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Ereaders Performance (continued)
Ereader Navigation.Ebook readers should be easy to use, and that means an interface that's straightforward and navigation tools that don't interfere with the reading experience. Manufacturers keep trying to simplify these devices, and with the introduction of touchscreens -- the new "in" thing for ereaders, and undoubtedly inspired by the surging popularity of touchscreen tablets -- ease of use has improved.
Ereaders reviews are enthusiastic about touchscreens, which let you tap, drag, and/or gesture to initiate an action. An ereaders review on CNET calls the Nook touchscreen responsive, requiring a mere swipe to turn a page. The pinch-and-grab functionality of the Sony Reader Wi-Fi touchscreen that resizes the page earns an approving nod in ereaders reviews; Engadget says it's fast enough with text but notes it lags a bit with detail-heavy web pages. The quick response of the Kobo eReader Touch similarly earns praise in an ereaders review on TechCrunch. The touchscreen design on these ereaders hasn't done away with buttons entirely, however -- our top picks, except for the eReader Touch, retain the page-turning button as an alternative to the swipe.
Then there are the touchscreen-free ereaders. The Aluratek Libre Pro and Ectaco jetBook Lite have buttons along the edge and a navigation pad at the bottom. Although reviewers generally find the physical buttons easy enough to use, some ereaders reviews complain that the interfaces aren't as intuitive as other ebook readers. ZDNet and The Gadgeteer say the spring-loaded page-turn button on the side of the Libre Pro is awkward, although a second page-turn button seems to work better. Users posting ereaders reviews of the Libre Pro on Target like being able to pick up where they left off without having to bookmark a page, and the obvious functionality of the jetBook Lite is much appreciated, according to ereaders reviews.
Ereader Text Formats.Some ebook readers support a variety of text, audio, and image formats, but the text formats are what count. The more text formats an ebook reader supports, the easier it will be to find ebooks and other reading material for the device. Perhaps the most popular ereader format these days is EPUB. Many libraries, bookstores (such as Barnes & Noble), and online resources make books available in the EPUB ereader format. The Nook, Kobo eReader Touch, Sony Reader Wi-Fi, and Ectaco jetBook Lite all support EPUB as well as Adobe's popular PDF format; ditto for the Aluratek Libre Pro and Libre Air. Other ereader formats you may come across include TXT, Mobi, and RTF. Note that Amazon's Kindle Touch and ebooks bought from Amazon use a proprietary format called AZW, but the Kindle Touch and other Kindle models can also read TXT and PDF files.
One ereader format the Kindle can't read is a non-AZW, DRM (digital rights management)-protected file. Ebooks purchased at bookstores are often DRM-protected, meaning when you purchase the ebook, it will work on your ebook reader and PC but not on anyone else's. Sharing is out and everyone has to buy their own copy of an ebook. (The one exception to this rule is the Nook; if you own a Nook you can share an ebook with another user for up to 14 days using Barnes & Noble's ereader software.) Most ebook readers include support for DRM-protected EPUB and PDF files by using a product called Adobe Digital Edition, which manages and "approves" DRM products on your ebook reader. All the ebook readers on our list except the Kindle are compatible with at least some DRM-protected formats.
Ereaders Audio/Image Formats.Aside from ereader formats for text, many manufacturers add support for other types of files, such as audio and image files. These features aren't critical for cheap ebook readers, but they are nice to have.
Three of the ebook readers we researched, the Kindle Touch, Sony Reader Wi-Fi, and Aluratek Libre Pro, support the common MP3 audio format. Just about any type of audio file can be converted to MP3, and there are plenty of MP3 files around, from music to audio books. Don't expect your ebook reader to rival an iPod for music quality or MP3 player features -- that's not what an ebook reader is designed to do. But ebook readers with audio support can certainly play MP3 audio books or music files, should you desire that functionality.
Image support is another fun extra feature for inexpensive ebook readers. This frill means the ereader can display book illustrations and pictures from e-versions of newspapers or magazines that you can subscribe to through online bookstores. There are all kinds of image formats, but most budget ebook readers, including all the ereaders on our list, support JPG; all the ereaders we researched, except the Kindle Touch and Aluratek Libre Pro, support the GIF, PNG, and BMP image formats.
Don't Bother Cheap eBook Readers
Aluratek Libre eBook Reader Pro
The Aluratek Libre Pro is bargain-priced right now, but that diminutive price tag doesn't look nearly as attractive when compared to the sub-$100 Kindles. The Libre Pro is one of the older ereaders out there, and its lack of internal memory, touchscreen, and Wi-Fi support makes the device seem very outdated. Read more »
Ectaco jetBook Lite Review
Aluratek Libre eBook Reader Pro Review
Kobo eReader Touch Review
Sony Reader Review
Barnes & Noble Nook Review
Amazon Kindle Touch Review
Are eBooks a bargain in comparison to traditional books? Read our analysis to find out the pros and cons of each.
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