Finding the Right E-Reader

With So Many Options to Choose From, How Do You Pick the Right One?

ebooksWhen packing for deployment – or really any trip – you're dealing with limited space, which is a problem if you like to read. But with e-readers becoming more popular and affordable, now you can bring your entire library with you wherever you go.

Whether you're in the market for an affordable e-reader or a more versatile tablet, sorting out all the choices is no simple task. With Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Android, Apple and about half a dozen other competitors all vying to etch out their footing in the e-reader marketplace, the options can be overwhelming and choosing a device is only half the battle.

What if you want to read the same e-book on multiple devices? What apps help you keep track of your library the best? Which file formats and platforms make sharing simple? These are all important questions to keep in mind as you check out your options.

Define Your Preferences

Before buying any kind of new gadget, it's important to think about how exactly you intend to use it. Do you just want to read simple e-books? Are your kids going to use it also or is it just for you? Do you care if it has color or an HD screen? Do you want to watch movies or play games? What's the ideal size and weight? Does battery life matter?

These questions—and many others—are important to consider when doing your research. Ideally this device will last you for years to come, so don't rush the decision and don't settle on something you're not going to be happy with.

E-Ink Options

Simple e-book readers like the Nook and the Kindle use what's called an e-ink screen, which is the closest thing you can get to a page out of a book. E-ink readers do have some advantage over LCDs. For example, there's far less glare so you can read in direct sunlight, just like you can with a regular book. The battery life is measured in weeks, whereas you may have to charge an LCD tablet every day or two.

The most basic Kindle is pretty inexpensive at just $69. Upgrading to the Kindle Paperwhite gives you a built-in backlight and a touch screen. Both models have six-inch screens and weigh about as much as a paperback book.

The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight is the Paperwhite's most direct competitor. It's another self-illuminating e-reader with impressive battery life.

If you're out on deployment and it's tough to find time to charge your devices, an e-ink reader with a battery life of 6-8 weeks may make more sense than an LCD tablet.

LCD Readers and Tablets

If you'd prefer to have something more versatile, both Kindle and Nook offer full-color LCD options as well as HD LCDs that let you browse the web, watch movies and TV shows, download all kinds of apps and games and much more.

These options are most comparable to other tablets like Google's Nexus 7 and Apple's iPad. The downsides with these LCDs include added weight, much shorter battery life, and screen glare, which can lead to eye fatigue.

If your main goal is reading e-books, you should probably stick with e-ink device. But if you prefer to a device that can do a little of everything, one of these tablets may be a better choice.

File Formats and Cross-Platform Diversity

Not all e-books are created equal. If you do decide to go with a Nook, you should know that the Barnes & Noble library isn't nearly as extensive as Amazon's. The files you download off the marketplace will mostly be in EPUB format, which is widely versatile and can be used on a number of different devices and operating systems. There are lots of apps out there than can utilize your EPUB files if you decide to transfer them over.

Amazon's Kindle uses exclusive .azw files, but the good news is whether you're on a tablet, PC or your phone, the Kindle app lets you access your library wherever you go. Further, Amazon's marketplace is far more extensive and comprehensive than any of its competitors, with over a million e-book titles, roughly 180,000 of which are exclusive.

Public Libraries

Before you make your final decision, look into the process for checking out e-books from your local library, if that option is available. Many libraries these days have sections on their websites where you can download e-books without even having to leave your house.

If you're a member of Amazon Prime, you also get access to the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, where you can choose from hundreds of thousands of e-books to borrow digitally.

Whether you decide to go with Kindle, Nook or a tablet, there are plenty of e-books out there about the military. While new books can sometimes cost a pretty penny, you may be able to find some classics available for free or very cheap. Happy reading!

Jake Butler

About the author: Jake Butler

Jake Butler is a staff writer at Pioneer Services who understands the challenges facing modern military families. He writes informative and entertaining pieces about military life, financial education and everything in between. Follow Jake on Google+.

Contact: Jake Butler


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