Who is Smik?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

e-books and e-readers: criteria for choosing your e-reader

There are some common questions that educators and librarians ask about choosing an e-reader.

  • Which comes first the e-reader or the variety of e-books that I have access to?
  • What was the process that you used to select an e-reader?
  • What criteria would you suggest in choosing an e-reader a) for ourselves and b) for our primary students?

Current evidence seems to suggest that many are waiting for answers to these questions before deciding to see which way to jump. I actually think teachers/librarians need to be a bit more pro-active than that and try to get some experience in using e-readers and in reading e-books.

For myself, I bought a Kindle because they were virtually all that were on the market here in Australia a year ago. Purchase was easy, delivery was quick, and I've added about 100 fiction books both manually and through purchase from Amazon.

Mine is the Kindle 6” which is fine for reading fiction, and I would say, suits both adult and secondary school readers, and perhaps even middle school.
There has been some research done with middle school students in the US particularly in relation to the effect on reading of being able to vary the size of text.
The research seems to say that for children/older readers with reading difficulties, being able to increase the size of text is beneficial, because they then have a better ability to “hold the line” with their eyes.
I’ve blogged about this at http://blogs.educationau.edu.au/ksmith/2010/05/12/e-book-readers-and-reading-competence/

In my opinion though, the 6” Kindle (or any other small e-reader for that matter) is for reading fiction, not text books where you would expect graphics and charts.
That is where the larger device, say the Kindle DX or the iPad or the Dream Books (http://www.pioneercomputers.com.au/products/info.asp?c1=183&c2=184&id=3172) probably comes into its own, and then you have to think about whether you want colour.
The bigger size (10 or 11 inches) and colour both add to the cost (although the Kindle DX still uses “black” e-ink)
And it becomes a question of whether you want the device to do other things as well as contain an e-reader.

In a poll that I ran recently here is what people chose from the criteria I listed
Colour  - 1 (6%)
adjusting text size - 7 (41%)
note making – 4 (24%)
dictionary – 3 (18%)
images - 2  (12%)
bookmarking (keeping your place) – 7 (41%)
audio -2 (12%)
not applicable - no experience – 9 (53%)
Other - 0

Now, I left cost off the criteria there, although I expect that for schools anyway that will be an important factor.
Whether you can justify buying an iPad for more than $600.

There is another factor to consider here at least in secondary schools: many students now have a laptop or a netbook.
What about if they had Kindle for PC software or some other e-reading device such as Calibre on their lap top – can you justify buying e-readers at all?

So I’d suggest you try drawing up a matrix with the important criteria on it (similar to the one below), and then rating them to see if that helps you make a decision.

Criteria for selecting an e-reading device


Most -5




Least -1







Text size adjustment






Note making
























Keeps your place


















Read fiction






Text books






Do we already have laptops?






Availability of particular books






Size and weight of device






However on top of these criteria you need to look at ease of use (and that's where the teacher/librarian's personal experience comes in, and the ease of adding new books, or isolating access to the account from students.

Posted via email from You Are Never Alone (on posterous)

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