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Select e-book readers with users in mind
Holiday shopping used to be so simple, but today’s technology-related gift options are very tempting, complicated and in some cases, expensive.
Electronic book readers are extremely popular this year. Whether you are shopping for someone else or dropping hints about your personal desires, look into all the options before settling on one.
E-book readers come in many different forms, but the four most common are Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iPad and the Sony Reader.
Before purchasing an e-reader, consider whether or not the gift recipient will actually use it. Will they be able to download e-books to it without help? Some people do not like e-readers because they prefer the feel of traditional books in their hands, because finding and downloading books is overwhelming to them, or because reading for prolonged periods of time on an e-reader hurts their eyes.
Next, decide whether you want a device that displays e-books only or a device that also displays e-mail and websites.
Key terms associated with the e-reader display are E-ink, Vivid View and LCD.
E-ink refers to black print on a light grey background. E-readers with E-ink display only text and can be used only for e-books. E-ink is generally easier to read and less tiring on the eyes. E-ink can be read in direct sunlight, unlike Vivid Views or LCD displays, which are more difficult to read in direct sunlight. However, it is not easy to read E-ink displays in the dark without a small light.
Vivid View and LCD offer multicolored displays. E-readers with this type of display often have additional features, such as Internet or e-mail access. They also tend to be more expensive than E-ink versions. Further, multicolored displays are “back-lit,” so they are easier to read in the dark but more difficult to read in bright sunlight.
Another factor to consider is the display, or screen size. A larger screen (around 10 inches) may be easier to see, but it will also be heavier, more cumbersome and more expensive. A smaller screen (around 5 inches) will probably be more difficult to see but also lighter and cheaper. Most mid-range e-book readers will have a display of about 6 inches.
A major issue is where to find books to download. Be sure to check the specifications of the e-reader to verify what type of files (books) it can process. An iPad, for example, will only allow you to download books from the iTunes store. Before purchasing an e-reader, check with your local library to see which e-reader format they support.
Google also offers free books from their website at http://books.google.com/ebooks. Scroll down and click on “best of the free” or do a search for “free only.” Google offers e-books in either the ePUB or PDF file format.
The Kindle does not currently support the ePUB format, but you can convert an ePUB so that it is readable on a Kindle. A secondary piece of software, called a converter, is required to convert the file. One popular option for the iPad is an app available through iTunes called the Kindle app, which allows the reader to download e-books from Amazon, normally available only for Kindle readers.
Other factors to consider include the battery needs of the e-reader. Does it require batteries or can it be recharged on an electrical outlet or through a computer cable? How long will power last between charges?
The number of e-books the e-reader can store depends on the memory capacity of the device. While users will have access to any book they have acquired in the past, whether or not it is currently saved on the reader, most users like to have as many books accessible on the device as possible.
Internal memory helps the e-reader sync with your computer and updates your book list. An internal memory of 2 GB means that the device can hold 1,000 to 1,500 books. External memory (or expandable SD slot) allows you to expand the number of books that you can access instantly.
The last option to consider is whether or not you need access to a wireless Internet connection. Wi-Fi access allows you to download books or check e-mail on some readers. Access to a sufficient cellular signal will work in some cases.
E-readers give users access to thousands of books in a slim, compact digital device. They make a great gift for the reader in your life, especially those who travel frequently or those who read books more quickly than you can go to the local library.