Brighter future of e-readers

E-readers have been around for a number of years, but really didn’t take off until the first Kindle was introduced back in 2007. There have been a number of advances in the past few years, including cleaner text, faster page turns, WiFi, and touch screens. E-readers have also become thinner, lighter, and just look more polished overall.

Of course the biggest improvement has been the drop in price. With each model, the price dropped as the technology improved. In the last four years, the price has dropped from nearly $400 for the original Kindle, to around $79 for the most basic model (with ads). The ebook market that was once fledgling now outsells hardback and paperback books on

I was originally a purist, never thinking I would like to read on an electronic screen. I wanted to physically turn pages and feel the heft of the book in my hands. Then I received the Kindle 1 as a (very generous) Christmas present. And I love it. I won’t say I never looked back, as what I read now is pretty evenly split between paperback and ebook, but the two experiences are more interchangeable than I ever imagined.

The beauty of the e-reader is in the screen. The combination of E-Ink and a non-glare screen make for a great reading experience. There isn’t the glare of the typical computer screen so you can read it in bright daylight, and since the screen is not back-lit, there is none of the accompanying eyestrain.

However, since the screen is not lit up, it can be difficult to read in low light. Of course, in this respect it isn’t much different from a paper book, but it is still a complaint for some. I have been known to don a headlamp to read late at night, though not as often now that I started wearing glasses.

But wait…coming soon from Barnes and Noble, the new Nook Simple Touch sporting a new feature they are calling “GlowLight”. The new Nook still has an anti-glare, E-Ink screen, but you can dial up a soft glow behind the screen to help you read in low light. Or as their site puts it, “End bedtime reading debate-when you want to read & your partner wants to sleep”.

It won’t be released until May 1st, so there are no hands-on reviews yet. I will be curious to see if the back lighting is strong enough to make a difference, without creating eye strain or otherwise getting in the way of the reading experience.

If this works, it could be a real selling point for the Nook reader. I tried out a Nook a number of times when I was trying to see how the formatting of my novel came through (there were several hiccups along the way, so I was back several times). The Nook seems to be a good device, but it has consistently trailed the Kindle since its introduction.

I will definitely stop in to Barnes and Noble to check it out when it is released, but I don’t think it will be enough to tempt me to replace my old Kindle. While all the bells and whistles are kind of cool, the stated intention of the Kindle when it came out was to have the technology fade into the background and let you fall into the world of the book. In that and other respects, it still works just fine.

The headlamp is always there just in case.

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