The e-reader – 2012’s must-have gadget

Why it’s time to shelve your books and instead put one of these in your pocket.

There is no shortage of products on the market to help us complete tasks easier, faster and lighter. With each advance in technology, traditional methods and practices are being displaced by modern alternatives – where we once would have picked up the phone we now send an email, rather than logging onto a computer to browse the internet we surf on smartphones. Pocket-size MP3 players can hold thousands of songs as opposed to having to buy a CD for a single album.

So why should reading be any different? Just as analysts have predicted that digital music downloads will at some point render CDs obsolete; books have also suffered a hit in sales as the popularity of e-readers has sky rocketed. Figures released last year from online retail giant Amazon stated that it sold 105 books for its Kindle e-reader for every 100 hardcover and paperback books.

The benefits of owning an e-reader are obvious. Instead of carrying bulky books around, or finding somewhere to store them, one single device can hold your entire collection to take with you wherever you go.

But with so many on the market, which is the best to go for?

Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G

Price: Around R2,199

Amazon’s own Kindle models are arguably the most well known in the market. The Kindle Keyboard 3G is the only e-reader with text-to-speech, audiobooks and MP3 support and its 3G wireless internet works globally.

At only 8.5 ounces and 1/3 of an inch thin, Kindle Keyboard can be taken almost anywhere and holds 3,500 books. Kindle e-readers also use the latest generation of Electronic Ink (E Ink) technology – E Ink Pearl – to power its screen. This allows for clearer, sharper text on an anti-glare matte screen that makes it similar to a page of actual book.

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Perhaps the most impressive feature of this Kindle is the supreme battery life. After a full four hour charge, it claims to last two months (based on the device being used half an hour per day with Wi-Fi off).

The Kindle also uses Whispersync technology, meaning books downloaded to it can be read on your iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Android device, and BlackBerry as well as syncing your place across devices, so you can pick up exactly where you left off.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Screen size: 6 inches

Resolution: 600 x 800 pixels

Display: E Ink Pearl

Connectivity: Free 3G + Wi-Fi

Battery life (Wi-Fi off): 2 months

Storage: Approx. 3,500 e-books

Weight: 247 grams

Sony PRS-T1

Price: Around R1,600

This sleek and classy effort from Sony is the lightest e-reader on the market and looks the part, too. However, its desirable weight and width specifications (it is 9.5mm thick) aren’t quite backed up by its usability. A stylus pen comes with each reader to use on its touch screen, although there is actually no place for it to be stored which is less than ideal.

The Sony Reader software runs as a desktop application on a Mac or PC (not available on Linux), and the app is only downloadable on the Android, not the iPhone or iPad, and there is no web version either.

Pages are turned through swiping the screen which enables a pinch to zoom feature for articles and web pages. Supporting 12 different languages, another good addition is an in-built dictionary that looks up any word you hold on. Sony also offers around two million books in its e-store.

The PRS-T1’s design sets it apart from competitors, particularly because it hosts five buttons at the bottom as well as a touch screen, making web browsing easier with home, page back and page forward buttons. Available in white, black or an eye-catching red, if stylish and sleek is your bag this could be the e-reader for you.

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SPECIFICATIONS:

Screen size: 6 inches

Resolution: 600 x 800 pixels

Display: E Ink Pearl

Connectivity: Wi-Fi

Battery life: 1 month (wireless off), approx. up to 3 weeks (wireless on)

Storage: Approx. 1,200 e-books

Weight: 168 grams

Elonex 500EB

Price: Around R995

The 500EB model is the smallest of Elonex’s three offerings in the e-reader market and is perfectly suited to those wanting a portable, multimedia device. Its sharp colour TFT screen makes it ideal for not only reading books but also watching movies and scrolling through photographs.

With six buttons (menu, back, adjust font size, page turn, and music) as well as a d-pad for navigation under the screen, its ergonomic design is complimented by a rubber-finished back to make one handed reading easy. The only drawback of its design is a 1.6cm thickness which is considerably more than the competitors.

The main selling point of the 500EB is the screen – yet while other e-readers promote the non-backlight E Ink displays, the advantages of a full colour screen include being able to change text colour. Although Elonex have fitted an anti-glare film the screen still gets affected by sunlight and is not designed for hours of non-stop reading (as the battery life attests).

The device comes pre-loaded with out of copyright books to get you started and thousands of eBooks can be downloaded from e-book stores.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Screen size: 5 inches

Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels

Display: TFT LED Backlit LCD Widescreen – 16:9

Connectivity: Wi-Fi

Battery life: (Book reading) 6 hours

Storage: Approx. 6,000 e-books (SD card slot for expandable memory options up to 16GB)

Weight: 190 grams

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