This was an article I wrote for the ARRA newsletter last year. A lot of the information is outdated and there are now a lot more devices in the market, so I’m posting it here as an archive rather than at Book Thingo.

A couple of months ago, Amazon finally made the Kindle available to Australia. If you’re a book lover like me, this may not impress you much. After all, it’s hard to imagine life without paperbacks! Most readers are also skeptical about being able to read on an electronic device for long periods of time.

But the Kindle, along with most ebook readers, uses E-Ink technology, which causes less strain for the eyes than a normal computer. It also requires less power, so an ebook reader will last much longer between charges than a laptop. I love the feel of books, but I have to say that I’m impressed with the clarity of eInk. Many devices also allow you to change font sizes, so it’s great for people who have impaired vision.

What makes Kindle’s entry to the Australian market such a big deal is the way it changes the book buying process. The Kindle has two advantages over its rivals. First, it gives you access to Amazon’s catalogue of ebooks, which is extensive and, more importantly, cheap. So cheap, in fact, that Amazon makes a loss on ebook sales. Second, the Kindle allows you to buy books wirelessly. It’s the digital equivalent of impulse buying. Amazon foots the bill for the 3G connection required to connect to its store, which means you don’t have to worry about subscription fees.

But the Kindle does have its downsides, particularly for Australian readers:

  1. It uses a proprietary ebook format. This means you can only legitimately buy ebooks from Amazon, and you can’t transfer your ebooks to a non-Kindle reader.
  2. It’s unclear whether or not you own your ebooks or just a licence to read them. In the past, there has been controversy over Amazon removing access to ebooks that people have previously purchased.
  3. Ebooks may be more expensive. Amazon charges international Kindle users a surcharge on purchases.

If these issues bother you, the good news is that there are other options for Australian ebook readers. The BeBook and ECO Reader, in particular, seem to have ramped up their Australian distribution and are available in bricks and mortar stores.

If you’re looking to buy an ebook reader this Christmas, here are some things to consider:
– Compatibility with different ebook formats (see MobileRead’s format and device comparison charts)
– Ease of buying and uploading books
– Geographic restrictions imposed by bookstores (some ebooks can only be sold in certain countries and may not be available to Aussie readers)
– Australian warranty and support

If you can, it’s a good idea to visit a retailer and test out the feel and features of the reader you’re interested in. Little things like screen size and button placement can make a difference between enjoyment and annoyance. It’s also worth figuring out where you’re most likely to buy your ebooks and what formats are available.

To get you started, here’s a list of ebook readers available in Australia. The prices are for standard sizes, but some brands may also have smaller or larger models available.

  • Amazon Kindle (US$259) from Amazon
  • BeBook ($499 on sale) from BeBook*, Dymocks, The Co-op Bookshop
  • ECO Reader ($449) from ECO Reader, Boomerang Books, DA Direct, Box Hill Institute Bookshop, Reader’s Feast, Readings, Melbourne University Bookshop
  • Cybook ($599) from DA Direct
  • Hanlin ($349) from DA Direct
  • iRex Iliad ($1099) from DA Direct

There are more ebook readers available overseas, such as Sony’s Reader, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Fictionwise’s eSlick. However, you’ll need to do some research to ensure that the devices will work here, and that you’ll be able to purchase ebooks in the right format.

For more information, check out the MobileRead Wiki for general information and specifications, or Dear Author for tutorials on ebooks and ebook readers, geared specifically for romance readers.

Better yet, send an email to the ARRA loop, because we definitely have some prolific ebook readers in the group!

* If you buy direct from bebook.net.au, you can get $25 off by using the promotion code BOOKTHINGO. Note that Book Thingo earns referral credits when you use this promotion code. Not valid with any other offers or discounts.

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4 thoughts on “

  1. Anna Maguire

    Hi Kat
    don’t forget another player in the market!

    The Kobo ereader, available through Borders & A&R. At $179 is an affordable entry into the ereader market.

    They also have the Sony ereader for sale now (this is also available through Myers but I’d rather support the Aust bookselling scene by buying through them!)

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  2. Kat Mayo Post author

    Thanks, Anna. 🙂 I wrote this piece last year, and there have been a lot of new players in the market since then. I’m hoping to get my hands on one or two of them to for my book review blog, Book Thingo, but I’m dithering over which device to get (and, if I decide on the Reader, which colour!).

    If you have an ebook reader, I’d love to know what you think of your device (pros/cons). Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Anna Maguire

    Currently I only (!) have an iPad and despite some negative reviews for using for reading (ie, it’s heavy) I find it a great experience. Since my passion is Digital Publishing I enjoy accessing the various new apps showcasing just what is the potential for interactive/enhanced ebooks.

    I’m struggling with the concept of a ‘single-use’ device but when the Kindle and Kobo come down just a little-bit-more I may invest in one of them in order to experience them. Additionally if I was to travel I wouldn’t risk my beloved (and expensive) iPad and would prefer to take a Kobo or Kindle.

    Mind you, kindle with the inability to move content means maybe I’m talking a Kobo! For the same reasons I don’t think I’ll get a Sony…

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  4. Kat Mayo Post author

    Ooh, I have an iPad, too, but I rarely use it for reading—I get distracted by the other apps!

    Kindle has synching across devices, which makes up (a bit) for its proprietary library. So you should be able to start an ebook on a Kindle device and, provided you’ve synched your devices, you can pick up where you left off on your iPad or smartphone.

    I’m not sure there’s much of a difference between Kobo and Sony in terms of moving content. For me, the advantages of Kobo over the Sony are the Kobo app and Wi-Fi, but I believe both devices allow you to import/export ebooks. You don’t have to buy from Sony to read an ebook on the Reader (I assume this is why Borders is happy to sell the devices). Both are also compatible with library e-lending.

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