Layman's Battlemodo: The Best Ereader

By Andy Dawson on at

Dig if you will a picture, of the year 2099 -- all the books are gone and what’s left of the human race is ingesting its literature via hand-held devices. That’ll be what happens when the e-readers take over the world. As I plan to still be around then (eternal life will be discovered sometime in 2017 I reckon), I thought I’d better get with it and get myself an ereader, by trying out four of the most popular devices.

By 2099, we’ll all be on permanent holidays so I needed to take that into account too. If we’d had any sunshine in the UK over the past few days I’d have tested them out in that. But we haven’t, so I replicated the sun with a really bright lamp, the kind that a torturer might use (I’m not a torturer, I just have one of the lamps -- okay?)


Layman's Battlemodo is what you should send to your mum / grandpa / stupid colleague who incessantly asks you questions because you're a "geek and stuff" for knowing how to download Angry Birds. Consider it tech advice for those who should probably stick to the pen and paper.


Amazon Kindle Touch

The widely-recognised ‘strutting cock’ of the ereading farmyard (or ‘big pig’ if the idea of a strutting cock alarms you too much). This is the newest version of the Kindle, packed with a tablet-type touchscreen so you can swish and whoosh your way through your ebooks without having to weigh yourself down with 19th century botherations like buttons.

As far as text display is concerned, it’s clear, lovely and causes no more eye strain than the old-fashioned books that it has come from outer space to destroy. The e-ink technology that Amazon have mastered means that it’s as near to the Actual Book Experience as you’re likely to get -- perfect for anyone who’s unconvinced by the futuristic ereading format.

The first book you need to read on this thing is the enclosed user guide. Without it you’ll be missing out on its bucketload of sneaky added features, such as accessing definitions of words from the inbuilt dictionary by holding your finger down on them for a couple of seconds. You’ll feel like God the first time you do it, if you don’t already, that is.

Under my frightening sun-substitute lamp, the Touch behaves brilliantly, with the text remaining magically easy to read. A handy device to carry around in your pocket if you’re planning to be tortured and want to brush up on some reading during the breaks.

I used the Touch to read James Corden’s autobiography. It didn’t make me like him any more than before I started but then I knew that would be the case. It’s my fault, not his.

For a more serious / lengthy review of the Kindle Touch, if this isn't your nan reading this, take a peek here.


Kobo Touch

This Kindle-wannabe is quietly making inroads into the aforementioned farmyard thanks to its presence in shops like Asda and WHSmith. In fact, the latter has just announced that they’ll be manning their stores with highly-trained squads of helper humans, whose job it will be to ease the befuddled consumer into the thorny jungle that is ereading (the jungle and the farmyard are essentially the same thing -- don’t worry too much about it though).

It’s reassuringly similar to the Kindle in many ways, with the same e-ink display, but is much slower to respond. You’ll need to be sitting in a warm garden with a chilled drink and a light breeze on your face to be able to feel comfortable about the extra second or so that it takes for it to do what you want to do. Having a built-in Sudoku game relieves some of the pressure though.

The movement between pages isn’t as smooth and sexy as on the Kindle but that’s not a major issue. Sussing out how to adjust the text size on the pages was another matter altogether, with the inducement of mild panic and some reference to the ‘how to’ guide before getting to grips with it. Playing with the adjustable sliders to get text looking how I wanted it was a major pain in the balls as well. READING IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN, NOT TORTURE. Speaking of which, the Kobo looks fine when used under the horrific lamp of torture nightmares.

Kobo ereaders aren’t compatible with the Kindle format, but there’s a wide range of books to be had for the Kobo from non-Amazon sources. Sadly, although it’s significantly cheaper than the Kindle, you get what you pay for and I’d opt for Amazon’s version every single time. (Corden-irritation levels were the same as on the Kindle.)

For a more serious / lengthy review of the Kobo Touch, if this isn't your nan reading this, take a peek here.


Kindle App (On a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1)

NOW things are starting to get a bit snazzy. This isn’t just an ereader -- it’s an entire goddamn tablet, with the ability to surf the net, play music and videos and block imaginary laser missile attacks if you hold it up in front of you as if it’s some kind of futuristic shield.

Ever the professional, I shied away from all that stuff and downloaded the Kindle app from the Android Market (after some light faffing that included setting up a Google account for the thing). Almost completely idiot-proof, which in my case is a huge help.

After logging into my Amazon account from within the app, all of my Kindle purchases (well, the James Corden autobiography) were there for me to access. I couldn’t stand to read another word about the man and his baked goods-strewn path to glory and more baked goods.

Also, unlike the other machines, the Galaxy Kindle app offers full colour display and so I sought out a book with nice pictures in order to make the most of it -- Nadia Shireen’s short-and-bittersweet kids’ picture book Good Little Wolf was my chosen read. The images are all the better for being in colour but the 10.1” display can feel a bit cumbersome after a while, compared to the smaller alternatives.

You’ll also be paying way more for the Galaxy Tab so it’s almost certainly not the droid that you’re looking for if you’re after a dedicated ereading device, though of course there are cheaper tablets about. It’s certainly less rage-inducing than Sony’s old-hat effort though, even if the battery life on a tablet is obviously going to be miles worse than a dedicated ereader.

For a more serious / lengthy review of the Kobo Touch, if this isn't your nan reading this, take a peek here.


Sony Reader

Sony eh? With hits like the Walkman and the PlayStation under their belts, they should have effortlessly mastered this whole e-reading game. That was what I thought. Lord was I wrong. This device has been around for a while, and while it’s also a touchscreen gizmo, it got me narked for a number of reasons while I was manhandling it in a professional capacity.

Compared to the latest incarnations of the Kobo and the Kindle, this already feels like some kind of grotesque antique. The display isn’t as soft and cosy as the others, and the glare begins to chafe at your nerves fairly quickly. Once you’ve tried the Kindle and Kobo, the Sony Reader is a distinct throwback.

Page navigation is no better or worse than the Kobo and switching between books is simple enough, but the whole experience is lacking in warmth. The addition of a pen to use on your touchscreen is just creepy to be perfectly frank.

There’s also a music player and picture viewer built into it. If you feel the need to stare at a grainy snap of the Eiffel Tower when you’re not following Colleen Rooney on her life journey (as I did on this machine) then this is probably the one for you.

For a more serious / lengthy review of the Sony Reader, if this isn't your nan reading this, take a peek here.

Image Credit: Ereader from Shutterstock