Going by the book

CHOICE checks the latest eBook readers on the shelves

Looking forward to a weekend on the couch with a good book?

The latest 'page turner' of most interest to Australians is the electronic (eBook) reader which brings thousands of titles to your fingers.

The June issue of CHOICE tells you what to look for in an eBook reader and busts some of the jargon surrounding this novel device.

"The first question we ask is what do you read? Those who like the classics need to find a reader that supports the EPUB format which allows you to download a huge collection of classic literature for free," says Christopher Zinn, CHOICE spokesperson.

"Amazon's Kindle, one of the first eBook readers on the market, doesn't support EPUB. However, if you like reading the latest blockbuster as soon as it hits the shelves, then the Amazon bookstore has the widest variety of new titles."

The CHOICE testers asked readers to assess six eBook reader models in a number of conditions: outdoor daylight, normal indoor lighting, and night-time lighting.

The results were fairly uniform, with only a 5% difference in overall score separating the six readers. Prices ranged from $321 for the Kindle 2 to $566 for the larger format Kindle DX. (Since our testing, Borders has brought out its eBook reader, the Kobo, for $199, making it the cheapest on the market.)

All the models tested display greyscale graphics using E ink which mimics the traditional printed page. The newly released Apple iPad, which can also be used as an eBook reader, has a backlit screen and more reflective surface making it less comfortable on the eye. (The Apple iPad will be reviewed in the July issue of CHOICE).

CHOICE recommends looking at the accessories that come with the reader, its connectivity (some readers can connect to the internet wirelessly to download books), memory capacity, and the file formats supported. Some units also allow you to make notes in much the same way as you would write in the margins of a text book.

"Ultimately, you need to pick up the eBook reader and see how it feels to hold in your hands. Are the page turning buttons comfortable to use and is the screen size unwieldy or too dinky?," says Mr Zinn.

The CHOICE article also includes a list of sites to download titles - both free and for purchase.

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