Kindle Fire, Kobo Vox, and iPhone 4s: A New Breed of EReader

Oct 27, 2011

Amazon's Kindle Fire, releasing November 15th, is setting more than a little spark in the world of mobile devices. The original Kindle was a dedicated ereader but with Fire, Amazon is moving squarely into tablet territory. And a good thing too!

 For a large company Amazon is still pretty nimble, and able to change quickly with the times. It had success at the beginning with just selling books but when the company expanded into selling non-media products-like kitchen wares, curtains, and baby toys-it really took off. Even with the wide array of products available on Amazon, it has often touted the Kindle as its best selling item. Now with cell phone screens getting bigger and tablets getting smaller, are dedicated ereaders on the way out?  After all, just how many gadgets can one person juggle? Phone, MP3 player, laptop, camera, ereader, games: all in one is just easier.

At $199 the Fire is an affordable alternative to the iPad. According to sources pre-sale orders for Fire are more than all the other new Kindle models combined.

Not to be outdone, Kobo announced Vox, an affordable (also $199) ereader/tablet, which is wireless-enabled with web browsing, email capabilities, and can run Android apps. It even comes pre-loaded with Twitter and Facebook to emphasize what they call "social reading." Kobo Vox will begin shipping October 28th.

Of course the big news this month is the release of the long-awaited iPhone 4s. No, it's not quite what everyone was hoping for, but it's got some interesting upgrades-including lots more memory, and more storage means more room for more media and ebooks. The iBook app allows you to buy books straight from Apple, and you can also read PDFs. The Kindle app for iPhones no longer allows for in-app purchasing but you can still add Kindle ebooks to your phone in a more roundabout fashion.

Reading books on a phone hasn't been as popular in North America as it's been in other parts of the world-especially Asia-but the 4s is making it easier than ever to read a book on your phone. Small, hard-to-read text has been one of the main complaints here, but iBooks allows you to enlarge the text while you're reading and it makes for a much easier reading experience. (The 4s also has a neat "Reader" feature that allows for most web pages to be read much more easily.)

Purely in the interest of research, I was forced (forced I tell you!) to go out and buy the iPhone 4s. And my verdict? It's really freaking cool. Apologies for my scientific jargon. I downloaded iBooks and went into the online store to see what it had.  Within 30 seconds I was able to download Pride and Prejudice for free and I was pleasantly surprised at how readable the text was. Not just the size but the sepia tone makes it much easier on the eyes-more like e-ink.

The size of the text is one advantage but the small size of the device might actually be an advantage as well. The tablets and dedicated ereaders are closer in size to a book and in my mind that gave them the advantage of familiarity. But you can hold the iPhone in one hand much easier than a larger reader or tablet. And while holding the phone you can flip pages with the thumb of that same hand. I found it much simpler than trying to flip a paperback one-handed. (My books' pages have the creases and tears to prove it.)

Thus far I've been reluctant to commit to one ereader. Yes, your ebookworm is a bit indecisive. But my iPhone 4s just may be the solution I was looking for. Not only is it one less thing to carry, but the one-handed reading will mean maybe I won't fall over on the bus as often.

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