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EBook Readers and their Smaller Brothers and Sisters

Ebook readers are becoming more popular and Amazon has opened a door to their competitors by refusing to offer Kindle in Europe until October 2009. Kindle is still one of the most popular eReaders on the market, however, although others are selling on price. Nevertheless, the competition from mobile applications for cell phones, palm computers and the new smaller notebook PCs is increasing and their quality improving.

Ebook readers are becoming available from a number of manufacturers and in various formats for PC, mobile phones and PDA systems. Two of the more popular ebook readers are the Amazon Kindle and the Sony although competition is heating up, largely because of Amazon's failure to dominate their niche by failing to offer the Kindle to the UK and Europe until sales started on October 19, 2009. That policy has enabled competitors to be knocking on Amazon's door as genuine competitors.

Sony offers the PDF format PRS-505 and the ebook reader PRS-700, both smaller than the Kindle. Nevertheless, many prefer the Sony devices that are good to handle and very easy to use, and where Amazon once scored with the large range of titles they could offer, Sony is beginning to compete.

PRS users can upload directories of public domain books, offering them virtually free libraries, and also have access to the Google e-books libraries. Add to that the increasing range of books being added by Sony, and the Sony PRS now has a lot of titles to offer which makes its lower price look very attractive, and Google e-books has corrected its one-time weakness in technical books.

There is a large price difference between Sony and Amazon, with the Amazon products priced at least $100 above the Sony offerings.  Although the choice would seem to be between these two, others are now becoming more popular, and the Cool-er is starting to interest many users due to its relatively low price. Retailing at $250, it is available cheaper from some online outlets, and the price more than compensates for its lack of wireless.  For listening to, it offers MP3 capability from an SD card - far superior to the Kindle text to speech robotic type of sound.

However, although it is significantly less expensive than the Kindle, the Cool-er is only around $50 less than the Sony, so if $50 isn't important to you the Sony is the better by far due to its better looks and ease of use. An additional setback for the Cool-er is that its books can be expensive to download in comparison to others. Though, as it was noted in the article "Cool-er: Intuitive Marketing or Blatant Copying", it was marketed as being compatible with all eBook formats, and could operate with books from any store using the ePUB format, including its own eBook store that also permits its books to be shared (Digital Book Readers). The Kindle also wins hands down on battery life over these other two.

There is more competition to the Kindle than that however, and not only because of the Sony being the #1 eReader in Europe. The iRex iLiad and Hanlin are also assuming greater popularity on price.  The iRex supports html, PDF, text and MOBI formats among others while the Hanlin is the ideal choice if you require an ebook reader with a wide range of file formats -17 in all, plus 5 graphics formats and MP3.

However, if the range of formats is important, BeBook offers 25! Capable with Mac and PC computers, it has an SD memory slot, stores around 1000 books and can play MP3 files. BeBook also comes loaded with 150 classic book titles, and the BeBook library offers around 20,000 downloads. Its main problem is the price, at only $30 less than the Sony, and what it offers does not warrant choosing that unless you need all these file formats.  The Sony is technically and aesthetically superior.

There is more serious competition to all of these on the horizon, however. Mobile devices are increasingly being used as eReaders. Apple offers a free application to enable the iPhone to be used as an eReader. It is compatible with Kindle, and also others such as Clickwheel Comic Reader, eReader and Stanza. Of these the Stanza is the general ebook reader, and can compete with Kindle as an iPhone reader although it has been purchased by Amazon so its future is insecure.

The iPhone is not the only cell phone from which eBooks can be read, however, and you can use any smart phone, or even a PDA to read books. BlackBerry can be used with Mobipocket's mobile format and eReader for Symbian smartphones is on free download, compatible with many Nokia models and some Sony-Ericsson models. Windows Mobile eReader is available free for the Windows Mobile Smartphone and their PocketPC, and the same is true for the Palm OS eReader. So smart phone and Palm computer users have the option of eReaders free of charge, and these are perfectly serviceable. They are obviously unsuited to serious reading but are perfect for traveling, and for use on planes, trains and in cars (as a passenger of course!).

If you own one of the small lightweight netbooks, you can also use that as an ebook reader - in fact these are getting so small that they may shortly be very serious competitors to eReaders such as those currently offered by Kindle or Sony. A small fully functional and featured computer that doubles as an ebook reader could definitely seriously harm the dedicated products, assuming that users also had a requirement for the small notebooks.

In conclusion, Kindle is still the top dog for range of features if not looks, with the Sony not too far behind because of its price. What is becoming evident is that cell phones are a good enough size of reader for some (because they cost nothing)Free Web Content, and that the increasing size-reduction of 'laptop' PCs is rendering these a serious competitor to the dedicated eReaders.

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Marco Gustafsson is author of articles on eBook Readers, e-inc technology and electronic books. Find more information here on

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