Choosing a Reader for eBooks

I am hesitant to write this post, its so loaded with the issues surrounding ebooks.  At the same time I get asked this question at least once a week so the time has come to put fingers to keys and share my 2 cents.

The question – What ebook reader should I buy?  My answer – that depends.

First skip over the issue of dropping prices and improvements, issues with DRM and any other issues you have with ebooks and assume you want an ereader right now. These are the people who are asking me.  I’ve come to realize that choosing an ereader is a little like buying a vehicle, which one you get depends in part on how you want to use it. There is no one right answer for everyone.

Sony Reader, Nook, Kindle


My sister and a friend of mine both have a Nook.  The Nook is a great choice for them. They both love Barnes and Noble. They live in cities with B&N stores and visit often so they get to take advantage of the reading in store options. They could lend titles to friends, though neither of them has found a title they can actually loan. They could use them for library books, but despite my frequent urges (and emailing of links) neither of them has bothered to use it to check out books from their local public library *sigh*


My sister and I are getting my Dad an ereader for Christmas (I hope this is not the one time he decides to read this blog). He reads a lot and is an hour from the closest book store and often complains of having read most of what the local public library has. (Unfortunately this is probably true). The library doesn’t offer ebooks and most likely wont any time soon so that isn’t an issue in the decision. We want the process of adding books to be as easy as possible for him, no connecting to a computer, that ruled out a Sony. We decided against the Nook because we we think he might find the touch screen frustrating.  That leaves the Kindle. Nice buttons, easy to download content to and a decent selection of limited time promotional free titles that he can browse in addition to classics and fee titles.

Sony eReader

I know a lot of library patrons who are very happy with their Sony devices. I’ve seen them with all of them at this point.  The Sony devices handle pdf files far better than the Kindle or the Nook.  They work with library ebooks, if your primary use will be library books get a Sony device. The catalog of purchased titles works great and the Sony allow different formats of ebooks to be loaded, it has the most flexibility.


Not only does it have the iBook store but apps for Kindle and others. You can read PDFs. No library ebooks.  Color screen, great for picture books and comics.  Great if you don’t want a dedicated device.

There are plenty of charts out there comparing them. But in a nutshell this the best aspect of each:

  • Kindle – note-taking options, across device syncing, keypad, free promotional titles
  • Nook – free reading in B&N, loaning possibility, OverDrive ebooks
  • Sony – PDFs and OverDrive ebooks in addition to Sony’s catalog of ebooks
  • iPad – color, larger screen, more stores for purchasing.

Without knowing how you want to use the ereader I don’t know which to recommend. You need to figure out how YOU will use it.

Have an ereader? leave a comment and let me know why you love it (or hate it).

PS Why I Chose Kindle

52 thoughts on “Choosing a Reader for eBooks

  1. @librarianbyday This is great, thanks! Trying to figure out which one to buy my husband…I’m leaning towards the nook!


  2. I think you nailed it – it all depends on how you are going to use your reader and your points of access to electronic books. I purchased a Nook because I wanted to be able to download books from our public library in addition to buying books from B&N. I also love the free Friday promotions that B&N has been doing this summer. I wish the dictionary were a little easier to use and more comprehensive, but it still is pretty sweet to have that feature readily available when you are reading.


  3. Great post! There’s no one-size-fits-all eReader. Like Milena, I bought a Nook because I wanted a device I’d be able to use with my library system’s downloadable collection. It works like a charm for that.


      1. I love my iPad. I can’t afford to get all these different devices – ebook reader, smart phone, laptop, etc. It would be nice if I could choose when it’s backlit and when it isn’t, but all in all it’s perfect for me.

        Re library ebooks, I *can* read my library’s netlibrary books, although their interface isn’t really well suited for it.


  4. I have the Sony E-Reader Pocket Edition and I love it. It is very basic (no touch screen or wifi) and the small size is great. The Sony Reader Store works just like iTunes so that’s easy enough. My local public library just joined Overdrive last week and I already have two books checked out. I am looking forward to the day when DRM and standardization is no problem for e-readers but, in the meantime, I’m happy with what I’ve got… and I am ecstatic that my PL now has e-books!


  5. For me the main reason why I chose the Nook had to do with the fact that I could transfer all the ePub titles I had already purchased elsewhere. All 100+ titles were transferred without problems. And I am also able to download files from vendors, locations other than B&N.


  6. I chose the nook with wifi (not 3G). 1-use with overdrive via my public library, 2-trusted brand name in the book business, 3- have B&N bricks and mortar near me, 4-like the look, design, touch and feel, 5-easy to use, love downloading a book in bed at night via the home wifi network, 6-like the price. Things not so nice: battery life, cumbersome dictionary, but adequate if you just type in the word, rather than navigate to highlight and search, slow on the uptake, but when put in sleep mode, reacts quickly. Got me a nice brick red leather cover (if you covet the smell of leather bound books) and loving it!


  7. I have had a Sony PRS-505 eReader for 3 years now and love that it handles pdf, ePub, and MS Word files. It fits my hand easily for one handed reading & page turns, and has an SD card slot for more ebook storage.

    I recently purchased a refurbished Kindle and the biggest advantages I see are page sync across devices (Kindle, Mac & iPhone) and the instant download vs. having to use the Sony Reader Store (which is SLOW and clunky.) The Kindle does feel “cheaper” being made of plastic and has a bigger body which isn’t as comfortable holding one handed vs. Sony’s metal and smaller body. I also keep hitting the next page button by accident all the time on the Kindle. I wish Sony would develop an iPhone app, too!

    As you’ve said, you have to decide how you’re going to use the reader to decide which to purchase. Since I had so many ebooks already purchased in pdf format, Sony was my best choice (Sony and Kindle were the only options out at the time.) I’m not as impressed with the Nook – testing it out in the store I found it annoying and distracting. I don’t like the touch screen strip on the bottom and menu selection feature.

    I would like to get my hands on an iPad for some extended experimenting, but with my ADD I don’t know how much I’d end up using it as an ebook reader. I’m sure I’d be multi-tasking more than dedicated book reading.


    1. Heather – After first seeing and playing with an ipad I thought it would be my ebook reader of choice. But after experimenting with using my netbook to read ebooks to see if I found reading on a screen an issue I found I needed a dedicated device. I am too easily distracted 🙂


  8. I own a Pocket Sony and a nook. I really like both of them. I guess I prefer the Sony for OverDrive eBooks (device displays days left until the license expires; can delete directly from the device when expired; have to connect to the computer anyway to transfer), but if I’m going to buy something I’ll go for the nook so that it can sync with my Droid.


  9. I’m a novice thinking about buying a reader. Your comments on netbooks awakened me to that possibility but knowing nothing about them, could you guide me to a site that tells all?


        1. @librarianbyday I actually do have a few questions . . . does Nook archive the way Kindle does? Are the books you can read in BN 1/3


        2. @librarianbyday editions? When you “share” books on a Nook, are they available on both devices (the owner and the borrower) at the same 2/3


                1. @librarianbyday that’s a bummer . . . but, I suppose that since none of the other devices allow sharing at all, it’s not a deal-breaker


  10. I recently borrowed a Kindle and didn’t get on too well with it – you can see my list of pros and cons at

    The main disappointment for me was the difficulty in using it to read PDFs or other documents. Admittedly, I didn’t get chance to try the emailing (it’s a shared Kindle and my email wasn’t on the approved list), but my main reason for testing was for work-related reading and I just didn’t find it useful for that purpose.

    I love this flowchart for a light-hearted way of figuring out which e-reader might be best for you:


    1. That chart is great! I did rule out an ipad due to the LCD screen and weight.

      I have to say I got mine mostly to read PDFs, the Kindle 3 does handle them better than the 2 but you do still need to manually rotate to landscape mode. Its not perfect but its a lot better than 3 inches of paper when I travel. It also allows highlighting and notes which is a huge plus for me. When I’m doing with file I copy and paste all of them into a Google Doc with the citation for easy reading and searching later.

      I do think the DX would be optimal for PDFs but I’m waiting for the price to drop. If it get closer to $200 its mine! 🙂


    1. Jean – I just got my hands on one last week. Its a nice little device if you’re looking for a multi-function device – email, light web surfing, stuff like that. Its a little heavy but you’ll get used to it.

      I would not recommend a back lite color device for anyone who wants a device solely for reading or who reads for extended periods of time. Go with a dedicated e-ink device.


  11. Have you tried an iPad since OverDrive released their app that let’s patrons read EPUB ebooks? It works well from my iPod Touch, although not my reader of choice. I do like having a dedicated ereader also, and use my Nook constantly for myself and library training.


    1. Kristi Unfortunately I don’t have an ipad so I haven’t been able to check it out. Regardless of how well it works I know I personally prefer to read on the e-ink type screens, they are just easier on my eyes.


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