If you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for the book lover on your list, it might be a good time to get on the e-reader bandwagon. According to the latest issue of Consumer Reports, they’re lighter, cheaper and better than they’ve ever been. But how do you decide which one to choose? And do you choose a tablet or an e-reader?
Researching the various devices may help. Consumer Reports used criteria including readability, responsiveness, battery life and screen size for the study in its most recent issue. According to those criteria, Barnes and Noble’s Nook came out on top.
Sometimes, however, consumers need to test drive a product before buying it, and this is where the public library can help. “Every day I get four or five calls asking about e-readers,” says adult services coordinator Lynn Koenig.
Last summer the library acquired four devices with grant money from the Praxair Foundation: an iPad, a Sony Reader, a Nook Simple Touch and a Kindle. Plans are to attach the devices to a kiosk adjacent to the reference desk so patrons can experiment with the various designs and models. In addition, the library is offering several technology “petting zoos,” which allow patrons to come in and experiment with the various devices before choosing.
It’s easy to understand people’s fondness for the electronic devices.
“E-readers are great,” Koenig says. “It’s so easy to carry them around, and you can get so much for free. Many titles are available from the Baen Science Fiction Library and the Gutenberg Project.”
In addition to the works in the public domain, readers can download books through the public library, although these services have recently gone through a transition in northeast Kansas when the state ended its contract with the vendor OverDrive after the company increased prices. Audio books are now available through OneClickdigital, and 3M is the contractor for eBooks. Patrons can learn how to access these services from the library.
Free material is not the only benefit of using the devices.
“My iPad is a great nightlight,” says Lawrence resident Lorrie Windholz, who has read several books on her device. She also discovered a benefit of the new technology while reading “Anne of Green Gables” with her daughter. “Whenever she didn’t know a word, she just touched the screen and up popped the definition.”
Lawrence resident Rick Kittel is another e-fan. Kittel has had a Kindle for several years but is hoping to get the Kindle Fire for Christmas.
“It’s a smaller device, which I can play in my car,” he says. He’s also looking forward to playing more audio books. “My Kindle has a text-to-voice feature, but it isn’t like the Kindle Fire, which can play audio books.”
Christmas came early for reference librarian Yilan Zhao who received her Nook Tablet several weeks ago.
“I heard the registration would take a pretty long time during Christmas, so I had my holiday early,” she says.
Like most users of tablets, Zhao has discovered the many perks of owning her new gadget but admits that she still has to learn how to download pictures, podcasts and games on it.
Zhao’s colleague Koenig isn’t sure how she feels about all of the extras on her electronic device. She had a Sony Reader for several years but recently switched over to a tablet. “I was reading this past weekend and thought how easy it was to get distracted because while reading I found myself wanting to check my email or do other things on the Internet,” she says.
Despite all of the advantages of electronic devices, not everyone has jumped aboard the e-bandwagon. Library marketing director Susan Brown is among them. “I like the smell of books,” says Brown, who calls herself a late adopter of all technology. “It’s gotta be old and cheap before I will buy it.”
Brown may change her mind this holiday, though.
“I am going to go play with my 75-year-old mother’s Kindle this Christmas,” she says. “After that, we’ll see.”