audiobooks of some of the books you own at a fraction of the normal price: when browsing Amazon’s site today I came across this:

Whispersync for Voice

Now you can switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible audiobook.

Because you own this Kindle book, you can add the professional narration of Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time) for the reduced price of $8.99. Normal price would be around $50 if I remember correctly.

I’m not big audiobook fan, but that could convert me.

And on that note, I’ll sign off.

Those of you who have read my blog know that I am an Apple fangirl, and that I had been very disappointed in my brieftime with the Kobo Vox ereading tablet. That had been my first experience with Android, and although I was very disappointed in the Kobo Vox, I realised that was due to the tablet itself not the operating system.

I really liked the 7 inch size of the Kobo Vox, and I had been considering a more general Android 7 inch tablet. I had been seriously considering the Galaxy 2 tablet, but then I heard about the new Nexus 7 and was blown away by the presentation and reviews.

Just looking at the specs of the Kobo compared to the Nexus I can tell already my experience is going to be completely different:

Kobo Vox:

Operating system custom Android 2.3
CPU 800 Mhz
Storage capacity 8 GB
Memory 512 MB RAM
Display 7″ multi-touch FFS+ multimedia display; 1024 x 600 resolution

Nexus 7:

Operating system Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
SoC Nvidia Tegra 3 (T30L)
CPU 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 with additional low-speed companion core,[1]
GPU 416 MHz Nvidia GeForce ULP with 12 cores
Memory 1 GB DDR3 RAM
Storage 8 or 16 GB flash memory

For only $40 more, the difference is incredible. My biggest gripe about the Vox other than the poor performance was the limited access to apps (since my review the Vox has been opened up to the Android Marketplace.) As the Nexus is from Google itself, it is “pure” Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and has full access to the Google Play store. Although I don’t yet have the device, I have checked on Google Play and all the major apps I use on a daily basis on my iPhone/iPad are there: Kobo, Kindle, GoodReads, Overdrive.

I was also blown away by Google Now. I don’t have access to Apple’s Siri yet (she will come to my iPad in the autumn with the iOS 6 update) so I am looking forward to checking it out.

Now, for the downside: I placed my order with the Google Play Store on Wednesday and as of yet, it still has not shipped. I really can’t wait to get it in my hands. I will keep you updated.