How To Choose The Right eBook Reader and Software for Reading Digital Books

Shopping for a Kindle, Nook or iPad? At first glance, the task seems intimidating as the choices are many. Though, the list of good choices is actually fairly short. And the best thing is, prices and features are better than ever.

Firstly, lets define what an e-book reader is? It's a device for browsing electronic files (books). Compared to a computer or smartphone, it has a low-resolution depicting the size of a paperback book page due to its low glare, black and white screen, often not back-lit. Also, these e-readers are thin, light and have a long battery life. They typically read one or more of several proprietary "eBook" file formats such as PDFs, ePub, Mobi, plain text files, Word documents, and so forth.

Although, these devices don't have the feel of books, which some enjoy. They have a few advantages such as being lightweight and portable, and being able to hold a lot more than a single book ever could. This makes them ideal for taking away on vacation, or for reading on-the-go.

To make it easy for you to make the right choice, you need to define your need. Start by asking yourself what you are really looking for in an electronic book reader. Do you just want to read books? How about reading newspapers and magazines? What about browsing the web?

If you're mainly interested in reading books, you'll probably opt for wireless (Wi-Fi) only models. You only need Wi-Fi access when you are buying new books. Digital book files are stored on the device, once downloaded, Internet access isn’t necessary.

So, if you are a voracious reader, you can buy a bunch of books, toggle off or disable your Wi-Fi, and work your way through them at your leisure. In fact, many users keep the wireless on their readers switched off most of the time since it significantly boosts battery life.

You have to think about weight of the e-reader. Unlike a laptop, which sits on a table or on your lap while in use, you will be actively holding these readers or tablets high up. For long reading sessions say, more than 30  minutes or so, many users will find that their fingers and arms becoming strained.

There are many different ebook readers, but three stands out from the pack: the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook . Each has their own plus and minuses and all are fabulous devices, but it is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the features.

There are two varieties of the Kindle – the Wi-Fi only version, and the Wi-Fi and 3G option.

The Kindle spots is much easier on the eyes than your traditional laptop or desktop screen by a 6-inch E-Ink screen. The smallest and lightest dedicated e-book reader. Unlike the step-up Kindle Touch model, the baseline Kindle includes neither a touch screen nor any audio features. However, the trade-off is that you get the lightest device – just under 170g.

The favorites in the market are:
  1. Amazon Kindle Touch (with Special Offers, Wi-Fi)
  2. Amazon Kindle 2011 (with Special Offers, Wi-Fi)
  3. Amazon Kindle Fire
The entry-level Kindle (No. 1 or 2) is an ideal choice for anyone seeking an ultra-portable and super-affordable no-frills e-ink reader. They have no glare or reflections.

There are actually two varieties of the Nook to choose from, the Nook and Nook Color. If all you want to do is read, this is a great device. Its standard features include a 6-inch E-Ink screen and is most similar to the Kindle. The Nook Color features a 7-inch, full-colour touchscreen LCD screen, and offers enhanced books, magazines, newspapers and interactive kids’ books, and can be used as a media player as well.

The favorites in the market are:
  1. Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight
  2. Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch Reader
Apple iPad:
The Apple iPad is not a dedicated ebook reader. Rather, it is a computer device with e-book reader functionality and capabilities. The iPad features a 9.1-inch full-colour touchscreen LCD, and because of its larger screen size you can turn the screen horizontally and have two pages of an e-book open at a time, just like a real book.

Just like the Nook Color though, the disadvantage is that it is LCD, so you might not be able to read on it comfortably for as long as you could on a device with an E-Ink screen (like Kindle). The iTunes store offers you both e-books and audiobooks that you can download to your iPad as well as your iPhone and iPod.

For those, who haven't acquired these devices yet. No need to worry, you can still use your traditional computers installed with certain e-reader software. Below is a list of software for reading e-books: 
  1. Calibre e-Book Manager
  2. Adobe PDF Reader PDF
  3. Adobe Digital Editions
  4. Kindle for PC
  5. Comic Rack
  6. Mobipocket Reader
  7. Browser Add-ons e.g. Firefox Plugins (EPUBReader)
  8. And many other ..
Personally I feel knowledge shouldn't be costly and they should be available to all at an affordable price (on an average of Ksh 170-350 ( $1.99-$3.99 price point ). Thus, Soko La Vitabu Facebook Group was formed.

Soko la Vitabu is a swahili word meaning 'Open air market for books'. A common place for you to buy and sell books (digital or otherwise - new or used). This digital library comprises of e-books downloads for general materials ranging from self help books, fictional to non-fictional reads.

For those on Facebook, Just put a request to Join the group (Notably, Kenya and the wider East African region). PS. 99% of e-books are archived as RAR or ZIP. You can unarchive using WinRar or 7-zip software.

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