EBRs beyond Amazon: January 2016
When the Amazon Kindle was first introduced in November of 2007, there were already more than ten devices dedicated to reading e-books in the US market…it’s just that none of them were doing much here. :) Even Sony, which was a powerhouse in the consumer electronics market, had them…and that included with a non-backlit screen.
Amazon revolutionized the market with their $400 device…having an E Ink screen was important, but there were really two other things which moved it from a techie, niche device to a more mainstream one (at least among readers).
One was the ability to wirelessly download books. Having to cable your device to a computer to get a book was a considerable hurdle to many people.
The other one was…that it was Amazon. :) Now, there was intense skepticism among tech writers that Amazon could successfully introduced hardware, but there wasn’t any skepticism among readers that Amazon could sell them books.
Before the Kindle, the e-book market was techies.
With the Kindle, the e-book market was readers.
Over time, I’ve written about a number of non-Amazon devices…and they aren’t all still around.
I leave the links on the website, even though some of them don’t go anywhere, partially to preserve the list historically. For those of you using screen readers, and even those without, I know it can be difficult to click on a broken link. I’ll go through and re-label those or do something with them to explain the situation.
Here are the links (again, some of these may not go anywhere):
- $149.95 Ectaco jetBook Lite Bargain eBook Reader (goes to an article)
- Alex from Spring Design (goes to the company: no mention of the Alex)
- Delstar OpenBook (domain may be for sale)
- ebookwise reader (broken link…this actually was a major player initially)
- Entourage eDGe dualbook (broken link: it was an interesting device, which had both a backlit screen and a reflective screen ((like E Ink)))
- Infibeam Pi (the company still exists as a retail site, but I didn’t see any sign of the Pi EBR)
- IREX (domain is for sale)
- iRiver Story HD (Google books integrated) (the company still exists, but I couldn’t find the Story)
- Kobo eReader (still a major player…more to follow in this post)
- nook (sic) from Barnes & Noble (still a player…more to follow in this post)
- Que from Plastic Logic (company exists and makes displays, but doesn’t look like the Que or any EBR is available from them)
- Samsung eReader (company is still major…but no sign of an EBR)
- Sharper Image’s Literati (Sharper Image is still around…didn’t find the Literati)
- Skiff Reader (broken link)
- Sony Readers (Sony is a big company and was an EBR leader…but they stopped selling EBRs in the USA a while ago)
- TheBook from Augenus (page not available….the main page here talked about garlic presses) ;)
So, in the USA, for non-backlit EBRs (which is part of how I define an EBR now), it’s largely the Kindle, the nook, and the Kobos.
Part of that may be that people have transitioned reading e-books to tablets…you can get a tablet cheaper than an EBR, and have color, text-to-speech, audiobooks, and animation (for enhanced e-books). The sight-reading experience for me is better on a non-backlit device (I usually read on two different ones a day), but because of text-to-speech, I’d say most of my reading is on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX. That’s not just because of using TTS…since that’s my device that does TTS and I usually use that for hours every weekday, it’s the device I carry with me. When I do sight-read at work, it’s on my Kindle Fire.
Okay, let’s take a look at what is available currently (not used or refurbished) from those three companies.
- Kindle, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $79.99 (in least expensive configuration)
- All-New Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $119.99 (in least expensive configuration)
- Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $199.99 (in least expensive configuration)
I read on a Paperwhite and a Voyage (two different rooms), and like them both.
The basic Kindle above doesn’t have a light.
The Voyage has a different way to change pages than the Paperwhite.
We may get a new model or more from Amazon this year…I’ve predicted they’ll do a “waterproof” one.
- Kobo Touch 2.0 $89.99
- Kobo Glo HD $129.99
- Kobo Aura H20 $189.99
Kobos are seen as being quality devices, and I would consider them perhaps the strongest competitor (going into the future) for the Kindle.
Their Touch is $10 more than the basic Kindle (which also has touch), and the Glo is $10 more than the Paperwhite.
The H20, though, is $10 less than the Voyage…and it is “waterproof”.
Also, those prices are compared to the lowest Kindle prices…and some people don’t want to see ads on their devices in order to get them initially at a discount. If you don’t want the ads, the Kobos are cheaper.
- NOOK (they have been inconsistent on capitalization) GlowLight Plus $129.99
Frontlit, touchscreen, waterproof, and it does DRM ePUB (Digital Rights Management protected) which the Kindles don’t.
So, what would I recommend?
First, I wouldn’t go with the nook, unless you are already heavily invested in nook books. I just don’t think you can count on the company’s future, especially with regard to EBRs. The company name might be around for a long time, and the nook name may be on tablets, but I think it’s a risk. Also, right from the beginning, the customer service for the devices has been markedly superior (both in execution and policies) for the Kindle over the nook. If you already have nooks and want to stay with this, this is a good model with some nice features.
The Kobos are, from what I understand (I’ve never owned one), good devices and their owners like them. I think Kobo is a much more stable company than Barnes & Noble (looking at EBRs for the latter for sure). I don’t think this is a bad choice, but…
I’d go with the Kindles. Again, Amazon’s Customer Service is great on these, and they fit pretty nicely into the Amazon ecosystem, which you may be using for other things. I also like them as devices. :) For most people, I would go with the Paperwhite. Having the light (it’s a frontlight, not a backlight) is really worth it over the least expensive model. The Voyage is a bit nicer, and there’s nothing wrong with going for that. Again, for most people, though, I think they’ll see the Paperwhite as a better value.
If I look at this again two years from now, I’m not convinced we’ll have the nook (it should survive this holiday season, but might be eliminated in 2017), but I do think we’ll have the Kindles and the Kobos. I don’t see somebody else getting into the market right at this point, although that might happen if reflective screen technology gets a lot cheaper. We may also still see some sort of “dualume” screens, that have both reflective and backlit screens, or reflective screens may add color and/or animation as their technology improves.
What do you think? Did/do you own a non-Kindle EBR? How do you feel about it? Have I left off an EBR in the USA? Am I underestimating Barnes & Noble’s future involvement with EBRs? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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