Choosing the Best Portable Ebook Reader: Key Considerations – Audio and Memory

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Let me begin by listing again what I consider to be 7 key considerations that you should think about as you digest all the eBook reader reviews and comparisons so in gathering a list of the best eBook Readers, so you can choose that one great eReader you want to buy. Here they are again in no special order:

  • Form Factor
  • Audio
  • Memory / Storage Capacity
  • Digital Content Availability
  • File Type Compatibility
  • Connectivity and Coverage
  • Convenience

In Part 1, we covered Form Factor. In Part 2, we will cover the next few issues.

Audio
You might be asking, why would audio be a 'key consideration' for your choice of the best eBook reader? Well, as someone once said, better to have a gun and not need it, than to need a gun and not have one. I'm not coming down anywhere on the whole second amendment issue, just giving a pertinent illustration. Many of us like to have our favorite devices available. Music players, like iPods and MP3 players, rank right up there in the favorite devices category with things like the George Foreman tabletop grill. So, if you'd like to have background music while you read, would not it be nice if the eBook reader offered that capability instead of finding it necessary to bring another device?

More connected to the reading realm is the issue of audio books, like those you can get from Audible.com, AudioBooks.com, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, and many other suppliers. Obviously, you will need audio capabilities in your eBook reader in order to take advantage of audio books.

And then there's the matter of that slick 'text-to-speech' capability, where your eBook reader can just read the text in your eBook to you … once again, if you have audio output capabilities. Most eBook readers do not have this capability, but a few do, especially the popular Amazon Kindle®. Expect more to acquire this capability fairly quickly. This feature allows the eReader to simply voice the text from the current eBook using the audio output. You can get either male or female digitized voices but there is a pronounced robotic 'emotionless' sound to it. It's a bit like having Stephen Hawking read your book to you. All in all however, it sounds reasonable and it's good enough to easily understand. Do not expect to get a true audiobook experience with professional readers adding emotion, along the lines of books-on-tape and Amazon's Audible, but it's convenient and usable.

If the eReader provides audio, and most do, consider how the audio is delivered. Some eBook readers have headphone jacks; some have speakers. You may prefer one or the other, but some of the best eBook readers like the Kindle, the NOOK, the Sony Touch, and the iPad, have both speakers and headphone jacks so you can choose which you prefer at the moment. By the way, eReader Speakers are not of adequate size and quality for good 'high fidelity' music, so do not expect concert hall sound.

Memory / Storage Capacity
eBooks are essentially digital files, pretty much like any typical computer file. And, just as with computers, you need to store these files in digital memory. Roughly speaking, 1 gigabyte (GB = 1 billion bytes) of digital memory will hold about 700 to 800 eBooks. File size for any given eBook will depend on a number of things including the length of the book, whether or not the book has illustrations and graphics, whether or not color is supported, the type of file, and more. So, the actual number of books you can store in a gigabyte can vary broadly.

All eBook readers must have memory. There is internal memory, like a computer's RAM. All eReaders have internal memory. Some, like the Kindle and the Sony Pocket Edition, only have internal memory. Some, like the NOOK, the Sony Touch, the Kobo, iRex Readers, and the Cybook have memory expansion slots so they can support external memory. External memory devices include things like SD cards, MicroSD cards, SDHC cards, and memory sticks.

Keep in mind that the eReader's computer operating system (OS) and reading software take up a good portion of the internal memory that the device comes with. For eReaders like the Kindle and the Sony, the OS takes up over 1GB of the internal memory supplied with the device. The most commonly used eReader OS is Linux which is used by Kindle, Sony, iRex, Bokeen, and many others. The Android OS is used by the NOOK, Entourage, and Velocity Micro's Cruz. Expect the Android OS to increase in popularity as it is used by many of the newer tablets and smartphones. The iPad uses Apple's much ballyhooed iOS operating system. Windows CE is also used by some eBook readers and Windows is notorious for taking up lots of memory.

Consider memory as we do with computers. More memory is always better. And expandable memory is, to some extent, infinite memory. While the ability to hold thousands of books may sound like more than you will ever need, a gigabyte hard disk drive in your computer was also considered humongous beyond belief. With the ascendancy of audio and video, a gigabyte is now considered itsy-bitsy. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to have it cited to them, annoyingly, again and again. Your eBook reader is very likely to become your digital library. So, make sure your eBook reader has enough memory, and / or memory expansion capability, to accommodate all the things you will want to do with it.

Note also that, if your newest choice for best eBook reader supports the same type of expandable memory as your previous choice for best eBook reader, then your library of eBooks and documents can be easily ported to your new eReader. So, choose wisely Grasshopper.

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