How do you e-read?

This has come up a couple of times in various conversations recently, so I thought I’d talk about it here. Ebooks are here to stay, obviously. While there will always be print books too, even if that does eventually reduce to Print-on-Demand and collector’s folio editions, ebooks will only continue to gain strength. There’s the whole format and DRM thing to still sort out – Amazon aren’t about to give up the mobi format any time soon, and a lot of places are struggling with where they stand on DRM – but these are all ongoing teething problems. I’d like to imagine a utopia where ePub is the standard across all vendors and publishers (which it already is if you don’t include Amazon) and where DRM is a thing of the past. But regardless of how it all shakes down, ebooks are mainstream now.

I love ebooks. I dig that I can carry hundreds of books around on my phone. Honestly, how living-in-the-future is that shit? And I do read on my phone. But primarily I read from an iPad Mini. I love my Mini – it’s the perfect size and does all the things I want. Plus, I have this sweet leather cover for it that makes it look like a cool old hardback book. Here it is:


Pretty sweet, huh? I use it for internet, email, videos, TV, games and loads of other stuff as well as reading. It’s just the best thing ever, technology-wise.

But I didn’t always read ebooks on the Mini and I use several apps even now. Other people I’ve spoken to use a variety of devices and all swear by them. Some people consider dedicated ereaders a cul-de-sac technology that’ll die down to almost nothing because tablets are so much more versatile, while others love their dedicated ereader precisely because it’s just for reading and has no other distracting functions.

I got onto the whole ebook bandwagon pretty early on. For example, when I originally self-published RealmShift back in the day, it was the 376th book to be uploaded to Smashwords, as evidenced by its URL there. There are now over 300,000 books on Smashwords. I would read ebooks on my PC from very early on too. I guess I knew right off the bat that this technology was going to quickly become the norm and it most certainly did. Interestingly, that massive rush into the mainstream that ebooks made was largely encouraged along by Amazon and their Kindle device. They really saw an opportunity and exploited it with expert (some might say evil) skill.

Amazon_Kindle_3After reading on my laptop and phone for a while, my first dedicated ereader was an old generation Kindle 3, like the one pictured on the left, and I got hooked fully into the Amazon ecosystem. I was already there really, using the Kindle app – I even converted ePub files to mobi to use on the Kindle. I didn’t mind at all at the time – Amazon always had the most content, you could buy with one click and it would roll straight onto your reader. And the battery life of the Kindle is awesome. The reading experience is great too, with no backlight and all that jazz. Apparently, the new Paperwhite is even better, but I’ve yet to see one of those in the flesh… plastic… whatever. But I don’t use my Kindle any more. My wife uses it a bit and I do actually miss it in some ways, but it became superfluous to my needs.

I used the Kindle app on my phone while I used my Kindle 3 and that was awesome. If I was out and had ten minutes to spare, I could dial up whatever book I was reading and the app would automatically sync it to the last place I’d read. But I began to get more and more disillusioned with Amazon and at the same time, more or less, got my iPad Mini. The Kindle was no good for comics and I read a lot of those, so an iPad was a great choice. I got the Kindle app for it and discovered that the backlit screen really doesn’t bother me at all. So the Kindle 3 became unnecessary luggage.

Now my phone and iPad are all I carry, and they do all I need. But I’m not all about Kindle any more. There are so many reading apps out there. Rather than buy in to the Amazon ecosystem entirely, I started looking at other options. I found that a lot of publishers sell direct from their own websites, a lot of small press use places like Smashwords as well as Amazon, and I recently discovered that the Kobo store is great. All of these use ePub, and don’t tie you to Amazon. And I particularly like ePub because I discovered a couple of years ago an app called Marvin. It’s only for iDevices at the moment, but apparently an Andriod version is in the works. It’s my favourite ereader now and I’ll always look for an ePub file that I can sideload to Marvin as my first port of call when I want a new book. If I can’t find that, I’ll shop at Kobo and use the Kobo app. As a last resort, I’ll go back to Amazon and read with the Kindle. I also still use the Kindle app to read PDFs and Word documents that I send myself  using my Kindle email thing. It’s really a case of what’s best for any given situation, but always looking for ePub first.

So while I almost exclusively read ebooks on the iPad Mini now (with occasional forays on my phone), I do it with a variety of apps and stores. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a dedicated ereader. And I read about 50/50 ebook/print, so I’ll certainly never abandon paper books. I’m an utter bibliophile and love my bookshelves. I love to get beautiful editions, especially hardbacks, of my favourite books, though income doesn’t allow me to indulge that as much as I’d like. And if I read an ebook that I really enjoy, I’ll get the paper edition for my shelves. Most recently that happened with Nathan Ballingrud’s amazing debut collection of short stories called “North American Lake Monsters”. I bought the ebook, absolutely loved it and, as soon as I’d finished reading, I flipped from the reading app to the browser on my iPad and bought the last signed hardcover from the Small Beer Press website. All without leaving my couch. There’s that living-in-the-future shit again. So brilliant.

So what about you? What’s your ereader of choice? How do you shop for ebooks? Let me know in the comments and let me know too about any great apps or readers I might have missed out on.


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17 thoughts on “How do you e-read?

  1. Love my Nook, takes ePub as well as PDF and I can buy from the B&N website and it downloads instantly. So easy, sometimes too easy.

  2. Ever since I got an ereader I haven’t had to put up with comments such as, “Do you really need to take that many books with us on holidays?” And it didn’t matter how many times I said, “Actually, I’ll need twice this amount, but I’m sure I’ll pick up some along the way.” I still buy and read print books, especially ones I love and I also have bought the paperback after really enjoying the ebook. And what better souvenir to bring back from a holiday than a book?

  3. I have a Nook tablet. Just can’t deal without color, and a straight eReader is black and white. Initially, I stayed away from Amazon because I couldn’t stomach the price and went with a Sony. Then I read reviews that Kindle (at the time anyway) only allowed their format and not PDFs, but B&N did. So that’s why I got it.

    For eBooks, I mostly go to the B&N site and first hit their budget books to see what’s there. Price is a huge influence for me, and I’ve passed on big name books because the publishers have the eBooks at $12 — which is ridiculous. Once the books comes out in paperback, the ebook goes down to a better rate. Seriously? That’s just plain ignoring the reader.

  4. I use a Sony prs-t1. It is my third one (one got thrown around, one got run over). I love it. It also does limited Web browsing (e-ink, so limited refresh rate and without hacking it doesn’t support newer network types) and plays audio books. And has awesome battery life. I have used fb reader on it and still use that on my phone. The reader natively supports pdf and epub and basic text files.

  5. Linda – the pricing of ebooks is a whole different subject, and a messy one for sure.

    Monika – did you see the link I posted in a previous comment? That might be your last Sony reader.

  6. Well, Alan, I love my Kindle Paperwhite. I prefer it to a backlit screen and the software and responsiveness is way better than other e-ink readers. I have a Kobo as well and it snoozes by comparison in terms of page refresh and all-over user interface. I have an Asus tablet too which renders epubs nicely, but I’d rather read on the Paperwhite. When I’m reading a book I don’t want to feel distracted, which is what I’d feel if I was reading on a tablet – always tempting just to check the Twitter feed or email in box or whatever.

  7. Keith, I understand that concern. I’ve been known to flick my iPad into flight mode while reading! But my phone is always right there and all those internetty distractions are there too. I really like the idea of the Paperwhite, but I just don’t think I’d use it.

  8. I still run with the ye olde Kindle that you’ve got pictured up there for most of my e-reading needs. I got it before I learned Amazon is trying to establish the new Evil Galactic Empire so now I use it for all the out of copyright freebies and classics you can get on sites like Project Gutenberg, pdfs and review books I get hold of. Otherwise a lot of the ebooks I buy seem to come in multi-format bundles, which is lovely, and for those that don’t I use the good old smart phone for other formats.

    To me the dedicated e-reader is a must. Even though it’s something extra to carry I’d inevitably be hauling a much heavier book anyway. I’ve also got an awesome leather cover with built in book light to complete the experience. Removing all the interwebby distractions is a great focuser.

    Although I stare at screens for most of the day anyway and am fine with it, I find the e-ink much more relaxing, particularly when reading late at night.

  9. These comments are making me reconsider. I love the idea of a good, dedicated ereader… But I honestly wonder if I would ever use it over the iPad. Maybe I need to borrow a new Paperwhite (or similar) and read a couple of books on it to see how the experience differs now.

  10. I tend to use either my iPad Mini (perfect eReader size) or my iPod Touch. On both I have the Amazon/Kindle app but I also use iBooks. I never bothered with a dedicated eReader since I wanted a tablet of some sort anyway to use for uni. My grandmother, on the other hand, has a Kindle and an iPad, and while she loves her iPad, she does prefer the Kindle for reading because of the e-ink screen and the fact you don’t have to charge it anywhere near as often. The only thing she dislikes is that it can be difficult to change the font size and other settings on the Kindle (admittedly hers is one of the older models though). I do think the Kindle screen is a bit better for reading, but personally I wouldn’t bother getting since since I already have a device that can do the same thing.

  11. I still prefer paper, and I love looking at my bookshelf, full of books that I have read over decades past.

    I just read “Bound” and it was the first book I have ever read on an e-reader (iPhone + iPad). I can’t same that I am hooked on the technology as I look at the iPad on my desk, and the 5 tomes of “Song of Ice and Fire” sitting next to it that I completed before picking up “Bound”. There is still something tangible about paper that I enjoy.

    I am sure that “Bound” will not be my last e-book. “Obsidian” will probably be my second. I have many classical works sitting on the iPad, waiting to be read, I just don’t seem to get around to it. Not sure if I am stalling because of the content, or the interface. Probably both. Maybe I just need to find the right series of books to get into it.

  12. I think there’s a transition period to get used to a different delivery system. But with any luck, the good books make you forget what you’re reading on and you just enjoy the story. Thanks for reading Bound and Obsidian!

    Rebecca, it sounds like you and I have a similar attitude.

    Damien – in a proper future our devices wouldn’t need charging at all!

  13. I have both a Kindle and an Nook. I much prefer the Nook, it’s so much easier to highlight, add notes, and look up words with. I still don’t have an ereader app for my phone, but will probably get some soon. Like you, I don’t want to be tied to Amazon. They are actually my last stop if I’m looking for an ebook, and it has to be significantly cheaper or unavailable elsewhere before I’ll bite.

    Thanks for the link to Marvin. I’m checking that out.

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