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App-happy Or App-athetic eBook Readers: Kindle vs Nook vs iPad vs Sony EReader?

Following the eBook reader market since 2009, while the competition amongst brands remains steep, there are advances in app support that might determine which device you gravitate towards in the future. One of the advantages of having your reading library 'in the cloud' is the accessibility of your books on multiple devices. However some of the top name products offer better cross-platform than others. So if you're a consumer who's looking for flexibility with multi-device app support, you should be aware of the break-down for each major eBook platform.

According to John P. Falcone at CNET, in December of last year, he broke down the four major players as such:

Kindle: Besides Kindle hardware readers, Kindle books can be accessed on iPads, iPhones, iPod Touch handhelds, Android phones (version 2.1 and later), Android tablets, many BlackBerry phones, Windows PCs, Macs, Windows Phone 7 phones, and via Web browsers (the Kindle Cloud Reader). Full details here.

Nook: Besides Nook hardware readers, Nook books can be accessed on iPads, iPhones, iPod Touch handhelds, Android phones (version 2.1 and later), Android tablets, Windows PCs, Macs, and via Web browsers (the Nook for Web). Full details here.


iBooks: Apple's e-book store is currently only available on Apple iOS devices -- iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. Full details here.

 

 

Sony EReader: Besides Sony Reader hardware, Sony books can be accessed on Android phones, Android tablets, Windows PCs, Macs, and -- after a long delay -- iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad). Full details here.



All of these apps allow you to sync your position in a book across devices, so if you read up to, say, page 413 on your phone, you can pick up on that same page on your tablet or reader, and vice versa.

All of the apps are free, and -- since each bookstore offers a wide selection of free books -- you can  easily experiment with any and all of the apps that work with your respective devices.

Many local libraries now allow its membership the opportunity to check-out an e-book on loan similarly as to how you secured hard-bound books in the past. Previously, support for this varied across e-readers and tablets. However, now it's basically universal. According to Falcone, the Kindle was the last major holdout, but as of September 2011, Amazon's e-reader can be used to read free library loaners as well.

Hopefully, this post made you app-happy regarding which device best suits your needs. However if you're still on the fence and remain app-athetic, perhaps the U.S. government will be able to sway your decision. While the State Department has not agreed to any specific purchase, the contract under consideration proposes spending $2.3 million for 2,500 Kindles in the coming year and up to $16.5 million for 35,000 in total.

According to a government document obtained by Nextgov.com, the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony EReader were not suitable for the job due to issues with text-to-speech, battery life and global wi-fi capabilities. iPads were found unsuitable because of security risks and usability issues.

The text-to-speech feature is something to consider, specifically for the visually impaired user, but also for those that like virtual assistants to address verbal questioning. With Amazon having recently acquired  the speech company Ivona, all of Kindle's devices will eventually be able to deliver world-class pronunciations in 44 voices and in 17 countries.

Leveraging the Ivona technology to add new and enhanced voice recognition capabilities to Kindle tablets and e-readers, puts Amazon on par with Apple's Siri voice assistant technology (first introduced to iPhone 4S in late 2011), which applies search algorithms to translate verbal commands and perform device tasks. But that's a topic for a future blog, so check back soon.

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Ron Callari
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