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The Evolution of Reading: eBooks

by Jennifer Puglisi (@jenpugs) As e-readers started gaining popularity, I stubbornly clung to the pages of books, no matter how bulky and heavy. But after someone finally stuck an e-reader into my unwilling hands, even I had to admit that it just felt… right. While e-readers just don’t smell like a book (hopefully there will Read more

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by Jennifer Puglisi (@jenpugs)

As e-readers started gaining popularity, I stubbornly clung to the pages of books, no matter how bulky and heavy. But after someone finally stuck an e-reader into my unwilling hands, even I had to admit that it just felt… right. While e-readers just don’t smell like a book (hopefully there will be an app for that soon), the ease and convenience of an e-reader is impossible to ignore.

Now the question is: which e-reader to buy? Each device has advantages and disadvantages, and some colorful debate has ensued over which one is best.

Amazon’s Kindle was, until recently, the undisputed king of the e-book world. The Kindle, in my own humble opinion, comes the closest to mimicking reading an actual book. Its screen, which is six inches in Amazon’s latest model, uses e-ink Pearl technology, which increases the contrast between word and page by 50% over previous versions. It’s noticeably crisper, and can be read even in direct sunlight. Barnes & Noble’s Nook uses the same technology. Both devices have the advantage of an incredibly large book selection from each vendor.

A disadvantage, however is being unable to read in a darkened room. Apple’s iPad tablet is backlit and can be read in the dark, though some complain of the screen’s noticeable glare. The iPad’s has considerably more functionality, though, of course, the price point is considerably higher. A user can email, play games, watch a movie or television show, browse the web, or read the latest bestseller. Additionally, users can download a Kindle or Nook app on the iPad, as well as use Apple’s iBook store.

IPad’s also have the advantage of supporting enhanced e-books, which includes extra multimedia content like photos, videos, and music. A perfect example is the enhanced e-book of Sebastian Junger’s latest release, War. The book describes the author’s experiences while embedded with an American troop in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan; the enhanced ebook contains 52 minutes of footage filmed by the author while embedded (and not used for his accompanying project, the documentary film Restrepo). Readers can not only read about an attack on the troops, but a click later, are able to see and hear it too.

B&N responded with a Nook Color in 2010, which includes a color touch screen, ability to purchase apps, and full featured email. Its ebook functionality has also improved: Nook users can swap titles and are even able to read unpurchased titles for up to an hour by visiting a Barnes & Noble store.

Google, not to be left behind, launched the Google eBook store back in December and just this month announced the launch of its own tablet, the iriver Story HD. The Story HD retails for $139.99, and is the first e-reader to be integrated with Google’s ebook store. Reviews for the device, which is not available in color and uses e-ink technology, have been lukewarm.

It’s exciting to witness the evolution of a new era of the reading experience. In the end, I’m glad I overcame my reluctance and tried out an e-reader–and my back and shoulders are, too.

 

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