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Amazon this week unveiled its Kindle app for PCs, available free for Windows 7, Vista and XP machines; a Mac version is also promised "soon." Since similar apps are offered at the Barnes and Noble E-Bookstore and Sony's EBook Store, you can now read books from the three leading digital bookstores on a computer or an e-book reader. (These devices include Amazon's Kindle 2, Barnes and Noble's upcoming Nook, the upcoming Irex DR800SG, and Sony's line of Readers, including the upcoming Daily Edition.)
There are also apps for the iPhone and, sometimes, other smart phones, from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, though not from Sony. So this face-off focuses on the respective advantages of dedicated readers and computers:
Advantages of e-book readers:
- Compactness. Compared with portable computers, readers are smaller — and especially thinner — than even a netbook; most measure about 5 by 8 inches and are about as thick as many smart phones.
- Better ergonomics. Readers are "sit-back" devices that fairly closely duplicate the experience of holding a book. Computers are "lean-forward" devices on which extended reading isn't that natural or comfortable, even on a laptop or netbook. Tablet computers, another flavor of portables, are more booklike in shape, but they cost upwards of $1,200; see this guide at tabletpc2.com.
- Superior battery life. Where laptops and netbooks run for hours on a charge, e-book readers run for days, thanks to e-ink technology that sips rather than drinks power.
- More comfortable ergonomics. For extended reading, e-ink screens are easier on the eyes than the backlit screens of computers. And e-book type is easier to read in bright sunlight.