A few weeks ago, I was shopping in my local bookshop, and I was drawn to some e-readers that were there. A few years ago they were really expensive, but nowadays they are a lot cheaper. And with enough books the price-difference between en ebook and a regular book could make an e-reader economical justifiable (which is always an important factor when I buy something… ;)).

At home, I decided to do some homework. There are note that many e-readers available in the Netherlands, so the task of comparing all of them is feasible. There are just a few criteria for categorizing them:

– size: 5, 6, 8, 10 inch

– touch screen or not

– wifi / 3g

– file support

– memory

The readers are basically divided into two categories based on size: the smaller ones (5-6 inch) and the larger ones (8-10 inch). The smaller ones are better suited as a pocket-book-replacement, the larger ones (10 inch is almost as big as an A4) are document-replacement devices. Maybe in the future, I want a reader for both categories (a 10 inch reader for reading business documents, and maybe books at the office/home, and a 5-6 inch device for reading books), but let’s start with one… :) As the 8-10 inch versions are relatively expensive and I still don’t know whether I will use the reader a lot, the choice of a 5-6 inch device was not so hard.

A naive look at the touch-screen feature would be: a touch screen is better. Although a touch screen can provide a better user experience, a touch screen has its drawbacks as well. A touch screen has more glare and is not as crisp a a non-touch screen.

Wifi/3G support is a nice feature to buy books-on-the-go. Not something I desperately need. Wifi support would be a nice to have feature when it is combined with downloading the daily newspaper (or RSS-feeds) automatically onto your device. But for myself, this isn’t a must-have feature (when using public transport to get to your work every day this could be an interesting feature though).

The de-facto standard for ebooks nowadays is epub. Mobi is dead. But support for pdf, html, txt is useful.

Most (all?) e-readers come with internal memory. With some devices you can expand the memory using SD cards or micro-SD cards. Some e-readers use the USB mass-storage device class to connect to your PC, in that way you can just drag-and-drop files instead of using a proprietary program.

With these points in mind I began to search for my ideal device. The iRex devices are too large (and too expensive :)), the Kindle doesn’t support epub. The Sony PSR-300 doesn’t have expandable memory, the PSR-600 has glare-problems. Besides: both of them can’t be accessed as a mass-storage device. The BeBook doesn’t have expandable memory and is old. The txtr, Plastic Logic and the Nook are cool, but are not yet released.

So, my choices were limited to the BeBook Mini, the Cool-ER and the Cybook Opus. I linked the BeBook Mini the most, so I ended up buying that one. So, for once, I didn’t go for the most expensive and cool one, but for the cheapest one, with just enough features….

A week before I bought it, I already bought 2 ebooks. Some (technical) publishers offer ebooks on their site. Unlike most book stores their ebooks are not DRM protected, and when you buy an ebook you get a package with the .epub, .mobi and .pdf. That’s the way to go… A book is nothing more than text, protecting that with DRM doesn’t really makes sense: one way or another the DRM will be stripped out. So, with DRM you’re only frustrating your paying customers. Have a little faith in humanity :) I have no problem paying for my books (the time reading them is worth much more than the purchase price), but I’m definitely not going to pay for books that are protected with DRM. No way…

I read the first book I bought on my netbook using Calibre, which was quite ok and gave me the ‘go’ for myself to buy an e-reader.

Oreilly has a nice buy-3-pay-2 offer which is also valid for ebooks, so after I bought the e-reader I almost immediately bought 3 Oreilly books. And The Pragmatic Programmer offers 40% off for the next few days, when I read that, it took me about 25 minutes to buy 9 ebooks…. For 66 euro, that’s a great deal! That’s about the same as 2 dead tree books. So, I think that in no time the e-reader will pay for itself :)

I have the BeBook Mini for about a week, and I really love it. The screen it really nice. It is really weird, it does look like paper. It is completely different than LCD (or CRT :)), the refresh-rate is usually quick enough to read without annoying pauses while turning the page (turning a page in a regular book also takes time..). The device is a bit slow on a 6 MB epub I’m currently reading when starting a new chapter (I don’t know whether that’s because the chapter requires the reader to load a new .html within the .epub or because of the image at the start of each chapter). Another thing that worries me a bit it that it has already crashed twice. The first time was probably due to the battery (it was quite empty when I got it), but the second time the battery was full. Maybe I should just turn the e-reader off, instead of putting it away while on (an e-reader only uses energy when flipping a page (ok, and a little bit to check whether you have pressed a button), so letting it on is no problem (battery wise)).