Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tech Review–eBook Apps and Readers

Half a year ago I wrote about the various new gadgets I’ve added to my life: kindle, ipad, and htc incredible smartphone [relevant entries near end]. A lot has happened since then, in technology and in my personal/work life. For one, I have my regular commute back, and it involves a lot of reading, sometimes paper, sometimes electronic.

This past Christmas I was also surprised to find out that many of my friends had gotten into the ebook trend. I knew it was going to be more accepted but didn’t realize just how quickly everything moves! I’ve reviewed a bunch of the more common ebook applications below, mostly focusing on the user experience.

eBook Apps on HTC Incredible (all from google android market):

  1. nook [best display and web friendly]:
    1. display: 5 font sizes, 4 colors for background (gotta love the one named “butter”), half a dozen or more fonts to pick from, brightness setting, margin settings, line spacing etc.
    2. app home page: I really like the “reading now” button, which takes you straight to wherever you left off. “All Settings” button has most of the display related stuff.
    3. in-book menu: very cluttered. kindle has all display related settings in one button. nook has 3 (font, brightness, all settings which has more). lookup works fine, includes search in dictionary/google/wiki.
    4. shop/store: store front not quite as good as amazon but does its job. after you download sample you have to manually return to your library section to read it. amazon has one button from the store that takes you straight to the book you just bought.
    5. web ebooks: project Gutenberg worked the best with nook on my phone. I’m talking about going to the site with my phone’s browser, then downloading the specific ebook file into my nook drive. Then I open up my nook app and there is it! it was more difficult with kindle and google books.
  2. kindle [best store]:
    1. display: 5 font sizes, 3 colors for background, and brightness settings. no option for different fonts
    2. app home page: just shows a list of books, no menus unless you press menu button on phone.
    3. in-book menu: relatively simple. you can look up words in dictionary and wiki.
    4. shop/store: one click from menu takes you to kindle store and one click to buy/read. has a section for free classics.
    5. web ebooks: project Gutenberg works with kindle but for some reason from the phone, it was a more tedious effort.
  3. google books [app can use more tweaks]:
    1. display: 3 font sizes, a few font choices, line spacing, only black and white color background options (what? no sepia? what a crime!), brightness.
    2. app home page: similar to kindle, just a list of books
    3. in-book menu: no lookup, highlights, or notes. I don’t personally used those functions that much, but nook and kindle both have them, so it seems strange that google doesn’t.
    4. shop/store: simple to use.
    5. web ebooks: I’ve tried but it’s not as smooth process.

eBook Apps on Ipad [need to update once I get the ipad in front of me, may even separate out the entries]:

  1. iBook: best on ipad. beautiful page scrolls, display, and web integration with project Gutenberg. i.e. you literately click on a book’s link on there, and it gives you the option to open up with iBook. too bad you can’t seem to do that with the other readers. and since I can’t look into folder drives on Ipad, I can’t use the save in drive approach either that I’ve done with my phone. Not sure if iBook will have apps on multiple devices. While the iPad app is great, if you can’t transfer it to your phone to finish reading your novel, what’s the point? Clearly I just need to get an iphone...
  2. nook: close second. display is fantastic and I find it dazzling the amount of display customization/settings built in. a lot more than just sepia and butter. I love earl grey setting (gray). you can really pick any color of the rainbow though, but why would you want lime green as a background color?
  3. kindle: sleek enough to compete with iBook, especially since you can use it to sync to your kindle on phone and your kindle reader. When I first played with the Ipad I thought it was clever for Amazon to make this app. At the end of the day, books are usually cheaper on kindle, and the storefront is much better than iBook’s.
  4. google books: I honestly can’t remember this one. Need to get in front of an ipad…

Kindle Reader:
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t see too much kindle use in my future. NYTimes app on both the ipad and incredible are amazing. I can read and get most books on the kindle app on phone or ipad. Now I’m starting to see why people all got the Nook this past Christmas. When the price for a book is the same on both, and Nook has some “share” '[lend me link] capabilities for selected books, of course people want the more colorful and more sharing friendly reader! update: of course, as I’m looking up more info on nook to include in this entry, I find out they’ve started to allow "lending” on kindle as well. [amazon lending link] Well, the nook already has an advantage of being colorful though, although I’ve never actually used one, just the various nook apps.

Further Comments:
You may be wondering if I’ve actually managed to finish any books in the eBook format, and that is actually a “yes”. I’ve finished books on the ipad, the kindle, and even on my phone (not 1000+ paged book, but still, 300 is substantial). Maybe that’s why I pay so much attention to display settings on all of the applications. If the reader can’t customize the reading environment (font, margins, line spacing, colors), it will make the experience just more difficult. I also think syncing is a must, especially in New York. As much as I love the iPad, I don’t feel safe with it on the trains/subways. And as light as the kindle is, it’s still one extra thing to carry with me. I can just as easily read on my phone. No bookmarks required!

So put on some music, and enjoy reading some eBooks!

htc incredible:

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