E-readers make easy reading on the move

00:47, Nov 19 2012
SPACE SAVER: A Kindle makes reading a neat and tidy proposition for commuters.

E-readers are devices for reading electronic books, or e-books. Here's a rundown of their basic features:

❏ Screens

Most e-readers have grey e-ink screens - designed to recreate the experience of reading from paper and using little power in the process, but you'll need a light if reading from them at night. LCD screens such as in tablets can display colour images and animation, but are more reflective and power-hungry.

Most e-reader screens are touchscreens, letting you turn pages by tapping or swiping your fingers, while others have buttons. Most e-reader screens measure 15 centimetres (diagonally) to keep them compact and portable, and most will let you change font size.

❏ Charging

With most e-readers you'll need to hook them up to a computer via a USB cable to charge them. This can be a bit of a hassle but you can buy mains chargers for some e-readers, including some Kindles. Look for an e-reader with good battery life; most should be able to handle weeks of reading before needing a top-up.


❏ Connectivity

E-readers connect to the internet through your computer via USB so you can browse and download e-books. Many e-readers also have wi-fi connectivity - and a few have 3G mobile network connectivity - so you can download wirelessly and surf the web.

❏ Memory

E-readers have built-in memory to store your e-books, and many have memory card slots so you can upgrade capacity if needed. As a rough guide, Consumer New Zealand says one gigabyte of memory will hold about 1000 books.

❏ Formats

E-books are typically cheaper than their paper counterparts. They come in a range of file formats and e-readers support different formats. PDF, HTML and ePub are the most common file formats, while Amazon uses a proprietary file format called AZW for its hugely popular Kindle. You can download software to convert AZW e-books to other formats so other e-readers will recognise them, while software such as Calibre can convert ePub books so they can be read on a Kindle.

Make sure you investigate which formats a reader supports before buying, and the range of books available in that format - start with our tips below.

Other e-book providers such as Kobo also have apps for reading their e-books on smartphones and tablets. Many devices that support the ePub and PDF formats, including Kobo e-readers, use Adobe's e-book management software, Adobe Digital Editions.

Some e-books are also protected by digital rights management (often called DRM) which means you can only download them to devices registered to your e-book account, to protect copyright.


Tablets can double as e-readers - letting you download an e-reader app and then buy compatible e-books. Tablets are typically larger and more expensive, have brighter screens (generally not considered a plus for e-reading), many more features such as fully functional (and superior) web browsing, emailing and an abundance of extra apps, and greater storage - although there'll be more files to store such as apps and photos. You're also likely use more data on a tablet.

E-readers are lighter, less power-hungry, and designed specifically for reading. If you simply want a way to read digital books then an e-reader will suffice; if you're after more bells and whistles and price is less of a barrier then it's worth investigating tablets.


The range of e-books available will depend on the device and the format it supports. Some e-books may not be available in New Zealand due to different territorial licensing rights.

❏ Amazon Kiwis can download more than 1.5 million e-books from Amazon's Kindle Store.

❏ Kobo A source of more than 2.5 million e-books, according to its site.

❏ iBooks Apple's own e-bookstore - accessible through an application for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch - has a growing range of books in the ePub format that Kiwis can download.

❏ Whitcoulls Has more than 2.3 million e-book titles, including ePub titles, according to its website.

❏ Fishpond Local online retailer Fishpond also has a few thousand e-books you can read online on any web-connected device.

Ebooks.com One of the most popular international e-book stores around with a huge selection of titles in a range of formats to suit a range of devices.

❏ Diesel Ebook Store A large independent e-bookstore with more than three million titles from well-known publishers for devices with Adobe Digital Editions.

❏ Smashwords A source for e-books in a range of formats by independent authors and publishers.

Greatnzebooks.co.nz: A source for a growing range of New Zealand e-books, mainly by independent authors. There are now only a handful of books on the site but over time there will be more than 400.

❏ Your public library Many in New Zealand let you borrow e-books to read on a range of e-readers - not Kindles though - as well as smartphones and computers through the OverDrive ebook service. Free e-book sites include Gutenberg.org and ePubBooks.com.


Sony Reader PRS-T2

❏ $229 at consumer electronics stores and Sony

❏ 6-inch E-Ink Pearl touchscreen

❏ Wi-fi and web browser

❏ Battery lasts up to two months

❏ 2 gigabytes internal storage but can be expanded

Kobo Glo

❏ $199 at consumer electronics stores

❏ 6-inch frontlit E-Ink Pearl touchscreen

❏ Wi-fi and web browser

❏ Battery lasts up to a month

❏ 2GB internal storage but can be expanded

Kindle Wi-fi

❏ $149 at Dick Smith, also available through Amazon online

❏ 6-inch E-Ink touchscreen

❏ Wi-fi and web browser

❏ Battery lasts up to a month

❏ 2GB internal storage

Sources: Calibre, Noel Leeming, Dick Smith, Amazon, Adobe, Kobo, Whitcoulls, Hastings District Library, Apple, Sony, Engadget, How Stuff Works, Consumer New Zealand, PC World, ePubBooks.com, eBooks.com, Fishpond, Great NZ E-books, Diesel Ebook Store, Smashwords, Top Ten Reviews.