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Building A Better eReader Review

The eReaders keep on coming, and this week we got in the Kobo Reader and the Pandigital Novel, both of which I get to review since I am the eReader queen over at Laptop. This is in no way a burden, since I’m really into the category and can’t wait to find the perfect eReader at the perfect price.

If you check out some of the reviews I’ve done in the past they all have pretty much the same structure. We cover Design, User Interface, Reading Experience, Content, Connectivity (if available), Performance, and Special Features. In this way we cover most of the bases, but as I poke around other sites and talk to more people about eReaders, I’ve discovered that there are details people look for that I don’t usually cover.

For example, someone once told me they didn’t like Sony’s readers because their line spacing is too close together and you can’t adjust it. Same goes for spacing between words and letters (there are technical terms for this that I don’t know, can anyone help me out?) and for margins on many other eReaders. Some of these elements are dictated by the eBook file itself, but I think some can be controlled by the device. I’ve never taken particular note of this, but for some it’s a make or break aspect.

That got me wondering if there are any other aspects of the eReader experience that I’m not covering in reviews because I don’t notice them as much. I also wonder whether I should spend more space on some sections over others. Obviously I need to turn to the Internet, where answers to all questions lie.

What do you think I should include in eReader reviews that I don’t already? Which aspects of the ones we have feel less important to you, as eBook consumers?

  • “Same goes for spacing between words and letters (there are technical terms for this that I don’t know, can anyone help me out?)”

    It’s called kerning. :)

    • …and the line spacing thing is called leading. Pronounced ledding.

      I think the reviews are great, and the only thing I’d suggest would be more info about ergonomics & physicality. Frex, my kindle v1. could put your eye out, which some people don’t like about it. OTOH, I can hold it and click with the same hand–very important because I read while cooking–and if you put it in a ziploc bag you can read it in the bath. Turning pages by touching the screen requires 2 hands and probably no plastic in the way, so that’s something I consider when looking.

  • DebStanish

    What would have been a great help to me in making a final choice would have been a note on the software. I’ve owned both a Sony and a Nook and the absolute crap Sony software is the main reason I didn’t choose Sony again when it was time to replace. People need to know not only if it is easy to use for reading, but if it is easy to load. I have multiple content on mine: purchased books, personal files and books from the local library and easy to use software for all that is critical.

    Nook has it. Sony, sadly, doesn’t.

    • K T Bradford

      Do you mean desktop software?

      • Deb Stanish

        Yes. Desktop software is where I have most of my complaints. And they have been legion.

  • I have a specific need in a e-reader: it has to be able to zoom images in a PDF file. Not all readers that support PDF also support zooming, and not all readers that support zooming also support zooming images. It would be great if this info were included in your reviews, but if that is too obscure to bother with, I understand.

  • Lisa Gay

    I don’t use an e-reader, but I can help out with the terminology you asked about.

    As it happens, the terms you coined are perfectly acceptable usage. “Line,” “word spacing,” and “letter spacing” all mean just what you’d expect.

    I’m not a big fan of jargon, but if you prefer: leading = line spacing, and tracking = letter spacing. I don’t know of a typesetting term for word spacing.

    Kerning isn’t exactly the same thing as letter spacing, though. It’s a technique used in proportional fonts (that is, not fixed-width) to adjust the spacing uniquely between every pair of letters so the area of white space is about the same. This makes sure your eyes don’t accidentally perceive actual word spaces where there are none simply because of the shapes of adjacent letters. For example, kerning would squish fl closer together than fa.