REVIEWS / E-Book Reader Reviews

Marine Goy
There are plenty of reasons to get yourself an e-reader. First, you can take thousands of books wherever you go without weighing yourself down. Plus, the ultra-long battery lives mean you won’t be grounded by a lack of power. What’s more, both our lab tests and practical experience show that today's e-book screens are as comfortable to read as a paperback!

When reviewing e-readers, we first of all look at design and handling (the dimensions, memory, battery life, connectivity, etc.). We then assess how intuitive each model is to use and how comfortable it is on the eyes, for example, by measuring the screen's contrast. We look at how many settings it has, how responsive it is, what technology is onboard, the range of file formats supported and whether it's compatible with open-source formats. We also look at what extras you get, such as a web browser, dictionaries, note-taking, text-to-speech, audio book players and built-in access to e-book stores.

E-book readers have really come down in price, with many models now selling for under £100. These devices are aimed at all the family, and their black and white e-ink displays are much more comfortable to read than the backlit displays typically found in mobiles and tablets. You may not get colour, but you don't get eye strain either! That said, the lack of colour can be a bit of a downer for comic book fans.

E-readers have come a long way and have a long way to go still. Some models now have touchscreens, web connectivity and, often, integrated book stores (WH Smith, Amazon, Sony, etc.). In other words, with a Wi-Fi or 3G e-reader that has a built-in store you can buy e-books, magazines and more, straight from your device. Among the plethora of advantages with e-readers, you can customise your reading experience, change the font, font size, contrast and layout, access built-in dictionaries, highlight passages, create bookmarks, take notes, even post passages on Facebook directly from your reader.

But there's something to keep in mind: e-books that come in proprietary file formats come with a whole load of restrictions; they can't be swapped, lent or used on other devices. Open-source formats are more flexible when it comes to sharing and migrating files. For the moment, many e-books are priced relatively high. In fact, some users still feel there isn't a big enough difference between retail prices for physical books and their electronic equivalents to warrant buying an e-reader. Then again, nowadays you can find loads of classic novels absolutely free. You may also have trouble finding electronic versions of less mainstream publications, although the choice of titles is growing rapidly.

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