Which eReader is for me?

Are you considering buying an eReader, but don’t know where to begin? We’ve all been hearing a lot of buzz around eBooks lately, but there are so many options out there, it is difficult to know where to start when choosing which one to purchase. There are plenty of comparison charts available online (like the overwhelming one on Wikipedia), but without knowing what the features mean, it is not much use!

stack of ebooksWell, we love paper books here at the library, but recognize that there are advantages to eReaders too – they are a portable way to carry LOTS of books at once, and have some nice accessibility features that make reading easier for folks with fading vision.  We can’t make your mind up for you, of course, but these are some of the main differences we have found our patrons are interested in comparing.

Mobile Devices vs eReaders

mobile devices

Some popular mobile devices.

One of the main distinctions that we could make is between what are commonly referred to as ‘mobile devices’, and what are often called “eInk” or “eReaders.” This definition doesn’t have firm boundaries – there are some genre-defying devices out there – but it can be a useful way to highlight the differences. Mobile devices typically have WiFi capabilities, and a shiny LCD screen that is backlit. eInk devices have a matte screen that is closer to paper, and that is only lit (like a book) using the light available in the room.

Some popular eInk eReaders.

Remember that many of the brand names we recognize for eReaders are associated with book stores, but they are not the only options out there. There are a number of other companies that make both mobile devices and eReaders, that are available for sale online. If you have very specific features you want, one of these other brands may meet your needs better.

Library Ease

Obviously, being able to use your eReading device to access library books is the most important feature to us!

If you want to use your eReading device to take out library eBooks in Canada, a Kindle will not work!!!

Some eReading devices, such as Amazon’s Kindle (which can be used for library books in the US, but NOT in Canada) cannot read library eBooks at all (with the exception of the new Kindle Fire – which doesn’t ship to Canada!). Some have been intentionally designed with libraries in mind, to reduce the ‘friction’ of getting out a library book (such as the Sony PRS-T1 and the recently released Sony PRST-2). Some require you to use your computer to download the eBooks, then transfer them to the eReader. We run frequent eBook Show and Tell sessions, where you can see some of these eReading devices in action, and pick up tips on how to use yours with the library, but here are the Cole’s Notes.

overdrive logoIn general, it is easiest to get eBooks from the library on mobile devices (tablets, phones, etc). These devices are WiFi-enabled, and allow you to install a handy little app called Overdrive (for Android and iPhone/iPad). With an internet connection, the Overdrive mobile app, an Adobe ID, and your library card, you can get books quite easily onto your mobile device. The aforementioned Sony PRS-T1/PRS-T2 is an eInk reader that has done something similar, by housing their own library app on the eReader.  Using the built in WiFi, you can connect to the library and get books directly onto the device.

adobe digital editions logoInterestingly, most eReaders – even if they are WiFi -equipped – make it more difficult. They require you to use a computer connected to the internet to browse the library site to find eBooks. You then need to use the Adobe Digital Editions software to transfer the eBook to the eReader. This extra step, and the fact that a computer (or laptop or netbook) is required makes these eReaders less handy for travelling. This is true of popular brands such as the basic Kobo, as well as the Kobo Touch, Glo, and Pocket editions (but not the Kobo Vox or Arc – they are mobile devices!) and the Nook.

If you have an eReading device in mind and want to make sure you can use it with the library, check out the Overdrive list of compatible devices!

Are you afraid of the dark?

So, you know your eReading device of choice will let you get out the all-important library books… will you be able to read them before bed without waking your sweetheart? What about on the sunny beach?

Remember how mobile devices typically have shiny LCD screens, and eReaders typically have eInk displays? Well, each has advantages and disadvantages. LCD screens are backlit, so they provide their own light source in dark situations.  To read your eInk eReader in the dark, you’ll have to get an additional light (clip-ons that just illuminate the screen itself are available).  Of course, in a sunny situation, those shiny LCD screens can be very difficult to see (for example, check out the glare in the image below!).

Kobo Vox vs original Kobo screens

The original Kobo (eInk) on the left, compared to the kobo Vox (mobile, LCD screen) on the right.

The type of display also has an impact on battery life. LCD screens require a lot more battery power to keep illuminated, often giving you around 8 hours max reading time. eInk, on the other hand, only takes battery power when you actually turn a page, so their battery will likely last you all week.

The new Kobo Glo has tried to address some of the issues with both by offering an eInk reader with a built in, diffused, light source that can be turned on for nighttime reading. It claims to provide less eyestrain than backlit screens, and the battery life – with the light turned OOF – is similar to other eInk eReaders.

Which type of screen works best for you depends on whether you think you will be reading mostly curled up in bed at night, plugged in to recharge your battery, or out at the beach in the sun, with less access to power sockets.

Formats matter…

There are multiple types of eBook format. The library has epub, open epub, pdf, and open pdf format eBooks available.    Some eReaders cannot support every file type (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_readers#File_format_support ). In general, mobile devices are unable to open PDFs. You may also want to consider whether or not you want your device to play audio books, as many eReaders are not designed for audio, but mobile devices are.

… but size doesn’t

eBooks are small. Most dedicated eReaders will store up to 3,000 at one time, and mobile devices usually can store even more. Unless you have a collection of 10,000 eBooks you need to have access to at all times, or plan on using your device for other purposes,  storage likely won’t be much of a deciding factor when choosing your device.


What other purposes might your eReading device have? Well, many of the mobile devices are built for multitasking. Devices like phones, tablets and iPods have other purposes than just reading eBooks. Even on eReader brand name mobile devices like the Kobo Vox, you can usually install apps for things like games, crosswords, word processing, weather information and much much more. eReaders are really designed with reading eBooks in mind. They may have browsers installed, but because this isn’t their main purpose, they are most useful for simply reading on – which isn’t always a bad thing!

Accessibility/ Text-to-speech

Most eReading devices include features that enable you to increase font sizes, adjust contrast, and other things that may imporove accessibility. Many of the mobile devices are also designed with accessibility in mind, with text-to-speech apps available. However, the main navigation interface may not be inherently accessible, requiring users to use touch screens to navigate or featuring small text. If accessibility is one of your main concerns, you may find that many of the non ‘name brand’ eReading devices ( from brands such as Ectaco, Condor, Entourage, Fnac, Samsung and PocketBook) have much better accessibility features. Just remember to check whether they will work with the library!


If you have made it this far, you won’t be surprised to learn that as with all of the other features, there is a great variation in terms of price of eReading devices.

Generally, eReaders are cheaper than mobile devices, because they are designed with only one use in mind. If you look hard, you can find non-name brand eReaders for under $100, and many of the name brand eReaders hover around the $100 mark at the time of this writing. Mobile devices start at around $300, with small versions of Android tablets and the BlackBerry Playbook being less expensive than iPads.

There may be other factors you consider important, such as warranty and support options, compatibility with things you already own, size and colour… but we’ll leave you on your own for that! Also, keep in mind that new models come out all the time – like this new offering that features a brand-new, flexible type of screen from LG!

Our collections

Want to know what you’ll be able to access whether you decide to go with an eReading device, or even just stick with your computer?  Well, WPL currently has a number of collections of eBooks that you can browse and check out! See them all at: http://guides.wpl.winnipeg.ca/ebooks The main collections are as follows:

http://winnipeg.lib.overdrive.com/ – The main OverDrive site. The majority of our eBooks holdings are here. Search or browse to your heart’s content!

http://winnipeg.freading.com – Freading offers always available eBooks with no holds, and no wait times. Logging in with your Library card will give you tokens to redeem for eBooks. Watch the tutorial video for more help!

http://wpl-dbs.winnipeg.ca/ – From this page, you can select McGraw-Hill’s eBook Library. This is a selection of useful study and subject guides at different levels. From AP Physics study guides to Corporate Finance Demystified, there are many useful reference works here!

Additional eBooks – Always Available  – This is our recently added Public Domain Collection. These are books that are always available, and never expire! See more about it on our blog post announcing the collection!

Don’t forget to check out our newsletter frequently, as we are always offering classes on how to get the most out of the library eBooks collection.

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