The Tech-pert: What to Look for When Doing an eReader Comparison


Shopping for an e-book reader? I don’t blame you: they’re awesome. They’re thinner, lighter, and way less expensive than an iPad, and their e-ink screens look great outdoors. (The iPad’s screen: not so much.)

So what’s the single most important feature to look for in an eReader? (Hint: The kindle doesn’t have it!) Okay, but which reader should you buy? Most people instinctively think “Kindle,” but in my humble opinion, that’s not the best choice. The reason: the Kindle doesn’t let you borrow books from your local library.

Yep, believe it or not, most libraries now offer e-books you can “check out,” much the same way you borrow a paperback. So if you’re itching to read, say, Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” (an incredible book, by the way), which would you rather do: buy it for $12.99 or get it free from the library?

To take advantage of this awesome offering, you need an e-book reader that supports the EPUB format, which is used by most libraries. The Kindle doesn’t.

But other readers do, including the Barnes and Noble Nook, Kobo Wireless eReader, and Sony Reader. Between these three, the best deal comes from Borders, which has the Kobo for $99.99 ().

However, I recommend paying an extra $19 for the Nook, which Barnes and Noble sells via eBay for $119 shipped. That’s for a refurbished model, but you get the same one-year warranty as with a new one. And the refurb I bought a few months ago was indistinguishable from new.

The Nook sports a cool, color navigation screen below the main reading screen and lets you “lend” purchased e-books to friends–a slick feature the Kobo doesn’t offer. It also has 2GB of onboard storage to the Kobo’s 1GB.

One other option to consider: a refurbished iPod Touch, which you can get from Apple for $149. Obviously it has a much smaller screen than a typical e-book reader, but I read on my iPhone all the time and find it perfectly comfortable.

What’s more, thanks to an app called OverDrive Media Console, you can download library e-books directly to your iPod. And lest you forget, the iPod Touch is way more than just an e-book reader. Something to think about!

Make no mistake: I’m not here to bash the Kindle. I just wouldn’t buy one myself, as I think e-books are seriously overpriced–unless you check them out of the library, that is.

While we’re on the subject, be sure to check out Sarah’s Find Free Books Online for Your Kindle or Nook.

Do you own an eReader?  Which one and how do you like it?

Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, “How to Do Everything: Palm Pre.” Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.

Comments (4)

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  1. AlanBaker

    4 years ago

    If you use a program like to manage your ebooks you can convert the ePub into a Kindle friendly format or any other ebook format.

  2. Rick.Broida

    4 years ago

    @Alan: I don’t believe that would work with the library titles, which are DRM-protected. (That’s how they’re able to “time out” after 2-3 weeks.)

  3. legendale

    4 years ago

    Yes, the Nook supports the EPUB format but that does not mean you can just download books from you local library onto your Nook Color. All Librarries in Virginia require you to download and install Overdrive Media Console to check out and download EPUB books and the Nook is a closed Android system and will not let you install Overdrive – I tried.

  4. Rick.Broida

    4 years ago

    True…but you can’t do direct downloads with *any* e-book reader. The only way you can do that is with a phone or tablet that can run the OverDrive app. So, yes, there’s a PC-to-reader hoop you have to jump through, but I think it’s worth it in order to score free books.

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