By: Quinton Lawman, Product Owner.

If you’ve been reading OverDrive blogs for a while, you may remember a humble nerd who used to write device blogs (like this one) from time to time. That was me! I’m back! In the olden days of 2014, I would pick specific devices in each category and tell you which ones I liked and why.

Now it’s 2018, and the world has changed a whole heck of a lot. It’s no surprise that technology has changed with it. I’m still very much a massive tech nerd, but the way I recommend devices has evolved.

Simply put, every major device manufacturer puts out devices great for e-reading. The market got real competitive real fast, and if you weren’t making good tech, you just plain lost. What I’m saying is this: do you like Samsung? Apple? LG? Huawei? Great, they all make good devices, and you can just roll with the one you like best.

In case you’re curious, yeah, I definitely still have “go-to” devices and manufacturers, but it’s gotten a lot harder to point at a device and say “that one’s the best!” or “that one sucks!”

Okay, now that I’ve given you something to keep in mind, my plan is this: I’m going to write a mini-series of posts to talk about the device landscape in early 2018. Each one will be broken up by platform, and the first of these will be today’s: eBook readers.

eBook Readers (E-Ink or E-paper devices)

Personally, I’ve always found it hard to justify the purchase of an eBook reader (otherwise known as eReaders). The problem for me is that they just don’t do enough. I use a tablet every day for lots of random things that range from playing old DOS games (some old games are just too good to give up) to paying bills. If you get a tablet with a really good screen, they make pretty good eReaders (which is another thing I use my tablet for daily).

So why buy an eReader at all? Well, while the evidence isn’t conclusive, there have been studies suggesting that the screen tech eReaders use may reduce eye strain and fatigue vs a traditional LCD panel. Matte surfaces are easier on the eyes than reflective ones, and E-Ink is actually ink—not pixels exactly, so it’s more like a real paper book, which supposedly makes it easier for your eye to focus on. It also helps that eReaders do not need a back-light to display things (less light shining right into your eyeballs).

Again, some of this research is contested, but one thing is for sure: If you buy a low-res tablet, it absolutely will be harder on your eyes than a decent eReader. That being said, my tablet’s display is 2560 x 1600 (~359 ppi), so it’s pixel-dense enough that it shouldn’t be adding strain to my eyes as I read. Also, if you read outside with any kind of regularity, the matte displays of the eReaders definitely win, and will definitely cause less strain because there aren’t reflections and light bouncing back at you as much.

I’m guessing the question you’re asking yourselves is this: do I recommend buying an eBook reader? It depends on your needs. If you have a smartphone and don’t feel you need a tablet for non-reading things, then an eReader is perfect for the avid reader. The battery goes for months, not days, and newer readers include features (like time-of-day-sensitive lighting) that go the extra mile to make reading easier on the eyes. They’re worth it, if you don’t need the extra gadgetry a tablet brings.

So, how do you pick a good eBook reader?

kobo waterproof eBook reader eReader

If you truly want to reap the benefits an eReader offers over devices with similar form-factors (tablets), then it really boils down to a few key features:

Make sure it’s waterproof

This is uncommon in tablets, and you’ll thank me when you take it to the pool or beach on your next vacation.

Invest in a high-end one

You’ll likely have it for a long time because they age better than tablets.

Get one with a blue-light filter

Blue light can cause insomnia, so if you’re like me, and you read at night, this will go a long way to helping you sleep, and keeping your eyes going strong.

blue light filer eBook reader Kobo

If you’re looking for a specific recommendation, my personal favorite is the Kobo Aura One. Why? It’s got all of the features (waterproof, automatic blue-light filtering, etc.), the screen is the right size (I don’t like the wee readers), and it even integrates with OverDrive so you can borrow free books from your library.

I’m not just saying this because Kobo is a sister company of OverDrive (I’ve had one of these bad boys on my wishlist for a while), but if you don’t trust me, Forbes has a pretty nice comparison piece putting it up against the Kindle Oasis.

Oh, it’s cheaper than the comparable Kindles too, and it’s grippy. I like my devices to stay in my hand.

Next up: tablets

They’ve lost some of their luster lately, but are they still worth it? How do you choose a good one? Stay tuned . . .