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E-readers 101

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A broken-in pair of slippers, a mug of steaming coffee, and your favorite... screen? Handheld electronic book screens, better known as e-readers, popped up as gifts from coast to coast this past holiday season. While Amazon released its Kindle in late 2007, this was the year e-readers really caught on, partly due to an aggressive advertisement campaign as newcomers Barnes & Noble Nook and Sony Reader entered the competition.

Would you convert to reading your books, magazines, and newspapers electronically? You might answer that you already do, via online newspapers or downloaded eBooks, but e-readers are a different concept. Most notably, they work to imitate a physical book in size and readability, as opposed to simply feeding text through a computer screen. So here's the Anttix version of E-readers 101:

Physical Features: E-readers average about 7"-10" diagonally, and weigh roughly 10 ounces. They are about the size of an average trade paperback book. They run on rechargeable batteries (included) that will give you anywhere from 4-10 days' worth of reading time on a single charge. The page view uses E Ink® technology so that it looks like reading a paper page from a book. There is no harsh backlight to produce eye strain, as is the case with computers. You can also adjust font size, and if you purchase an audio book, you can listen through the speakers or plug in your own headphones/ear buds.

How to Obtain Reading Material: Books, magazines, newspapers, and audio books are purchased directly through e-reader units, using cell phone or wireless technology that is built in. Amazon's Kindle orders directly from the Amazon store. Sony's Reader partners with Google Books, also offering a library book borrowing feature. Barnes & Noble's Nook draws from its own stock, but also allows you to borrow/lend books to friends with e-readers... without worrying about their dog chewing up your book.

Cost: When Amazon introduced Kindle, thusly monopolizing the e-reader market, they started at around $400. When Barnes & Noble's Nook came out at a clean $259, Amazon dropped prices almost overnight. Now a low-end Kindle runs (coincidentally) $259, and a deluxe model is $489, according to their website. Sony's Reader is available in three options: Pocket at $199, Touch at $280, and Daily at $399. There is no subscription fee involved with e-readers, but you must purchase the books. Most new releases are priced around $10, and there are always public domain books available free of charge.

Advantages: The biggest advantage of an e-reader is the space it saves. Virtually endless hours of reading fit into the space one book would take up. They are especially handy when reading large tomes. You won't build any muscle hauling War and Peace around, and you won't have to adjust your hold as the page proportions shift from front to back. Environmentally, paperless is always greener, and some would argue that you will eventually save more green in your wallet since eBooks are cheaper than traditional new releases.

Disadvantages: Let's face it. You are holding not a soft, tactile book, but a cold, hard piece of technology. That statement makes some people drool and repulses others. Chances are, your e-reader looks and smells like every other e-reader, and you probably missed out on the romantic experience of hunting for your book in the dusty corners of some curious shop. Though you can take virtual notes on an e-reader, they will not be in your handwriting, with the scribbles, arrows, and afterthoughts that illustrate genius in progress, but I digress...

To e-read or not to e-read: Ultimately, it comes down to whether you are someone who prefers to own a physical book that is a unique piece in itself, or whether you are content to experience content alone.

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