Pocket libraries

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2011

E-readers allow users to carry thousands of books

Remember when you’d go to the mall and spend hours roaming among the shelves of a bookstore? Maybe you’d stop somewhere at the front of the store to scan the flashy covers of magazines you didn’t even know existed and then slowly wind your way to the back of the store through the cramped Fiction, Non-Fiction, Philosophy, Travel and Children’s aisles.

Just when was the last time you did that, anyway?

Today’s reader is more likely to have bought her books online, or at a mega-bookstore that features wide aisles, premium coffee, extensive music and video selections and even board games and travel supplies.

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But even those stores face competition lately from new technologies that allow readers to download reading material to special, purse-sized devices (known generically as e-readers) that can hold thousands of books, magazines, newspapers and applications.

“There is unmistakable evidence that an increasing number of consumers want to read books in digital form, as shown by the almost doubling of e-book sales in the last year,” American Booksellers Association Chief Operating Officer Len Vlahos said in December when announcing a partnership between Google and independent booksellers to market the Internet giant’s e-books, which are available to a variety of devices once they’ve been bought.

From Apple’s iPad to Amazon’s Kindle to the new Android tablets hitting the market, there’s a growing array of choices for the consumer looking for an e-book reader.

Some, like the Kindle, are intended solely for reading downloaded books, newspapers and magazines. Others, like the wildly popular iPad and its Android competitors, have much greater functionality, giving users everything from games to GPS to supplement the e-book functions.

If you’re in the market for this hot new technology, here are a few of the e-readers you’re likely to come across:

4Kindle — Starting at $139, Amazon’s Kindle is an inexpensive e-reader that is still one of the most popular on the shelf. With a 6-inch high-contrast screen, it’s perfect for reading and has access to literally millions of books, with the ability to store up to 3,500 at a time.

4iPad — Starting at $499, Apple’s iPad 2 is a bit pricier, but it offers far more than books. The slick iBooks application has everything a reader-on-the-go could want, including a smart-looking electronic bookcase. But iPad owners also have access to tens of thousands of free and paid applications from the Apple Store.

4Android — A variety of companies have released electronic tablets based on Google’s Android operating system during the past year or so. Like the iPad, these devices have access to a vast array of applications designed to entertain users and help them manage their lives. The open-source nature of the Android operating system, however, guarantees a wider variety of these devices with prices generally lower than that of the iPad.