Saturday, June 18, 2011

E-Reader Wars: The Best E-Book Software for the Educator

E-books are here, at least for me. For the past three months, I haven't purchased a single book in all my excursions to the local Barns and Noble bookstore in my hometown. I have, though, purchased several ebooks instead. In fact, there is great satisfaction for me that I can purchase a book and immediately download it to my iPad or PC. What I have discovered though is that not all ebook readers and ebook providers are created equal, even though most of the readers provide the same basic features. Which e-reader should you buy? Here's my thoughts on the matter.

Kindle and Amazon

I confess that I started using Barnes and Noble's Nook reader more than Amazon's Kindle. However, I've quickly learned that Amazon offers a far larger selection of ebooks than Barnes and Noble. For example, I recently was interested in purchasing Leading 21st Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement by Lynne Schrum and Barabara Levin. I found the book on Barnes and Noble, but no ebook version was available. The ebook was available at Amazon. Amazon offers users a much larger selection of ebooks than any of the other providers. Perhaps Amazon has discovered the secret of the ebook market: it's not the shiny features of the ebook reader that matters, it's the selection of ebooks you offer.

Kindle App for PC Interface

Nook / Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble provides an interesting ereading application for the PC in its NookStudy reader. (You can download it for your PC here.) I've really found its features quite useful. For example, you can import PDFs and read them, and you can take notes as you read and then export them as a word processing file. In spite of its bells and whistles though, Barnes and Noble doesn't have the number of ebooks available that Amazon does. That's especially true for professional education books. The Nook reader software for the desktop and the iPad is extremely user friendly, but ultimately it doesn't matter to me how useful it is if they do not offer an adequate selection of books.

NookStudy Screenshot

Apple's iBooks

Apple seems to have spent a great deal of effort developing a slick, appealing application for its iDevices, but like Barnes and Noble, they suffer from selection dearth. The iBook application does allow for importing PDFs, and they also offer quite a selection of free ebooks. However, browsing for those in the iBook app for my iPad is awkward and non-intuitive. I would also add that a major shortfall of the iBook app is that there's currently no PC app to access the books you purchase like there is with the Kindle app and Nook app.

Sony E-Reader

I really have little to say about Sony's e-reader because I've yet to get it to work on my laptop. There is no e-reader for my iPad either, so I have no reason at this point to recommend their product.

At this point, I would recommend highly Amazon's Kindle reader as the best app for ebooks. Ultimately, an e-reader application is only as good as the book selection available, and Amazon seems to be the winner in this category at this time.

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