E-readers and tablets.

Welcome, dear reader, to another article on this weblog.

Today: e-readers and tablets.

The electronic world is full of new gadgets. Daily or weekly new toys are presented, one more beautiful, powerful, convenient and portable than the previous one. As this weblog is about reading, writing and language, I want to focus on the ability to read e-books on the various devices.

Devices

My first electronic reading experience happened on a Sony e-reader, the PRS-505:
A very convenient device, small enough to take a long, it held a lot of books and the battery, when charged well, lasted for almost a month. This device has by now been replaced by a PRS-350.

As I was curious about the hype about tablets and all the marvel that surround them, I dared to go out on a limb and purchase a cheaper one, a Yarvik 7″ Android tablet.

This is not a power-packing device, I was aware of that, and it also lacks all kinds of features that more expensive tablets sport (e.g. Motorola Xoom, Samsung Glaxy Tab, ipad), but for a test this would suffice. The device comes with an e-reading application called Shelves. It supports EPUB, PDF among a few other types.

I was able to install the Kobobooks Android reader app on it, which then allows reading DRM-protected books acquired through Kobobooks. The Yarvik is recognised by Adobe Digital Editions, and after authorising it as a valid device, I could upload DRM-protected books to it without a problem. “Shelves” picked it up and allowed me to read it too.Battery life for this tablet is certainly not bad. I can watch 6 hours of HD movies on it, and the screen and speed of the device is certainly adequate for that. But, of course, that was not the reason to acquire the Yarvik tablet.

Reading

Reading on the Sony e-readers is always a pleasure. The device is light, responds well to paging, and regardless if I use it by artificial light or outside, it is always easy to read from it. In fact, the more light there is, the easier it is to read from an e-reader. I have also seen the cheap e-reader from a German friend, brought out by a local bookstore, and that also is very easy to read. The matted surface of the screen is not hindered by external light sources and there is hardly any reflection. None of that has ever been so bad that I could not read from the e-reader.

Reading on the Yarvik is quite good as well, but here we have the disadvantage of the backlit screen. As soon as the environment becomes brighter I have to set the tablet’s screen to maximum, which is a severe assault on the battery. Going outside to read with the tablet is a bad idea unless it is cloudy, or dark. Screen glare and reflections make it impossible to read from the device otherwise. It helps somewhat that both reader-programs I mentioned can be switched to black letters on a white background (which puts even more strain on the battery), but even in that mode the tablet cannot win the battle with an e-reader.

Ergo

Both devices have their pros and contras. A tablet can be used for many things but the display severely lacks in the outdoor department. An e-reader is good for just a few things (showing pictures in black and white, reading and often listening to music). Some e-readers can also browse the web (mine does not).

I would suggest to someone who is about to invest in a new device: consider well what you mainly want to use it for. If you can, see if you can borrow the thing you fancy and take it to where you primarily intend to use it.

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