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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

eReaders: Comparison Study

I've been looking extensively into all the various eReaders to see which one would be most useful to me and thought I would post the data here as a comparison study. The readers I've looked into the most have been the iRex iLiad, Sony eReader 505, Cybook ePaper, and the Amazon Kindle. There are some technical specs for each (they represent the best data I could find and I left out a few things that I didn't think were important, such as some support formats that really won't be of much use for eBook readers anyway). Here goes:
  • iRex iLiad
    • Battery Life -- 15 hours.
    • Charger -- AC wall charger.
    • Formats -- PDF / HTML / TXT / JPG / BMP / PNG / PRC (other formats later)
    • Wireless -- Yes / Ethernet
    • Disk Space -- 128 MB Flash / Expandable w/ USB / MMC / CF
    • Screen Size -- 8.1 in. 768 x 1024
    • Processor -- 400 Mhz.
    • Memory -- 64 MB
    • Weight -- 15.3 oz.
    • Price -- $699.00
      • Pros: What sets the iLiad apart from the others for me is the fact that it is easy to upload different formats. You are not limited to loading DRM only books and from what I've read you can put PDFs on this and they'll work. It's battery life isn't really all that bad, although in comparison to others it's not very good. It also has wireless for updates and you're not limited to a specific network. If there's wireless Internet where you are, you can get online. It also can automatically update your RSS feeds for newspapers, etc. It's also bigger than the others, which is good and bad, depending on your perspective on that.
        It uses a stylus like a PDA and also allows you to take written notes that can later be turned into printed text, which make the iLiad ideal for students. Additionally, because the iLiad isn't limited by its hardware in the same way that other eReaders are, updates to it could very well open the door to the use of other formats, such as Word documents. But, then again, it might not matter because it can do stuff online (blogs and newspapers) and that big screen makes it rather easy. Interestingly enough, to turn the page on this thing you actually have to turn a little "dial" of sorts, which might help simulate the reading experience.
      • Cons: It's freaking expensive. For something that doesn't even come close to doing what a laptop of the same price could do, you're paying quite a big chunk of change. True, the iLiad is more "open" than the others (especially over the eReader and Kindle), but depending on what you're using it for, it might not matter. If you're okay with using Sony's ebook format or Amazon's, then skip the iLiad. However, if you want a lot more freedom to bring all your written content with you, whether they be books, newspapers, blog feeds, etc., then perhaps the iLiad is for you. The iLiad is also a little slower in some respects to the others. This is mostly in reference to the menus as it is faster at page turning than the Sony eReader.
  • Sony eReader 505
    • Battery Life -- 7,500 page turns (whatever that translates to in hours, I don't know)
    • Charger -- AC wall charger or USB
    • Formats -- BBeB / JPG / GIF / PNG / BMP / TXT / RTF / PDF / DOC
    • Wireless -- No
    • Disk Space -- 20 MB / Expandable with USB
    • Screen Size -- 6 in. 170 pixels per in.
    • Processor -- 800 Mhz.
    • Memory -- 128 MB
    • Weight -- 9 oz.
    • Price -- $299.99
      • Pros: What the Sony has over the other eReaders is its price. It's the cheapest of them all, including the Kindle, and yet it's also not that different from it's biggest competition (the Kindle again). It's rumored to have an exceedingly long battery life and pretty much does what it's supposed to.
      • Cons: It's biggest issues are what killed it for me. It functions almost exclusively with Sony's ebook format, which limits your selection, and, while it can view other formats, everything I have read suggests it isn't very good at these things. PDFs especially are said to be notoriously difficult, as are newspaper feeds, etc. It's great with the Sony format, but it falls apart if you want to use it for anything else. It also lacks wireless, which means you have to have all the books you want to read on there beforehand and can't pick something up off the airport wireless if your trip is delayed or something. This also means you have to wait until you can plug into your computer before you can get updates to the machine itself or whatever feeds you might be reading (or attempting to). I'm also told that Sony is pretty much PC specific and requires the use of an iTunes-like Sony platform. Lots of cons, but if you're only going to read eBooks and aren't too picky about selection, it's the best one out there for the price.
  • Cybook ePaper
    • Battery Life -- 8,000 screen refreshes (whatever that means)
    • Charger -- AC wall charger.
    • Formats -- PRC / PDB / HTML / TXT / PDF / JPG / GIF / PNG
    • Wireless -- No (update via USB)
    • Disk Space -- 512 MB / Expandable with SD
    • Screen Size -- 6 in. 600 x 800
    • Processor -- 200 Mhz.
    • Memory -- 16 MB
    • Weight -- 6.13 oz.
    • Price -- $540
      • Pros: The Cybook has a lot of internal disk space for all your books. There isn't a lot out there about the Cybook, and I suspect that has a lot to do with the fact that, well, nobody even knows it exists. Unlike the Sony eReader or Amazon Kindle, the Cybook has been relegated to the land of obscurity. Because of that, I don't know a whole lot about it or how well it works.
      • Cons: The price is the big one. Almost as much as the iLiad for a machine that may or may not be better tan the eReader or Kindle. Some have said it's a decent machine, but I just don't know. I'm not sure it's worth the risk spending $540 to find out.
  • Amazon Kindle
    • Battery Life -- One week (without the wireless on)
    • Charger -- AC wall charger.
    • Formats -- AZW / JPG / GIF / BMP / PNG / DOC / HTML / PRC / PDF
    • Wireless -- Yes / Whispernet via Sprint EVDO
    • Disk Space -- 180 MB / Expandable with SD / USB
    • Screen Size - 19.1 x 13.5 cm. 600 x 800
    • Processor -- 400 Mhz.
    • Memory - 64 MB
    • Weight -- 10.3 oz.
    • Price -- $359.00
      • Pros: The Kindle has quite a lot going for it in comparison to its competitor (Sony eReader). It has free access to Whispernet, making it relatively easy to get a new book on the fly, or a new newspaper, or whatever you might be looking for that the Kindle can support. A great benefit for Kindle owners is that eBooks are tremendously easy to find, since they're all on And you can buy all of that stuff right off the wireless, no problem. An additional benefit is that Amazon offers a free way to convert files like Word documents, etc. into a format your reader can read, which is then beamed into your reader via the wireless through an email specific to your Kindle. Whether or not that conversion proves to be of good quality is up to speculation, though. You could end up having loads of issues with the converted file, which would make reading something pointless anyway.
        It's not a very expensive piece of hardware in comparison to the others. That's a good thing for your pocket, of course. You can also upload and publish your own ebooks, which should probably be a con, because now we'll have to worry about thousands of self-published people, most of which shouldn't be published, throwing their books up there for us to trudge through.
      • Cons: Well, with a lot of good things to say about the Kindle, there are quite a lot of bad too. One big problem is that you have to turn off the wireless manually by going into the settings to do so (the iLiad actually has a button for the wireless, which is convenient). If you don't do this, the wireless drains the battery. The wireless is also limited to Sprint's network, which means you can't use the wireless outside of the United States.
        It also has the same issues the Sony eReader does with PDFs and non-Amazon-ebook files. And the non-Amazon files you want to have on your machine have to be converted first, which means you have to send them to an email system that converts the files and then sends them back to you. You can do it the free way or the way that costs (sending them to yourself isn't free). And there's no guarantee the conversion will work. Go figure. The process is a bit confusing, so I won't get into it, but I imagine it seems more confusing than it really is.
After all of that, what would I buy if I had the money? Well, I'm leaning towards the iLiad. It's the one that fits my needs at this point. The Kindle would probably be second. My problem with the big machines right now is that they all aren't stable enough with alternate formats to be of much use to me. I'd like to try them and see if maybe people are just stupid, but I don't want to spend $300 or more to find out something isn't even going to work. The iLiad, as far as I can tell, will do what I want it to do and with little complication, except its price. If it were cheaper, I'd ask for it for a gift, but since it's not, it'll stay in the back of my mind where I put all the "stuff I want to buy but am not going to shell out X amount of dollars for).

Maybe the Kindle is better than I'm hearing. Maybe Amazon would like to let me borrow one for a month so I can see how it works for class. Or maybe the iRex people would do the same...hint hint.

Yeah, I know that won't work. So be it.

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  1. Anonymous2:32 PM

    Why is this person allowed so much space to air his 'no experience views. On the Sony he damns it for not being able to deal with other than Sony eReader formats, which is a nonsense and I have one, so at least I can write from experience. One of the comments was everything I have read suggests it isn't very good at these things.'
    What sort of a sensible critique is that?
    I looked forward to reading a fair technical comparison and it thoroughly failed to achieve that.

  2. This isn't a technical blog. If you wanted that you should have gone to CNET.

    The entire purpose of this was to highlight everything I've read about those four products, which I did properly.

    You're getting uppity with me because I highlighted what other people who have had experience have said about the product. So, perhaps if you're going to throw a childish fit over my post, you should go hunt all those folks down and yell at them for saying the same thing.

    Again, this blog is not a technical blog and you're a moron for not taking notice of that fact, which is all over the blog. I'm sorry that you're not intelligent enough to make the observation.

  3. On a side note: I didn't damn it, I simply pointed out what many have already said about the Sony eReader. But I'm not responsible for your inability to read.

  4. Anonymous4:00 AM

    Ask him if he'll give you thousands of dollars so you can buy them all and test them.

    Why's looking for comparisons if he owns one, anyway? O_o

  5. Anonymous4:03 AM

    >Why is this person allowed so much space to air his 'no experience views.

    Oh yeah, and: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. What does he thinks blogs are for? :p


  6. Anonymous4:12 AM

    Oh oh oh, maybe it's Sanders?

    Ok I'm going to work now. Really.

  7. hey - you could check out the 'see a kindle in your city' forum at amazon and get a kindle owner to show your your kindle.
    i run a social network for kindle owners at and you cna ask owners there too.

    overall i've found that people who own it like it a lot more than they initially thought they would.