Thinking about buying an e-reader device? Which one should you buy? Kindle? Sony Reader? Or do you wait and get Apple’s new iPad? I’ve just spent 3 days attending sessions at the Publishing Business Conference in New York City about e-readers and the future of publishing. (See my posts about the current status and the future of the publishing industry.)

Modern e-readers provide a very nice experience in reading. E-paper devices are not backlit like a computer screens, so they are very easy on the eyes. It’s very similar to reading ink on paper. They are slim and lightweight and allow you to sit back and enjoy reading. And you can’t beat the average price of about $9 per book.

E-readers are still a bit clumsy for reading magazines, but they work great for reading text-based books. (It’ll only be a few years until larger, color, foldable e-paper readers will be available for a great magazine experience.)

So, back to the original question, which device should you buy?

  • Kindle (Amazon): Is the most popular reader. It has lots of momentum, but you are limited to Kindle’s proprietary content format. (Although there are free tools that can convert standard ePub files to Kindle-compatible files.)
  • Librie and Reader (Sony): I like my Sony Reader. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and easy to read. Books are available from the Sony library and other sources (see, since this reader accepts files in the standard ePub format, as well as PFD, RTF, Word documents, text documents, and Sony’s own .lrf, and .lrx formats.
  • The iPad was introduced recently by Steve Jobs and is getting a lot of hype. It’s not yet available in the market. The iPad has a multi-touch color display, which will open great opportunities, especially for magazines. Hoever, the iPad has a backlit computer screen, not e-paper technology. Also, it will have slow connectivity until 4G networks are more broadly available.  If you’re the type to buy the latest, greatest Apple product, this is definitely for you (if you have $499). But if that’s not you, it’s probably not worth buying.
  • Finally, you may want to consider the PocketBook , which has 75-80% of the market share in Europe and is just starting in the USA. It is an open reader that reads all e-book formats, except Kindle. It holds 1,500 books, plus external memory available up to 32 G. It supports all languages (you can add your own fonts), has 6 font sizes, allows you to create your own folders and themes, and allows firmware upgrades. (This is important because the technology is changing so quickly.) You can also download games and new models have text to speech and handwriting to text functions.

If you’re not willing to pay a few hundred dollars to get an e-reader today, don’t write off the idea completely. In 3-5 years, the devices will come down in price to $100 or even $50. The devices will also become lighter, have better color, and roll up or fold up to fit in your shirt pocket.

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