Justin The Librarian VS eBook readers

Sony Reader Touch Edition

RATING: 3/10

WHAT I LIKED:  The text on screen is beautiful.  Easy to read, pleasing on the eyes, and well formatted, the on screen text gets 2.5 of the 3 points I gave the Sony Reader.  I like that it’s library friendly…sort of.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: Pretty much everything else.  The size of the eReader is manageable.  It felt like I was holding a larger sized paperback.  The page turning was a bit tedious, as the next page takes just enough time to load up to make it irritating.  I found it really confusing to navigate the menus.  Many times, I was confused as to whether I was to use the buttons or the touch screen.  And another thing about the touch screen; it’s just not that responsive.  The device felt pretty limited to just downloading and reading books.  In the age of multitasking, this machine just simply fails.  Downloading books onto your computer and then uploading them to your eReader is cumbersome.  I didn’t like that at all.

ON THE OTHER HAND: It’s pretty simple and straightforward to use.  I could see someone who’s OK at technology being able to handle this device if it comes preloaded.


Rating: 8.5/10

WHAT I LIKED: Like most (all?) Apple devices, the iPad is easy to operate and, c’mon you gotta admit it, pretty fun to play with.  As an eReader, the device shines.  The bookmarking and highlighting system are all very easy to use and manage.  I’m not a big highlighter but I found myself enjoying this feature more than I normally with with a traditional book.  Page turning is a breeze.  In fact, it’s quite neat to watch.  The font adjustment system works well, although personally I would like to see some more font options.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: The Apple iBook store sucks.  While the search option works just find, simply browsing through titles is a chore.  You have to wade through page after page and after awhile it just becomes tedious.  Also, Apple, you are a little bitch.  There’s a sad lack of multi-tasking on the a device that seems to be PERFECT for multitasking.  Apple’s very “CLOSED NO YOU CAN’T SHARE OR BORROW” attitude towards eBooks is very sad.  I don’t want to have to buy an eBook every time I want to read it.  Seriously, you’re driving me away with this.

ON THE OTHER HAND: People are gonna flock to this and treat it like a cute little baby, which is understandable.  The iPad is enjoyable to use and very welcoming to people with all sorts of technology experience.  The iBook store can be frustrating and limiting, but once you get into a book it is very easy to read and quite enjoyable.


Rating: 7/10

WHAT I LIKED: Damn you Kindle.  I wanted to hate you.  All that you are is a simple black and white eBook reader.  I have to buy a lot of the things I want to read from you.  I don’t see how libraries can borrow from the Kindle and that makes me super bummed.  But here’s the deal.  I ended up liking you…a lot.  The Kindle is small and cozy enough that it wasn’t a drag to hold.  The eInk technology was pretty beautiful.  I’ve heard from lots of people that “eBooks don’t look and feel like real books, so I won’t read them”.  eInk pretty much takes care of that.  I got lost in a Kindle book and I forgot that I wasn’t actually reading “a real book” (whatever that means).  This is probably a good sign.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: The Kindle is clunky.  I would’ve given it a 7.5 if the buttons were a little more friendly.  I had a hell of a time figuring out how to change the font size and getting the text to speech option to work.  In the age of being able to just change pages and access things with the flick of your finger ala the iPad, I found the Kindle to be clunky for no good reason.  Also, c’mon Amazon.  Be a little more friendly.  I like shopping at Amazon but it isn’t the only place I want to shop at.

ON THE OTHER HAND: I always think of my mother when it comes to new technology.  She’s one of those people that with adjustment to new technology it takes awhile for her to get comfortable.  The Kindle, with a few minor tweaks, could be something she could latch onto.


Rating: 5/10

WHAT I LIKED: The clunkiness of the Amazon Kindle is gone with the Barnes and Noble Nook.  The handy two screen interface keeps the main reason why you’re staring at this device (the book) right in front of you while you do all the other things that you want to do (change font size, look for another book, etc).  As with the other eInk displays, the Nook looks beautiful.  I’m also of the fan of the LendMe feature.  This is the mon ost library-like optioffered by the family of eReaders.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: I found the Nook to be quite slow compared to the other eReaders.  It took awhile for me to navigate.  It took some time to load up the books and turn the pages.  Overall, it just felt weak once I used the other devices.  The color touch pad navigation screen is a great idea but I found it to be too small and clunky for my tastes.  Instead of really working as a great tool, often times I found it to be more a nuisance.  A great idea, but poor execution doesn’t take it over the top.

ON THE OTHER HAND: Like the Kindle, this is something my mother could easily get into.  The draw for fans of Barnes and Noble stores is easily there, plus you can get loads of good eBook materials other ways should you choose.



What it all really comes down to is personal preference.  I could sit here all day and tell you about the ins and outs of each device, how DRM isn’t a great thing, and the little quirks that each offers and how they could be improved.  But here’s the deal…just try each one out for yourself and over time you’ll find which one works best for you.

This is the area where I think libraries can really excel at this time.  There’s so much confusion about how to lend out books and who actually owns them that is causing a lot of progress to come to a screeching halt.  It doesn’t seem like these kind of things are gonna be fixed anytime soon, so let’s take the next step. The public library should be the testing grounds for these devices.  We can learn about the ins and outs, show them to our patrons, and from there they can make a more informed decision about what they want.


  1. I was with you until you picked the Kindle over the Nook. I would have rated the Kindle what you rated the Nook and the Nook the Kindle. I think it really does come down to taste between these two devices though, because they really are quite similar. The big reason I like the Nook over the Kindle is because I do a lot of tutorial reading on websites, so I found the web surfing feature on the Nook to be a feature I couldn’t live without. This convenience alone would make me a buyer if I was was foolish enough not to wait until the bugs in these devices (they all have them) are worked out in subsequent versions. I can’t afford to be an early adopter.

    • Scott: Very interesting. I didn’t really get to check out much of the Nook’s web browsing abilities. I will have to do that soon.

      What kind of bugs are you talking about? Care to share some insight?

  2. FWIW, you mention LendMe in the Kindle section…that’s a Nook feature. Kindle doesn’t have any sort of lending ability.

    Otherwise, great roundup…you ranked them just as I would have. The Kindle, for all its faults, is a slick device.

  3. Thanks Jason. I must’ve goofed when writing the post. I always find myself getting lost in the WordPress text box when writing any kind of posts.

    And thanks for reading. I really do think it’s such a simple thing that it really all comes down to what people feel most comfortable with. The hard part about this? What if you REALLY like two (for me, it is iPad plus Kindle. Ugh)

  4. Your review of the iPad leaves much to be desired. The iPad is a great device but a key point you fail to mention is that the iPad is a computer that happens to be able to handle ebooks as one of it many applications. As such, the screen is not e-ink and will strain your eyes after extended viewing as all backlit (not reflective as e-ink is) screens will. You can not read it in bright sunlight/light and it is expensive. I could go on but to call the iPad a true ebook reader is a little misleading. The kindle and nook are true ebook readers as they are exclusively designed for e-reading.

    • Sorry I didn’t reply sooner, as I wanted to give your comment proper attention and I had to digest it.

      One of the big troubles I had with these reviews was trying to focus on the eReader aspect only. I’ve read one full book on the iPad and I really enjoyed it. I think the experience (the flipping of pages, the bookmarking, the highlighting) was what really sold it to me. I did miss the Kindle eInk and I will agree that it was a bit harder on the eyes.

  5. I finally decided I had to look at devices two ways, one as a librarian, two as an individual. As a librarian I have real issues with the Kindle as and individual it is my ereader of choice. My new Kindle should arrive next week

    • Good idea Bobbi. I think that is the main struggle I had with writing this post. Justin The Casual Reader would be present, only to have Justin The Librarian pop in from time to time and confuse things.

      I totally agree with you on the Kindle…

    • Bobbi, I am a librarian, too, and I was wondering what – as a librarian – your issues are with the Kindle. I have not used any of the eReaders to date, but our library will be purchasing Kindles (LSTA Grant) soon.

      • Hi Tamara, As a librarian my largest issue with the Kindle is that it does not work with OverDrive and other DRM protect ebooks that libraries lend to their patrons.

  6. Have you checked out the Kobo? It is available at Borders in the US. It came out in Canada in May preloaded with 100 public domain titles. At the time, the price point was the feature. Considerably cheaper than Kindle or Ipad in Canada. Not so much the case now. Kobo also has an Ipad app.

  7. I purchased a Nook primarily to experiment with downloading ebooks from our website to better help patrons. The DRM makes it rough. It is great at buying books from B&N. The interface is a bit tricky, but (after years of denial) I admit I am tech savvy and I enjoy the Nook’s form factor more so than Kindle. The web browser is horrid, but works good if all you are doing is connecting to a locked down wifi connection.

    It really is a good reader if you don’t mind paying for books. For libraries and library users, we have a way to go.

    LIBRARIANS = Stop schilling for Apple!
    LIBRARIANS = Stop compromising the values that are core to our profession and lets work around the Adobe corporation.


    • LIBRARIANS = Stop schilling for Apple!
      -There is a lot of that, isn’t there? I just really got into the iPad when I saw my wife and son really getting into it. They were able to do so much. My wife also really enjoyed reading books on it, so I gave it a try and I found that I dug it as well.

      I tried EVER SO HARD to think of the iPad in terms of just eReading, but it was tough. It really shouldn’t be lumped together with eReaders as I think about it more.

      LIBRARIANS = Stop compromising the values that are core to our profession and lets work around the Adobe corporation.


  8. I totally agree about the iPad’s iBook app and store. I find myself using the Kindle app on my iPad and downloading my books from there. The iBook store is hard to navigate and doesn’t seem to have nearly as many choices. That being said I still love the iPad and I find reading a Kindle book more enjoyable on my iPad than on my actual Kindle.

    • Very interesting! I still haven’t decided whether I enjoyed reading on the Kindle or the iPad Kindle app more. I think I just really like having the choice to go where I feel like at the moment.

  9. Without a (somewhat) universal format, the iPad is an easy win for me. App versatility allows you to still access your Kindle/Nook/other books, read PDFs, comics and a variety of other documents. The iBooks store is definitely lacking, but it’s hardly the only way to get content on the iPad. It’s more expensive, but it also does much more than the other ebook readers listed.

  10. I have been using Sony Reader Touch since it came out a year ago. Many issues with it but one HUGE advantage — I can check out and read library books from Overdrive at my library. I had to get used to many quirks but I have them nailed. Have read hundreds of library ebooks, never purchased one and probably never will. You have to buy Kindle books.

    • You’ve inspired me to investigate eReaders and Overdrive. I have had a lot of trouble with Overdrive in the past (seems a bit clunky to me) but like you, I don’t want to buy books. I want to borrow them. I think the other eReaders realy need to get their heads around this idea.

      • Overdrive and Sony eReader: put either PDFs or ePub books on at one time. Don’t mix or you won’t be able to read them (my experience anyway).

  11. I have a Sony Pocket Reader (PRS 300, which is not touch screen), and I’ve been really happy with it. I was not looking for a multitasking device, just to read books, so that is fine. I have smoothly checked out and uploaded to the Reader dozens of books, in EPUB format, from Seattle Public Library. This is the big advantage of the Sony Reader over the Kindle, for me.

  12. I agree with you on just about all points. My library system is doing exactly what you suggested, although right now, it’s just the staff that is rating and trying out the various readers. I own a Nook and like it for its ability to sync with public library e-books, its lending feature (although it’s a miserly 1-time loan/book for only 10 days), and for its ability to be a web browser or email checker in a pinch. (it also has chess and sudoku when you’re tired of reading) The touch screen is definitely a little counter-intuitive, but I’m used to it. The Kindle seems easier to use and a bit faster, but I don’t like that it’s tied solely to Amazon. I let my son use my borrowed Sony e-reader for his summer reading, and he loved it. Like Nook, it’s compatible with public library and NetLibrary ebooks. Unlike Nook, it has a touch e-ink screen. As you said, each has its quirks, but as a public librarian, my vote has to be with the Nook and Sony E-reader because they play nice. 🙂

  13. I’ve had the new cheap Kindle for a week and like it more than I anticipated. Considered the Sony ereader and tried searching local OPACS for ebooks. There’s not enough inventory in my area to justify the purchase of a Sony ereader.

  14. We bought & are learning about ebook devices at my public library. Borders also has a very cheap LibrePro which works quite well for reading and can slip in the back pocket of your jeans. We are have a “ebook fair” this fall for our patrons to try them all out. I am seriously thinking of buying some of the LibrePros to either circulate or give to our librarians who do book discussions. So far my favorite has been the SONY Reader, the Kindle is too heavy for me (plus buying all the books… ), the nook and LibrePro are tied for second on my list. I haven’t yet had the ipad but the size is an issue. We are also getting a small netbook to see how that works for this type of application.

  15. I wouldn’t classify IPad as an e-reader, that’s just one of it’s “apps”, and all the negative stuff Justin said about the IBookstore is true. It’s also about twice the size of the true e-book readers.

    Kindle was the easiest to use and download books for. If you order something for your kindle, it downloads automatically as soon as you make a wireless connection. It can also be used to listen to mp3s and browse the web (as much as you can with a small B&W screen).

    Nook also has a wireless interface, with the same limited browser capabilities as the Kindle. Downloading wasn’t as smooth with the Nook, though. The small touch screen is poorly executed, and it keeps turning itself off. An example–the “select” or “go to” button is small and skinny. If you miss it, which is easy to do, you wind up hitting one of the forward or back buttons. Frustrating and difficult to work with.

    The Sony was just primitive. You have to download you content to your PC, then connect the e-reader to the PC and copy the content to the e-reader. That’s because the machine has no internet connectivity. The touch screen is so insensitive that you need the attached stylus to really make it work. Kind of like a Palm from ten years ago.

  16. I have to say that versatility is the requirement for me with an e-reader.

    As a reader of many books and articles, as a student, as a librarian and as someone in the sciences, I have the need to be able to read ebooks, pdfs (some with multiple columns such as scientific articles), Word documents, rtf documents, txt documents, ppt files, and the odd excel file.

    I need to be able to quickly navigate these documents (jumping pages/chapters as well as quick page turning for scanning), occasionally highlight or comment, bookmarking (multiple if possible), and switch between documents.

    I have tried the Kobo, and the iPad and despite the price, the online store, the size and weight, the iPad is the only one that comes close to filling my requirements. I needed to purchase a few Apps to be able to get around the limitations of iBooks and the online store (there are Apps that allow one to directly load documents outside of the store and can handle more formats). Nothing else that I have tried, or read about, comes close.

    While the iPad is not ‘just’ an e-reader, it is the only one versatile enough for my requirements.

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