Since Amazon first launched the Kindle back in 2007 for the princely sum of $399, eBook readers have come on leaps and bounds and prices have dropped fairly dramatically.
Now with so many eBook readers on the market it can be difficult to work out which is best.
The first decision you have to contend with is if you want to go for a dedicated eBook reader or tablet computer with a reading app.
Still, when eBook readers are compared with tablets, you’re never really on the same page, so let’s put 3 of the top models against each other before we look at the tablet option.
Let’s start with the Amazon Kindle range. The new Amazon Kindle Touch 3G, priced at around £169 is the most expensive of the bunch. Its main selling point is its touch screen interface, allowing easy navigation through your 3,000 book library.
The other advantage of this model is its 3G capability, giving you free internet access anywhere, anytime to download books to your hearts content. It also boasts a battery life of up to 2 months, ideal for outdoor holidays when plug sockets can be few and far between.
At almost £100 cheaper, the basic Amazon Kindle (2011 model) retails for around £89. It may not have the touch screen or 3G capabilities of its showy big brother, but this classically designed reader still has Wi Fi, holds up to 1,400 books and has a battery life of up to one month. And although 3G is handy for when you’re on the move, it’s not always ideal to have expensive kit in you rucksack on adventure holidays or more testing journeys.
One of Amazon’s main competitors is Kobo. Their Kobo eReader Touch edition retails for around £79.99, comes with 100 pre-loaded books, has a battery life of up to a month and weighs in at just 185g.
Unlike the Amazon Kindles, the Kobo Touch also has the option to expand the memory to 32GB using a micro SD card.
The main complaints voiced by Kobo users are its tendency to load books and pages slowly and the lack of a hardware page turn button. Meaning that you have to tap or swipe the screen to turn a page, which on crowded trains can involve some awkward maneuvering.
Sony PRS-T1 E-Reader
At around £129.99, the Sony PRS-T1 E-Reader gives you more flexibility than the Kindle when it comes to purchasing your eBooks, and even allows you to borrow books from the library. With Wi Fi capability (but no 3G) you can buy and download books easily, and there is also the option to increase the memory with a micro SD card.
The Sony will load pages faster than the Kobo, however its battery life is just two to three weeks (or 14,000 page turns as Sony measure it), which means that using one during adventure travel becomes tricky when you’re off to more remote areas.
eBook reader compared with tablet computer
If you just want to read and store books then the dedicated eBook reader is the cheaper option and generally will have better battery life. But if you want to be able to surf the internet, watch films and play games then a more expensive tablet could suit you better.
If it’s more than just reading that you are after, the obvious choice is the Apple iPad 3. With so much more capability than a simple eBook reader it seems unfair to even compare them. But at around £400 you really are paying for the extras.
The main cons are the shorter battery life (only 10 hours) and the LCD screen, which can make reading more tiring for your eyes. However the ability to surf the internet quickly and easily can be invaluable when you’re travelling, allowing you to book accommodation, check maps and weather and keep in touch with home.
Another plus point for the iPad is that you can take photos and film videos with it as well, negating the need to take a separate camera – but it’s not the most rugged of products.
The iPad is also facing new competition – the Microsoft Surface Tablet is hot on its heels, but whether it will be the game changer or just an also-ran is yet to be seen
So, eBook Reader or Tablet?
At the end of the day, your choice of eBook reader is always going to depend on your needs and budget, and probably on your familiarity with the various product manufacturers.
But while the Kobo and Sony offerings are good solid readers and have a few advantages over the Kindle, Amazon’s apparent drive to stay at the head of the market means that they will be constantly evolving and updating their readers.
And while Kindle may never become as synonymous with the eBook reader as Hoover has with the vacuum cleaner, it seems that unless other manufacturers give you a compelling reason to choose their reader, the Amazon Kindle is going to stay the obvious eBook reader to go for.
For more adventure travel info and guides, check out: Adventure Sports Gear: Penknife or Multitool?/ Top 10 travel apps for iPhone, iPad and smartphones / The Ultimate List of Extreme Sports / Airline weight restrictions: what every traveller needs to know/ The Rise of Gastro Adventuring
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