Saturday, May 21, 2022

The best ebook readers for Australians in 2018

Even for the most ravenous of book lovers, dedicated ebook readers can be a fairly easy idea to dismiss. After all, if you’ve got a modern big-screen smartphone or a tablet, it’s dead simple to just download Amazon’s Kindle app to get your ebook fix.

According to a 2014 report from the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, however, the way we read on our smartphones and PCs is different from how we read on paper. Thanks to the internet, on screens we’ve trained our eyes to skim and dart around, constantly hunting for the information we’re after – a non-linear behaviour the Stanford paper calls ‘surface reading’.

When reading from a paper book, by contrast, our brains switch to a more concentrated form of information processing – dubbed ‘deep reading’ – and it’s a mode that actually helps us better absorb and comprehend what’s on the page.

To us, that sounds like a great argument for giving books their own space, away from the distractions of apps and constant notifications on our modern do-all devices.

And while there’s certainly something irreplaceable about curling up with a good hardcover or paperback, nothing beats the convenience of a digital device when it comes to size, browsing for new books – but with a dedicated ebook reader, you can arguably have the advantages of both.

By design, they’re simpler device made for the singular purpose of reading – and they have advantages too, such as batteries that last weeks rather than hours, and much-clearer legibility in direct sunlight.

Here are the best ebook readers you can buy today:

Kindle Oasis (2017)

 It’s been about 18 months since Amazon’s original Kindle Oasis was launched, a premium ebook reader that dropped jaws with its unconventional design – where one side is considerably thicker than the other – and rather outlandish price; in Australia, buying one would set you back $449.

Amazon’s second-gen Oasis ups the ante on its forebear in numerous areas and this is a redesign that, by and large, has definitely been worth it. 

With an aluminium body and a matte-finish glass panel to cover its high-res, 7-inch E Ink display (adding an inch over its predecessor), the new Oasis has an almost iPad-like feel that’s both classy and durable. It’s also the first Kindle to include water-proofing, where it beats most flagship smartphones with an IPX8 rating.

And yet despite those improvements, the price is also more palatable in Australia, dropping $60 to a slightly more reasonable $389 for the 8GB model – although opting for the bigger 32GB model will still set you back $529.

The asymmetrical design gives you a nice big holding area on one side of the display and thin bezels everywhere else. Swap from holding the Oasis in your left to right hand (or vice versa) and the screen orientation automatically flips around to accomodate. The two dedicated page-turning buttons have a super-satisfying and reassuringly-stable click when you press them, and that 7-inch, 300dpi display is gorgeous too, rendering text and images with the same sharp and smooth results we saw on the first Oasis.

There’s another neat new trick underneath the Oasis’s hood, too: Audible audio-book support. There’s a big caveat, though, in that you can only output audio via Bluetooth – there are no inbuilt speakers or a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you’ll need to have a wireless speaker or set of headphones to use it. 

Amazon has added a new optional viewing mode, letting you reverse convention and have white text on a black background, which should help reduce the amount of blue light being bounced into your eyes.

You still can’t borrow library ebooks in Australia if you’re a Kindle user. Our libraries use the Overdrive system, which the Kobo range of readers support, but Kindles do not. There’s also no native integration with a read-it-later service, like Kobo has with Pocket, although you can email stories or use a free service like Pocket 2 Kindle to achieve this.


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