Advice Wanted: Help Me Pick an E-Reader

by Kim on June 2, 2010 · 55 comments

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In order to celebrate my recent graduation, I decided buy myself an e-reader. But I’m stuck as to which one to get and need your help.

Right now I’m debating between the Kindle, the Nook, or a Sony E-Reader (I don’t know which one yet). I’m not getting an iPad because I can’t stand the glare from the screen for reading (that’s why I don’t read on my computer).

Given all your expertise, I need you advice on what to get. Here are my current e-reader needs:

  • I want an e-reader primarily for travel and for reading at the gym. I read on the elliptical to pass the time, but I’m tired of bringing books with me and having to jam the edges open with my mp3 player and then loosing my place when the books close.
  • I need an e-reader than will read PDFs and that I can download books from places like Project Gutenburg and Google Books — I plan to read a lot of free classics. I’d also like to use it for egalleys if possible.
  • I also want to be able to read magazines and newspapers, if I decide to buy subscriptions and, you know, support good journalism :)
  • I want to be able to easily take notes and mark passages in the book. I like the Kindle keyboard — do other readers have similar options?
  • It would also be nice to be able to go online or access some sort of wi-fi, but that’s not a requirement.

Do you have an e-reader? If so, which one? What are some of the pros and cons of your e-reader? If you don’t have one, what thoughts do you have on which e-reader is best?

Photo Credit: B.K. Dewey via Flickr

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila (Bookjourney) June 2, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I have been watching the e reader debates for about a year now trying to choose and weighing the pros and cons. I want one for the same reasons you do, traveling and working out. If I were to get one it would be a Nook. I like what I have seen bloggers saying about it and I like what it features.

I have never used an e reader so my thoughts are based on what I have read from those who have.

Good luck – I will be excited to see what you pick and what you think of it! I will probably choose some time in the next year.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 9:51 am

Sheila: I’ve been waiting for a long time too. I kept waiting to see if one would be eink and color, but it doesn’t sound like that’s happening anytime soon, so I’ll just get the best I can now and upgrade sometime later :)

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King Rat June 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I have the B&N Nook. It reads PDFs fairly well. Keep in mind PDFs really don’t work too well on ereaders in general since PDF format is designed for printing. Your best bet for egalleys is to request epub format, no matter what ereader you pick.

B&N store has Google Books built in. So does Kindle.

I haven’t tried the note taking ability with it, but it doesn’t have a physical keyboard. Instead it uses a touchscreen keyboard. When I’ve used the touchscreen keyboard for searching, the keyboard isn’t particularly quick or easy to use. It’s not awful, but I wouldn’t use it if I needed to take lots of notes. Also, when reading PDFs I haven’t seen the note taking option available. It is for books pulled from the B&N store. I don’t know if it is available for epub format.

Kindle has cellular only. B&N has cellular and wifi. Sony doesn’t have either if I remember correctly.

B&N allows you to add your own memory card. Kindle does not. Dunno about Sony.

B&N takes 2 to 3 minutes to boot up. My biggest complaint about the thing so far.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 9:52 am

King Rat: Thanks! That’s really helpful information. I’ve heard the start up note a lot. I’ll try testing out the touchscreen keyboard and see how that works for me, since I tend to take a few notes while I read.

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Kristin June 2, 2010 at 6:40 pm

My friend just got a Nook and showed it to me, and it looked ok — that’s about as high of praise as these e-readers will get from me until I become an official convert (I’m still a curmudgeon for now). The screen did not have any glare and was a paper-like off-white/gray color. It did seem to take awhile to boot up, though.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 9:53 am

Kristin: I haven’t seen a Nook in person yet — I trip to B&N is in my future :)

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Jenny June 2, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Whatever you decide, I’m excited for you! I am very attracted to e-readers, but I want to wait to buy one until I feel the e-book price points have more or less settled. I keep reading all these articles about price points and Amazon, which I don’t really understand, but the upshot seems to be that prices are unstable for e-books.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 9:54 am

Jenny: The pricing is an issue, which is why I want one that can use Google Book, Project Gutenburg, or egalleys. If I can get those, I don’t think I’ll be buying too many books (or maybe I will, I’m an addict!). The pricing and lack of universal format is frustrating though.

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Michelle June 2, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I have a B&N Nook and love it. It is light and portable. I don’t take notes on it, so that feature does not bother me as much.

I would suggest just going out and playing with them. B&N has a huge display now that will let you play with one. And Target will be selling Kindles as of this weekend. Best Buy also sells them, I believe, along with Sony e-Readers. I do know that Best Buy also has a hands-on display. Pick them up, check out their features, try reading on them, just get to know them. The right one for you will soon become apparent! Good luck!

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 9:55 am

Michelle: Thanks! I didn’t know there were e-readers at Best Buy, that might be a good place to comparison shop all of them. I’ve never seen one of the Sony e-readers in person.

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softdrink June 2, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Well, if you got a nook we could share books. Just sayin’. ;-)

Actually, I love my nook. I don’t take notes on it, though, so I can’t tell you how well that works (or doesn’t work). King Rat is right, it does take forever and a day to start up, but you can leave it on and it goes to sleep when you don’t use it…they actually recommend you leave it on.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 9:56 am

softdrink: Yay for sharing books! It’s weird to me that you can’t just share ebooks anyway. People do it with paper books all the time, what’s the difference?

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Carrie June 2, 2010 at 8:16 pm

i don’t have any of those (i do use the kindle for iphone app) but of those i’d get the kindle based on the book selection available from amazon

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:00 am

Carrie: Book selection is a big draw of the Kindle, that’s for sure. And I read a lot of older books, which I suspect are less likely to be available in an e-format.

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Sarah June 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm

I did a lot of research before I purchased my e reader. I was between the Nook and the Kobo, which Border’s will be releasing later this month. The Kobo is $100 cheaper, but the Nook works with more formats. I was also excited that the Nook has a removable, and therefore replaceable, battery. The other e readers on the market don’t have removable batteries, so when the battery dies in a few years, your reader is useless.
Needless to say, I ended up getting the Nook. So far, I love it.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:01 am

Sarah: Yes, replaceable battery! I HATE things where you can’t do that yourself and have to ship it for a new one (Apple, I’m looking at you). I hadn’t heard of the Kobo before, I’ll have to look into that.

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Trisha June 2, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I am going to follow this closely as I have been considering getting one myself. I do want some internet access on mine though – at least ideally.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:02 am

Trisha: Internet is one of those features I’d like, but not required since I can get internet on my laptop and some sketchy service on my phone.

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Andi June 2, 2010 at 8:59 pm

I love my Nook, and it does all the stuff you want here. When I first got it, you could not surf the web on it, but with subsequent software updates it’s gotten faster (page turns, surfing, switching from screen to screen), they’ve added many many features, and I’m continually pleased with it. I love that it supports epub format (as I recall, the Kindle does not), and I can get books from almost any site and load them into my Nook with no problem. When you use the Search feature, the hits include free Google books. I got a hankerin’ for Willa Cather this weekend and wanted a copy of My Antonia, and boom! there it was free from Google books when I searched.

Of your criteria, it’s probably lacking in only one area that I can see, and that’s the newspapers and magazines. There aren’t many available just yet. I subscribe to The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review, but those are the only two I’m really interested in.

Let me know if you have any Nook questions!

Oh, and I do take some notes on my Nook. It was slow at first, but that’s another feature that’s updated nicely and improved a great deal.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:03 am

Andi: Thanks for all your comments (and for your post on this), it was really, really helpful!

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Andi June 2, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Oh, and to address the issue of the Nook being slow to start. So true. But I rarely turn mine off. Maybe once a month.

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Amanda June 2, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I recently picked up a Sony Reader Touch. I love the ability to take notes while I read with the stylus and I am happy with it to read galleys that I get from NetGalley. I would suggest you look into it as compared to the Kindle or Nook. I didn’t think I’d like it, but I do.

Good luck with any choice you make.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:04 am

Amanda: Thanks for the recommendation. I didn’t know much about Sony readers at all, so knowing one to look at helps. And things wih a stylus are fun :)

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Steph June 2, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Congrats on the graduation and on the gift to yourself! After all your hard work, you definitely deserve it!

I don’t have any e-readers, unless you consider the capabilities on an ipod touch to make it an e-reader, so I’m of no help. The two people I know who have Kindles really love them. Either way, I look forward to seeing what you choose and wish you happy reading! Perhaps if I can stick with a workout regime for more than a month I’ll consider rewarding myself in a similar fashion! ;)

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:04 am

Steph: Thank you! I’m really excited about it, once I just get over my heming and hawing and buy one :)

I haven’t been in the gym in like three weeks, so I’m not really one to talk, but I want to get back to going regularly.

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Amy June 3, 2010 at 6:47 am

I haven’t read the comments, but I’ll give you my thoughts on the Kindle, which I received as a present this Christmas.

I travel a lot for work, and it makes it SO much easier. (That being said, I have such a backlog of paper books that my suitcase is usually crammed anyway, and plus I just LOVE real books!) I find it very portable, easy to read on, and fairly easy to make notes and highlight. You can also easily search for those notes and highlights as they get automatically saved to a separate document.

You can change font size, you can change the layout, you can subscribe to magazines and newspapers. You can also make it read to you, if you want. The battery lasts well, though I usually turn it completely off rather than using standby to make it last longer. I also like that you can get Kindle for iPhone and for PC and they automatically sync to your last read page so that you can read wherever. I also like that you can connect to the store at any time and buy – though that is also dangerous ;)

I DON’T like that you can’t sort the books on your Kindle in any order other than newest or alphabetical. I am very OCD, I like folders. You know, a fiction folder, a non-fiction folder, a tbr folder, but alas, not possible. I also don’t like that you can’t share. If we both have kindles, I can’t send you a book that I bought on Amazon unless you register your Kindle to my account. Tsk tsk Amazon. I also kind of don’t like that you pay to download to it if you buy from somewhere other than the Amazon store (or maybe that is just for international users, not sure), but I suppose this is just their way of paying for the free wi-fi they provide on it.

I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff, but that’s all I can think of for now :)

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

Amy: Thanks for taking the time to leave such a detailed comment. I have a friend who got a Kindle and she really loves it, which is why that was the one I was initially leaning towards. I like the easy subscriptions to newspapers, etc, on the Kindle — that’s a big draw for me. I have to look into the feature for other readers though.

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tolmsted (BookSexy) June 3, 2010 at 11:03 am

Hi Kim – I recently posted about the Digital Book Zone at BEA (I linked the post to my name, if you want to check it out). There was a lot there re: ereaders and ebooks – and based on what I learned I’d recommend not getting a kindle. I say this from experience, because that’s what I currently have and I discovered that I’m severely limited in what I can download on it. For example, the ebook cards/galleys Harper Collins gave out work on everything BUT the kindle.

I’m currently leaning towards the Nook – though I’d definitely recommend testing it out. (The user interface seemed kind of complicated). I heard that the Sony Reader has a slow refresh (i.e. – page turn) rate, but a plus in my book is that it’s not affiliated with a bookstore. I haven’t heard much positive or negative on the Kobo, but I was impressed by their booth and explanation at BEA so I grabbed a card.

I hope that helps… and good luck. I can’t wait to see what you choose!

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:07 am

Tara: Thanks for that. I didn’t get a chance to go to the Digital Book Zone, although clearly I should have. I got a couple of egalley cards while I was there, and it sucks they wouldn’t work on a Kindle. I’d never heard of the Kobo, but now I have to look into that one too.

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tolmsted (BookSexy) June 3, 2010 at 11:06 am

Oh, I probably should mention that the Sony Reader having a slow refresh rate is based on research I did last year. They may have fixed that with the new model.

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Monica (aka monnibo) June 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm

From what I’ve heard, the Kindle can only read Amazon books. I’ve not heard much about the Nook, but the Sony eReader can read all sorts of formats.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:08 am

Monica: I’ve heard that about the Kindle too, and it’s annoying.

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monica @ paper bridges June 3, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I have the Sony Pocket, which I won in a contest (!), and it’s okay. I like that it easily fits in my purse. I’m all about portability.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:08 am

Monica: Congrats on winning one! The small size of that might be nice, but it’s not a driving factor for me — I carry a giant purse everywhere :)

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PC June 3, 2010 at 5:48 pm

If you can afford the extra $140, the Alex EReader should be considered. http://www.springdesign.com It’s features the Nook cannot compare with & I would never buy a Nook because the Alex is available (& I can afford the extra $140). That being said, I do not have an Alex and I am waiting for a real note-taking PDF ereader. At the moment, I’m liking the Alex more than anything. IRex also makes a very good ereader that handles PDF’s well.

Don’t believe the hype surrounding the Kindles, Nooks, Sony’s, & Ipad’s. Alot of people who have bought these are sheep sent out to financial slaughter by the large marketing departments of these big companies. Right now, whatever you buy, you will feel like it is obsolete within 6-12 months as the market is changing that fast. There are large conventions displaying many new ereaders right now in Taiwan and Europe. I can afford the $800 Que (which is not out yet) but I am still siding with being patient as I do not like to waste my money and nothing is out right now that does exactly what I want. IMHO, for the moment the best dedicated ereader is the $150 Kobo, the best PDF ereader the Irex Iliad/D1000. Neither of these excite me though so I am not buying them.

Cheers,
Phil

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:10 am

Phil: I think most electronics end up being obsolete pretty quickly — the trick is finding one you can live with for as long as it takes for the upgrades to turn into what you want.

I’d never heard of the Alex ereader before, so thanks for pointing that one out. I’d love a good notetaking PDF reader too, probably more when I was in school but even now. I think those are down the road, but I don’t feel like waiting.

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Nicole June 3, 2010 at 6:52 pm

I will be referring back to this post! I think about an e-reader for the same reasons that you mention, but I am not yet ready to make the plunge. I love books way too much.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:11 am

Nicole: I love them too, but don’t like them at the gym at all. It’s way too annoying to have them fall down and lose my page :)

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diane June 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I had the Kindle, but sold it and bought the iPad. I love that I can read books and surf the web, check email and play games all on one device now –very happy with my decision.

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:27 am

diane: The iPad is awesome, but I spend all day on a computer and don’t think I could read on a screen when I get home — I hate reading long things on my laptop.

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Hannah June 3, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I have a Kindle (1st Gen) and I really love it. I like that the keyboard is easy to use and that you can underline, highlight, take notes, and save passages. The bookmarking and syncing features are nice. I love that I can take it anywhere and not have to pack a separate bag just for books when I go on trips. Subscriptions and news reads well on the Amazon. I haven’t tried pdfs. Browsing the internet is possible but not convenient.
I don’t know about the Nook, but the Kindle is really good about making a wide range of old and obscure books available.
Basically:
Kindle = awesome

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:28 am

Hannah: Yay for some Kindle comments — I was starting to think everyone had a Nook :) Thanks!

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nomadreader (Carrie) June 4, 2010 at 6:58 am

I got a Kindle for Christmas, and I love it. I did a lot of research and found the one that worked for me. We have a lot of the same criteria, so I’ll address those. When I read on the treadmill, I make the font bigger, and I find myself reading at the same pace (when I used to read books, I was always losing my place). Having fewer words on the screen helps my eyes focus, even when my body is moving. The Kindle works well with pdfs, and the pending (this week) software upgrade will provide many more ways to work with pdfs. I use netgalley, and they email galleys directly to your Kindle. You can’t edit pdfs, but you can read them. The new software upgrade allegedly allows you to change the size and highlight, but I haven’t received mine yet.

Perhaps my favorite part of the Kindle are the subscriptions. I get the New York Times ($20 a month) and The New Yorker (2.99/month). They’re delivered automatically before I get up (I can’t speak to exactly what time, but before 5), and I love rolling over in the morning to start reading. The convenience of periodicals (and not having stacks of them) is almost worth the cost for me (fellow journalism lover).

I use the Kindle keyboard all the time to make notes. I’ve heard users complain about it being there and being in the way, but I use it constantly to type notes, search in the store and traverse the mobile web. Honestly, the mobile Web is still a little slow. For many things, I use my smartphone because it’s faster, but the Kindle works in a pinch.

Other thoughts: the built-in dictionary is probably my favorite feature. Before, when I read, I would usually figure out a word from context unless I had no idea, then I would look it up. To be able to scroll and get a definition has made me more literate. The dictionary also works with famous last names and places, and I find it so helpful when reading. In a pinch, if a name isn’t in the dictionary, I can use the mobile Web to search for more information.

I find my eyes never get tired. Even reading paper books, after many hours (i.e. readathon), my eyes would tire. The Kindle is clearer than print, and it works best for me. I imagine this will only increase as I get older. The charge lasts for a long time. I leave wireless on overnight to receive my subscriptions, but I turn it off during the day and charge it twice a week at most.

My best advice is to do research (this is a great start!) Know what’s important and what you can sacrifice (for me, it was submitting to DRM, but the Kindle is the best product, even if the Sony readers and the book offer more book options). Enjoy!

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Kim June 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

Carrie: Thanks for your really detailed comments — so helpful! I do love the keyboard on the Kindle because I’m not a huge fan of touchscreen keyboards. I find them hard to use. A friend as a Kindle, so I’m going to experiment with hers in a few weeks and then make my decision.

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Esme June 5, 2010 at 10:36 am

Wow-Lucky you getting an e-reader. I do not have one-but would get the IPAD-only because I take my mac everywhere and I like the fact that it is a reader and a computer-I do not like that it is so much larger than the other ones. Can you go look at all of them? I would partially base it on-where do they allow you to have access to-eg amazon etc-I know that many libraries have downloadable books-where you can check out a book-I am not sure if they all allow you to download books from other libraries-how fun would it be to check out a book from the Syndey Public Library or Dublin?

All said I am waiting for the next generation IPAD before asking for one.

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Kim June 8, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Esme: I can’t look at all of them, but I will get to compare a Nook and a Kindle which are the two I’m mostly debating between. I’m still trying to figure out about borrowing from our local library. And I think it’s smart to wait on the iPad — I bet the second version will be much, much better.

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Gwen June 6, 2010 at 10:32 am

I just spent a good chunk of time reading the pros and cons before I read your post. We have some of the same desires except I would really like to be able to check email.

Have been learning toward the Kindle because I know that I can read the books from NetGalley on it, but after reading the comments….it sounds like they are the only ones that use them. Bummer. Argh, I can’t decide!

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Kim June 8, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Gwen: E-mails not a deal breaker for me, since I have a smart phone where I can do that if necessary. I think you can do NetGalley on a Nook too — I need to investigate.

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Gwen June 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

have been leaning, not learning.

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Callista June 14, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I am so glad you asked this question and I enjoyed reading the comments. I don’t fully understand some of it though.

1. You say you don’t want to read on a screen, but how is the Kobo and Nook and Kindle not a screen? What’s the difference?

2. I don’t know why they have to be so confusing. With all the different formats. I don’t like reading e-books and I would only like an e-reader for two reasons:
– egalleys for books I really want to read (and are only available as e-books)
– books I downloaded for free and are in pdf format

But it seems like most e-readers don’t read pdf formats.

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Kim June 15, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Callista: I should have been more clear — I meant I didn’t want to read on a screen like a laptop, computer, or iPad screen because of the glare and backlight. That gives me a headache. The e-ink doesn’t seem like it will.

And I don’t know why the formats have to be such a pain either. It’d be nice if they could all just work on every device because it would make it so much easier for everyone involved.

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