Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Under- $100 eBook Reader Is Here! and Other Exciting News

For years I've been hearing people say they wouldn't read ebooks until they could buy an ebook reader for under $100. That seemed to be a Magic price point for people everywhere. Kindle and Sony changed the price point for a lot of people by providing e-ink and better book accessibility, but still many readers wanted that cheap, no-frills reader, and couldn't understand why it couldn't be done.

Well, now there finally is one, available at Fictionwise/eBookwise sites, for $89.95. It's the eBookwise 1150. True, it's not a nice slick new model with e-ink screen.

The size of a paperback book, weighing about a pound, and with its backlit screen, the eBookwise-1150 gives new meaning to the term "light reading." The device also includes powerful electronic features that offer you a reading experience beyond that of a traditional book. You can turn pages and change the text orientation just by pushing a button. By simply touching the screen, you can enlarge the text size, bookmark pages, highlight passages, make notes, search for key words and hyperlink to other parts of the book.

Kindle, meanwhile, is planning on giving away FREE the new software for reading Kindle-formatted books on your PC.

This might not be interesting to some people, but there is a surprisingly large number of people who have become accustomed to reading on their PC, laptops or mini-laptops (netbooks). Some of these folks, like me, were once the very people who said they couldn't read for hours on a computer screen. But that was before screens became so sharp and clear. It was also before we just plain got used to using computers for so many hours a day. Now that the Kindle software will become available any day now, this means Amazon is now a source for me to buy my ebooks. And I don't have to spend a few hundred bucks to buy a device that, for me, isn't what it's cracked up to be. In fact, e-ink screens hurt my eyes and give me headaches.

My main complaint about the Kindle and other e-ink devices is that the screens are so small. Sure, I can enlarge the font, but then I'm spending time frustratingly scrolling side to side as well as up and down. Or I have to re-format into something decidedly un-book-like that sometimes splits words in strange places or duplicates lines or paragraphs when scrolling to the supposed next page.

The Kindle DX is larger, almost the size of a sheet of paper. More my size. But at $489? I'm afraid not. But it is a factor in driving down the prices of other less-endowed ebook readers. The Kindle 2 is now $259 at Amazon, and Christmas is coming. I'm betting there will be a price reduction suddenly announced just in time for holiday shopping.

And Sony? Showing improvement- much sleeker, better models. And I've seen older models on sale at Fry's Electronics for $159-179. They're getting less proprietary, and adding more formats like PDF. You can access public libraries and Google Books Online. But not with the older model that's on sale. So you'd still be stuck with the Sony store, where books are more expensive.

The Foxit eSlick was also recently spotted at Fry's Electronics, (brick and mortar stores) as was the Jetbook. Prices for both were running around $179. It's probably no surprise to you that both companies are probably coming out with new models. Funny thing how lower prices show up just before new model releases, isn't it? But sometimes that's the best way to buy technology. Foxit, by the way, does seem to have resolved its battery drain problem, which was its major drawback.
Jetbook's manufacturers, ECTACO, have just announced they will be releasing a new model, the Jetbook Lite, which will come out at $149! It's not an e-ink screen, and is more like the eBookwise, but seems to have a few more features.

What about the Nook? A different technology that shows lots of promise. Although the reading screen is grayscale, there's a touch screen for commands that's in color. Why? Maybe because most ebooks are still text only and don't need color? But I'm still waiting for the aility to read and see books full of pictures. Color pictures. At least Nook is showing the possibility. Price: $259. Oops, right back up there in the sky.

And a new wrinkle in Nook's sleeve: Barnes & Noble is now being sued by Spring Corp for stealing the secrets of their Alex under the guise of a cooperative partner venture. According to Spring, B&N actually participated in meetings with them regarding developing a "Kindle Killer" reader, without telling Spring they actually had a device of their own under development.

The bottom line? If you want a cheap reader, it's available, now. If you have a netbook, you will very soon be able to get Kindle software and buy Kindle books without buying a Kindle.

You can still get great deals, often at better prices than Kindle, on Fictionwise and EBookwise. As for the fancy, expensive devices, well, spend your money if you want. They're good deals if this is what you want. But they'll all be better buys next year, both cheaper and better-featured. And Christmas is coming. The field is getting very competitive. Let's make that extremely competitive.


  1. great information, Delle.

    As you know, I love my Kindle, whose screen is about the size of a paperback book. But you don't have to have a Kindle to buy a Kindle book. You can get an "ap" for your IPhone and read Kindle books on your IPhone!

  2. Definitely, Dine- and I think the iPhone app is the first in the logical chain of events. Competition in all directions has helped propel Kindle to make their books available to everyone.

    I don't have an Phone, and that screen is een smaller. The Kindle DX is interesting to me but not until the price goes down. At 10 ounces, it's pretty light weight, but I still prefer using my 10.1" screen MSI Wind because it's also a computer. And carrying 2 batteries, it's still under 3 pounds.

    But I love watching all the innovations roll in after such a long seemingly fruitless struggle.

  3. Thanks for gathering all of this information. I was expecially interested to learn I'll finally be able to download kindle books to my computer. I don't currently have an ereader, but have been known to read ebooks on my laptop if I need or really want to.

  4. Very interesting. I'm particularly interested in the Kindle ap computer/netbook option. I'd love to have a multi-purpose way of reading ebooks that doesn't cost a fortune, doesn't require long term expensive contracts (I-phone), and is more portable than my full size laptop.

  5. Angelia- I will be first in line to get the software app for PC! And I'll be sure to post what I think of it. It can't actually be complicated because the Kindle format is really nothing more than a more secure way to deliver using the older Mobi-Pocket format.

    I read most of my books on my laptop. I've edited books and read contest entries that way for years, and eventually discovered the nice, sharp, bright laptop LCD screen is easier on my eyes than anything else. I actually prefer my mini-laptop or netbook for reading. The screen technology is an improvement over my laptop, and it's sharper.

    There's a drawback here too, in scrolling down. It's sometimes a pain. ebook readers do ths better.

  6. April, you might want to check out the netbooks. I will be doing a comparison on them again later, but I did an earlier one, which I'll find in my archives and send you the link.

    Although I prefer my big laptop for most of my work, the mini is great for travel, meetings, Starbucks writing, etc. I know several author/lecturers who use them for presentations and love them. AJust as a reader, though, I'm not sure I'd use it. An eReader will weigh under a pound, though, and no mini laptop is that light.

    But don't worry, they will be! Micro technology for computers gets better every day.

  7. Thanks for the great info, Delle. I wish I could try out each of these devices, from buying and downloading books, to actually reading them. I currently use my iTouch, so anything I get will be an improvement. Does anyone know with the Kindle if you can read non-Kindle books? I have a ton of ebooks on my hard drive with either MSReader or AdobePDF--I don't want to buy a reader that I won't be able to read my library of books on. I'm curious about the ebookwise--would love to hear from anyone who has this? It's definitely in my price range.

  8. Rebecca, that's been an issue in the past with both Kindle and Sony. But it looks to me like that is changing. They aren't going to make it easy for you to buy your books elsewhere, but it looks to me like if you buy your book from Fictionwise, for example, you will be able to read it, just as you will be able to read any of your personal documents, if they are in the right formats. Before you buy, be sure to check. Older models, no, they won't.

    This is another reason I like to read on my laptop. I have all the formats- except Kindle, which I intend to get as soon as possible. This means I'm still in charge of who gets my money when I buy books.

    Most of the eReaders I've listed here can read multiple formats. The eSlick is limited to PDF and txt, but I think future editions will do better.

  9. I just acquired a Jetbook Lite from NewEgg since I couldn't turn down the $119 price with free shipping.

    So far I like it a lot, it readers about all the files except of course MS Reader, but with ConvertLit, that problem is easily addressed. It's lightweight, I use rechargeable AA's so it's no big deal to swap them out ever few days, but it does seem to go nearly 24 full hours on a single charge.

    The screen is beautiful in reasonable room light (no backlight) and the pages turn very fast. It's easy to organize added books on an SD card.

    The one glaring problem with the JetBook is my DRM eReader books will NOT let me increase the font size and the default size is awfully small, that's a disappointment. But using Calibre I can convert any of my formats into anything else, so it's still a good reader.

    In my humble opinion, the best all-round format is .mobi since all the current readers seem to support it. PDF files have the glitch of not being able to change font sizes, though you can zoom in on the page.

    This will probably be an $89 reader before the year is out, but I was still pleased with the price and value, and not having all the bells and whistles that so many others seem to think make a device lacking is actually what appeals to me on the JetBook.

    JetBook Lite, 4 out of 5 stars.

  10. That's excellent news, Dayne. I've seen the Jetbook and read about it, and it looks like an excellent choice, especially for the price. As with most electronics these days, when we see a lower price, we can guess there's a newer model about to come out. If I recall correctly, the original price of your model was nearly $300.

    You are rihgt, we are about to see enormous changes in both new designs and prices. The competition is getting fierce.

  11. The idea of an ebook reader is that it isn't backlit therefore not being a strain on your eyes. So this cheap version is backlit - is it because the eink is not being used and that's why it's cheap?
    PS I LOVE my Kindle

  12. Well, I guess it's time for me to do some more price and feature comparisons. It's been almost a year since I wrote this blog, but people are still interested.

    The old ebookwise mentioned here is quite different from newer readers like Kindle and Sony. The screen is backlit, but it's rather dull. I wasn't able to use it, but then I have serious eye problems made both better and worse by multiple surgeries. So my eyes shouldn't be the standard. I find any e-ink screen easier to read than these older backlit screens. But at the same time, I find better reading pleasure using my MSI Wind netbook than any e-ink screen. I like the screen brighter, and I find I frown less, have fewer headaches.

    Since I wrote this, ebook prices have dropped. Kindle and Nook have both come out at the $139-149 price bracket. I see Sony's and others at Fry's very cheap. The e-ink screen has improved dramatically. So there's lots to be said. I'll promise to do a comparison before the Christmas rush.

  13. I don't think I adequately answered your question. The bookwise reader is an older design that pre-dates e-ink screens. Hard to believe, isn't it, that ebooks have been around that long? But no, ten years ago we didn't have decent e-readers at all. That's why I learned to read ebooks on my laptop. There is one new reader out that is more like the iPad and may be what I want.

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