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e-Readers: The books of tomorrow

Nina Spitzer is a SheKnows.com columnist and a freelance writer living in sunny Cave Creek, Arizona.

Digital books

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 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.

Kindle on iPhone/iPod touchOf 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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