Are e-readers -- the Kindle, the Sony, the iPhone -- the "books" of the future? Is the future... today?
Which e-readers are the most popular in today's market?
The two top contenders in the e-reader market are the latest generations of the Amazon's Kindle 2 (released 2/09) and
Sony's PRS-700 (released 10/08). Amazon seems to be running in the lead with its more appealing feature of a free wireless connection to the Amazon Kindle store, whereas the Sony PRS-700 still requires wired download from a PC. Easy downloads from Amazon offer a selection of over 230,000 e-books, magazines, and newspapers (US and international). Amazon's Kindle 2 can hold over 1000 books, whereas Sony's PRS-700 e-reader holds only 360 books. (The Kindle 2's wireless feature also gives you easy wireless access to Wikipedia for word look-ups.)
Both units have a 6" screen and weigh approximately 10 ounces. The appearance of the two readers, however, is as different as black and white! The Kindle 2 is housed in off-white plastic, and the SONY PRS-700 is of black metal. Another obvious difference is the Kindle 2 maintains a keyboard while the SONY has moved to a touch screen. According to reviewers, some screen readability was given up for this new feature.
The Kindle 2 now also includes a "TEXT to Speech" feature. The list of similarities and differences in features for both these e-readers is long and merits investigation before making a decision and a purchase.
There are other e-readers out there, but the Kindle 2 and SONY PRS-700 seem to be running in the lead at the current time. The competition, however, is growing in the e-reader world as others try to get a piece of the action. Like any other major purchase, be sure to investigate your options through the numerous reviews and sites available before making your selection.
Let's talk e-reader and e-book prices!
The Kindle 2 is available on Amazon for $359. The SONY PRS-700 runs about $400. Other lesser competitors range in price from $230 to $700.
Can an existing device (like a phone) work as a reader
Amazon is offering a scaled-down version of their Kindle reader to iPhone/iPod Touch users for free via iTunes
. Why free
? Because then you have even more reason to download Amazon's Kindle ebooks -- which, as profitable as the Kindle device itself may be, the real money comes from the sale of digital books.
Of course, the iPhone ebook reader experience isn't at all on par with that offered by its expensive cousin. For starters, the screen is a lot smaller, and the iPhone Kindle reader doesn't offer the same easy-on-the-eyes display that looks and reads quite a bit like real paper.
But if you already have an iPhone or iPod touch and want to give the e-book thing a go without investing beaucoup bucks in a new device -- or simply want the flexibility of having your books available on two devices -- this iTunes download is a nice option at the right price.
Might a future without traditional books make us non-readers?
Probably not. In fact, it may end up doing just the opposite! With the availability of such a huge selection of reading choices at our fingertips, e-readers may end up sparking a renewed interest in reading. Who knows, there may even be a newfound interest in reading for kids, already so very comfortable with the use of technology.
Can a future with e-readers help the environment?
Reducing the number of printed books, newspapers and periodicals may not be a bad thing when you think of the number of trees needed for printed material each year. A future world populated with e-readers could, certainly, help reduce the number of trees used. For example, according to Eco-librus, the number of trees cut down annually for the production of books sold in the U.S. alone is near 30 million! Imagine what an environmental difference it would make using e-readers for not only books, but newspapers and magazines, as well.
So... where does that leave us?
Does this all seem sci-fi to you? Are traditional books destined to become obsolete? Will electronic devices be our books of the future? Can Isaac Asimov's prediction come true? Share your ideas in the comments section below!
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