I know. Shocking.
As I imagine that most of you are fairly good with everyday technology, I'm going to talk a little bit about e-readers. For those of who who live in a cave somewhere, "e-reader" is simply short for "electronic reader", meaning it (and you) can read things in digital form and formats.
It doesn't mean that you can read electricity, smartass.
The main ones out there (at least that I'm familiar with) seem to be Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and a few others like the Kobo. The iPad could also be considered an e-reader, because e-readers are basically slightly less complicated tablet computers. Apple also has apps for reading books on crossover platforms, like the Kindle, that you can install on your computer, iPad, or iPhone.
What are the differences? There are quite a few, price notwithstanding. Most makers make models in a range of prices and features, so just do your research before buying one.
Most Kindle models (not the new Fire which is more of a tablet computer) have "e-ink" which makes the text and screen look like an actual page in a book. I have a Kindle, and it's wonderful for reading outdoors, as there is very little glare and the text is visible in high-light situations. The downside is that you'd need a light to read by, just like a traditional book. The Kindle Fire and a lot of other e-readers (as well as the iPad) are back-lit like a laptop or smartphone screen. This allows for great colors, yet can be hard to use outdoors or where it's very bright.
Connectivity is another. Most connect to a WiFi network, and some also connect over 3G or 4G networks, too. Again, it depends on what your needs are. On a non-objective note, as someone who now lives overseas, I hear a lot of people who have Nooks are irritated that they can't get their full range of use from them unless they're using some kind of IP blocker, or connected directly to their computers. I'm not positive as to what they're complaining about; I don't own one. Kindles don't seem to have that problem. Just keep this in mind if you plan on doing any overseas traveling and taking your trusty e-reader with you.
Formats...this is a big difference. Different e-readers read different types of files (Kindle books come in .mobi files, for example) though most will read things like PDFs without any trouble.
Touch screen? All the major brands have at least one model that includes a touch screen. I kind of like that my Kindle doesn't have it; I'm less likely to turn a page by accident.
|Don't use a drill on your e-reader.|
Are they hard to use? In a word, no. There's a slight learning curve, but they're very simple to use and set up if you bother to read the instructions. My husband and I got one for my 60 year old mother for Christmas, and she was able to figure it out without any problems, WiFi set up and everything.
Prices of e-books make the cost of owning an e-reader advantageous. They're typically a lot cheaper than a paper-and-ink book (no shipping, printing, or other related costs), and make carrying around a whole library of your favorites effortless. On the other hand, there's nothing like holding onto a real book, feeling the pages beneath your fingers, and smelling the paper and ink.
For great reviews, check out Consumer Reports (you'll need a subscription for online, or pick up a magazine with reviews in it), or PC World. Wikipedia's page on e-reader comparisons has a huge amount of information, including breakdowns by whether the e-reader has an e-ink display, whether it supports a certain file format, etc. Chances are good that you can find one that suits your needs. Happy reading!
Do you own one? If yes, which one? Do you like it? If not, do you want one?