Ebook Readers Finally Affordable for Australians But Still Flawed

I’ve tried a *lot* of gadgets and devices recently which can be used to read Ebooks. The good news is that a decent basic ebook reader can be bought in Australia for as little as $150.

All of the devices in the photo below (Amazon Kindle DX, Kobo reader, Sony Reader Touch Edition, Samsung Galaxy S android smartphone with Borders ebook application and Kogan ebook Reader) as well as others like the Apple iPad have strengths accompanied with flaws. Which ebook reader device you buy depends on the flaws you can live with.

ebook readers

In my opinion of the 6 best ebook reading options available to Australians at the moment Amazon offers 3, Kobo offers 2 and Samsung has 1.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon offers the 6″ inch Kindle and 9.7″ inch Kindle DX. The cheaper 6″ inch Kindle can only connect to the Kindle bookstore via WiFi, the slightly more expensive 6″ inch Kindle 3G and 9.7″ inch Kindle DX have a builtin mobile SIM card so they can access the Kindle bookstore anywhere around the world if they can pick up a compatible mobile signal.

Amazon has improved the Kindle a lot since it was first launched in 2007. They’ve managed to perfect the experience of requesting and reading a free sample chapter from the Kindle store and buying the whole book directly from the device on a whim.

At $US139+shipping for the paperback sized 6″ WiFi version it’s my favourite budget ebook reader and the $US379 9.7″ inch DX model which has a bigger screen more like an A4 page is the best high end eInk ebook reader available at the moment.

Your collection of books purchased from the Kindle store can also be automatically synchronised and read by you using the Kindle application on Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry devices.

Frustrating aspects include:

  • the use of a proprietary ebook standard so books created in the common ePub open ebook standard can’t be read on a Kindle
  • the lack of many Australian books in the Kindle store because deals haven’t been done with some publishers like Penguin Australia as yet
  • Kindle versions of really old out of copyright books are priced at few dollars to buy in order to subsidise the cost Amazon incurs from international mobile network data transfers through the included 3G mobile simcard on the premium 6″ and 9.7″ DX models.

Kobo eReader

The first generation Kobo eReader is sold in Australia by Borders and Angus & Robertson shops and on their websites for $179.

The Kobo relies on side-loading books via a PC or laptop with a USB cable or a smartphone via Bluetooth, but has the edge over the Kindle by allowing you to load any of the freely available two-million-plus ePub format older books at no cost.

As an example “The Sea Wolf” by Jack London is an out of copyright book which costs $2 to buy via a Kindle’s 3G connection to the Amazon store, but comes free pre-loaded on the Kobo along with 99 other classic books.
– quote from my ebook reader comparison article for PC Authority

Your collection of books purchased from the Kobo store can also be automatically synchronised and read by you using the Kindle application on Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry devices.

Frustrating aspects include:

  • The clicky noise made by the navigation button, some people find it annoying.
  • Lack of Wifi or 3G connectivity mean you have to add books via a USB cable connected to your computer. The recently released Kobo eReader 2nd generation adds WiFi capability. I’m guessing it will be released in Australia by late 2010/early 2011. If you don’t want to wait you could buy it direct from the USA using the Price USA service

Samsung Galaxy S Android Smartphone

This may seem a strange choice considering the iPad and other smartphones can also be used to read eBooks.

The reason I think the Samsung Galaxy S is the best option out of all the smartphones and tablets is because of it’s 4″ inch Super AMOLED screen which is 0.5″ larger than the recently released iPhone 4 and is capable of displaying the best true black background of any portable device I have tested.

This means you can install an ebook reader application on the phone like the Borders Kobo app, open a book, invert the background so it shows white text on a black background and it’s far easier for your eyes to read so it doesn’t cause eyestrain.

There are some limitations though, in my opinion at 4″ inches the screen is OK to read for a short bus or train trip etc but not for a whole book. Also because the phone is a multi-function device it’s quite likely you could be interrupted several times by calls, sms or social media messages from Twitter/Facebook etc. The benefit of dedicated ebook reader devices like the Kindle and Kobo is they won’t interrupt you from concentrating on the book.

PS for those interested in the topic, I’ve previously written about the bigger topic of What Is A Book? How Will We Read Books In the Future?


19 responses to “Ebook Readers Finally Affordable for Australians But Still Flawed”

  1. Thanks for the review. i finally took the e-book reader plunge last week and got myself a Kindle. I have nothing but good things to say about it.

  2. Well this is a very impressively alternative review. Might be worth talking about the free 3G, battery life and screen readability/visibility a bit more. But maybe it is just me who is interested in these metrics.

    EDITOR: im writing a big feature article about ebooks for the end of 2010 issue of GEARE magazine so not as much detail in this blogpost. That said you are right the eInk ebook readers all have the advantage of weeks of battery life and clear screen visibility in low light all the way to reading outside under the midday sun.

  3. Nicholas T

    Just like to point out that your review does not seem to cover a lot of detail.

    For one, the faults about the kobo. The case ‘loosens’ after a while and if you hold it with one hand you can hear it creak.

    The 8000 page turns is totally rubbish. I’ve only ever managed to get around 3500 page turns after exchanging 2 kobo’s. This was done in one or two sittings, so power used in standby was minimal so as to not skew the results.

    The tech support in Australia (Borders staff) did not have a clue about the device AT ALL and all support is done through Kobo (Canada’s hotline) which is pretty good.

    The white kobo gets really dirty fast. Go look at the kobo’s on display at Borders. I’m not sure how they expect to sell any of the white kobo’s when all the blue trackpads have become brown.

    One of the most important weaknesses, is the SLOWNESS of page turns. If you have used the 3rd Generation Kindle this would be apparent immediately.

    The button placement is also horrible. If your a massive reader like me, you’ll find your hand starts to ache after awhile if your holding it one handed. This is due to the fact the buttons are placed at the bottom, and to hold it with one hand, you’ll be holding it away from its centre of mass, putting more force on your hand, from the resulting torque.

    NO search option. No go to page option. (Which sucks if the kobo looses your page in a 1000 page book)

    Upsides i found with the kobo are the bookshelf view, allowing if i remember correctly 16 book covers to be displayed on the screen.

    Also on standby it shows the cover of your book on your screen.

    The Kindle 3 on the other hand is a superb device to use.

    Buttons are on the side, so you can easily hold it in its centre of its mass saving your hands from muscle strain after a few hours. It is also exceptionally light and thin.

    The new Pearl eink screens provide better contrast then the Kobo, and page turns are much much much much much snappier.

    Its almost the same price as the Kobo, (Kobo was actually more expensive when the Kindle 3 Launched). It’s also cheaper then the Sony’s but they have touch screens and are a different animal altogether.

    Has a very intuitive store which you can access over wifi.

    DOES NOT charge you to download books out of copyright and under the Creative Commons.

    Has a search capability, and indexes all your books really fast.

    Collections (think folders you create) are backup through wifi to Amazon.

    It also has a much bigger community producing ‘hacks’ such as more fonts and more wallpapers.

    It’s battery life is much longer then the kobo with wifi turned off. And possibly not using it as a mp3 player that much.

    Downsides are that you can’t change the wallpapers when it goes to sleep without hacking it.

    Its experimental web browsing is as detailed; experimental. So is the mp3 player, it does not have a list of your music and little or no options. (You have skip, start and stop).

    Its memory isn’t expandable like the Kobo or the Sony, but you do have 4 gigs.

    So yes, i feel sufficiently disappointed with the Kobo at its price, to justify typing this post.

    EDITOR: thanks for that detailed Feedback. I’ve only read short books on the Kobo and not experienced any technical issues. The 3G Kindle DX i have does charge me to download books out of copyright from the Kindle Store. Can you confirm your WiFi Kindle 3 doesn’t do that?

  4. How have you found the bookstores? I was looking at getting the 6″ wifi Kindle but the lack of books available in Australia really put me off.

    EDITOR: Kobo has some more Australian books than Kindle. However all the ebook stores are frustrating because they’ve each made deals with a different mixture of publishers 🙁

  5. Straylight

    I am disappointed you did not include or even mention the Foxit E-slick ebook. It runs very well and can read most formats. Maybe you could assess it and add it to your already reasonable list of Ebook readers. I find it frustrating the Kindle is the default reader when there are many out there that are not hampered by DRM.

    EDITOR: Foxit isnt sold in Australia

  6. Thank you very much for this review, I want to but the Samsung Galaxy Tablet and search as many information I can find.

    Ty again

  7. Nicholas T

    No, WIFI has no charges at all. See http://i51.tinypic.com/b7yiwz.jpg

    As for amount of books, the Kindle has 460,000 books on its store as the Kindle has been selling for years. I d not believe Borders have anywhere that many. That said you can purchase Kobo ebooks, strip the drm, convert with calibre and read on the Kindle.

    EDITOR: Good news 🙂 Even my Kindle DX which only has 3G access (no wifi) isnt charging to download old out of copyright books from the Kindle store anymore

  8. What do you think about the option of using the iPad or iPhone as a mobile book reader?


    EDITOR: smartphones and tablets regardless of brand are too reflective to read outside in sunlight, especially bright Australian sunlight

  9. Derek Todd

    I have a Kindle DX and am very happy with it; particularly as I have eye problems I need to have larger font sizes than the normal book. Kindle is one of the few readers that do that and also you can switch to a computer voice to read the book for you.
    My problem with kindle is Australian publishers prevent the sale of many suitable ebooks, particlarly direct from Amazon by radio. Their are methods which can be used to overcome this problem for some books but the technology is not easy to use at my age.

  10. I have purchased the Koboreader, its not as good as i expected for 179 bucks. Lets just pray for a free gadget in the near future……

  11. I like the sony. It is touch screen and very easy to use. I just purchased it last month and it works fine so far. i travel always and I need to have an ebook reader while i am on the plane. Book lover here! Thanks for the post!

  12. I own a kindle and it is very good. Easy to use and good battery life.

  13. The Kindle DX is remarkably easy to use. It’s nice to find a gadget that does a great job without being ridiculously complicated. Unfortunately it might be a little TOO simple. With the potential to store over 3,000 books it’s really necessary to have some way to organize things – even just the ability to put books into categories would be a huge help.

  14. […] $139-$189 Amazon Kindle and Kobo ebook readers […]

  15. I received two ebooks for my birthday. The Sony 650 touch edition and the kobo wifi 6inch. Which one should I keep?

    EDITOR: tough question. The Sony looks better and has a touchscreen but its only connectivity is a cable to your computer, no mobile phone apps. The Kobo is not as fashionable, not touchscreen but lets you download books anywhere with WiFi and has apps you can read the same books with on iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android devices.

  16. You missed an important ebook reader – Sony eReader. It is miles ahead of rest right now, but Kindle and rest will overtake Sony soon.

    EDITOR: the sony is nice in some ways eg: it is the best looking ereader but not having WiFi or 3G access at a higher price than Kindle/Kobo means I can’t recommend it

  17. Thank you for your review. it was interesting reading the above comments and i wanted to share my Kindle experience. I’ve recently purchased Kindle 3 and WOW was I amazed ! its the best e reader that i have bought. It simply is fantastic the fact that it can hold more than 3000 e books and documents, its large and clear screen and also like you have mentioned, its slim shape and design does enable you to carry it in any occasion. Its light weight of 10,2 ounces allows you to carry it without feeling any burden. Thank you once again : )

  18. I love my kindle 3!! I like how they made the screen look almost like real paper to reduce glare and eye tiredness and you can not beat the book selection.

  19. Lynn Harvey

    I am looking at purchasing an eBook reader for my mother86. The local library doesnt supply much in the way of eBooks but what it has is pdf/epub format yet, reading the above comments, it would appear the Kindle is the better brand. She averages 5 books a week and, even at $6/book from Amazon, this is an expensive ongoing expense for a pensioner. Any suggestions?

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