I came late to being an e-reader convert, but yes — I did eventually come around to appreciating the devices. I own a Kindle, and now a Cool-ER, although they will never co-opt the affection I’ll always feel for the good old-fashioned book. But when I do sit down with an e-reader, there are several features I demand. These are just my own preferences, and others may disagree. But if any manufacturers out there are paying attention, and you’re wondering what we readers want, here’s my list.
First, here are the features that are ABSOLUTELY necessary. If the e-reader doesn’t have these, it’s a deal-killer for me:
PORTABILITY. I want my e-reader to be lightweight and easy to slip into my purse. Which is why I prefer a 6-inch screen, about the size of a paperback novel. Any larger, and you defeat the whole purpose of an e-reader — and that’s to take it on vacation, or on a plane. One of the hottest new models I saw at CES is a combination e-reader and electronic writing tablet. It weighs several pounds. Sorry, but I am not going to buy that monstrosity. If I want to take notes on something I’m reading, I’ll just bring an old-fashioned steno-pad. Here is where an e-reader like Interead’s super-portable Cool-ER has a huge advantage. The mantra for manufacturers should be lighter, lighter, lighter!
SIMPLICITY OF USE. I am not a techie genius. Don’t make me puzzle over a thousand different menus. Make the e-reader as easy to use as a plain old book — that is, so easy that any child can use it. Think of me as a middle-aged child. Who just wants to read the darn book without a struggle.
EASILY ADJUSTABLE FONT SIZE. I am of an age where I haven’t yet accepted the fact I need reading glasses. Help me maintain my delusion. Give my an e-reader that, with a mere click of a button, can instantly enlarge the font. And give me a larger font option than the current e-readers do. The print needs to be even bigger! (And for my mom, who has macular degeneration, HUGE font would be great!)
SUPER-LONGLASTING BATTERY LIFE. Luckily, the current e-readers seem to satisfy this particular demand. The Kindle lasted on one charge throughout my entire Turkey vacation. The Cool-ER has an 8,000-page-turn battery life. I don’t want to be in the middle of Africa and suddenly have my battery run out, with no possibility of a re-charge. What this means is that color-screen e-readers are not going to be on my shopping list anytime soon. Their battery lives are way too short. I’d much rather have a plain old B&W screen that lasts me throughout a two-week camping trip.
NON-PROPRIETARY FILE ACCESSIBILITY. Here’s where I have a beef with my Kindle. Sometimes I want to read material that’s not Amazon-mediated. I want to read another author’s galley. Or I want to read a scientific article I’ve got on my home computer. Or my own manuscript in progress. I want to be able to upload that file directly onto my e-reader without having to go through Amazon (and pay for that privilege.) My Cool-ER allows me to do that, as long as I convert my doc file to pdf. I understand that the Sony e-reader also allows this, which is a huge plus.
Now — here are features that are nice, but which I don’t consider necessary for me to consider a purchase:
WI-FI ACCESSIBILITY. I know this is the hot thing, being able to download newspapers and books wirelessly. But right now, with my Kindle, I get no Whispernet accessibility where I live, and it doesn’t bother me all that much. And when I’m traveling, if I want to read, say, the New York Times, I’ll just buy a paper copy. If I’m in an area where I can’t buy the NYT, it’s usually also an area where I can’t get Whispernet either. Besides, Wi-Fi usage really drains that battery fast.
AUDIO. Yes, I know, it’s nice to be able to hear an audiobook on your e-reader. But isn’t that what an iPod is for? (And much smaller, too.)
TOUCHSCREEN. Well, this would be cool. And I would love it. It may be one of those features that I soon consider necessary.
HUGE FILE STORAGE SPACE. The Cool-ER can take up to five gigabytes of data. That’s way more than I’ll ever be able to read. I mean, how many thousands of books do you need to carry on vacation? The current e-readers all have plenty of storage space, so adding additional thousands of books on my device isn’t really a big selling point for me.
WRITING PAD/EMAIL CAPABILITY/BLAH BLAH BLAH. By now, you’re talking about so much weight that you might as well bring your laptop computer. This is no longer e-reader territory.
In short, what I want in an e-reader is the equivalent of a good, old-fashioned BOOK. Something for recreational reading. In the end, there is no device as simple, as uncomplicated, as a book. Give me that old-fashioned experience. Don’t load it up with doo-dads which I don’t need.