Is wireless really even necessary in an ebook reader?

Summary:The has been a lot of ebook news this week with the new Daily Edition Reader added to the latest Sony Reader trio, the launch of the Sony eBook Store on the Mac, and the roll out of over a million free public domain books in EPUB format from Google. It is nice to see Sony go head-to-head with the Kindle devices in terms of wireless capability, but I actually just ordered a new Sony Reader Touch Edition for $299 instead of waiting for the Sony Reader Daily Edition and now wonder if the wireless capability is really a necessity for ebook readers.

The has been a lot of ebook news this week with the new Daily Edition Reader added to the latest Sony Reader trio, the launch of the Sony eBook Store on the Mac, and the roll out of over a million free public domain books in EPUB format from Google. It is nice to see Sony go head-to-head with the Kindle devices in terms of wireless capability, but I actually just ordered a new Sony Reader Touch Edition for $299 instead of waiting for the Sony Reader Daily Edition and now wonder if the wireless capability is really a necessity for ebook readers.

There are a select few ebook readers with wireless capabilities, but the Kindle definitely leads in this area. Looking back at the last year or so when I have owned and used the Kindle 1 and Kindle 2, I honestly spent just a few hours total being connected and only found it essential to get content onto my device because there wasn't a super easy way to do so via cable. I rarely ever used the web browser because it wasn't a pleasant experience and I think wireless connectivity isn't as important as so many people make it out to be.

The cons of wireless connectivity include reduced battery life, tendency to buy more than you really need or can even read, and frustrations with weak connections. The pro is that you can get content to your device quickly and easily without a PC. I use my ebook readers to read books and have something like 30+ pieces of material on both my Kindle 2 and Sony Reader 505 and it would take a long time on a desert island alone for me to get through even just the titles I already have loaded up. I don't see the urgency or need to be so connected to the network for ebooks and actually think as the economy struggles people are looking for way to be a bit more frugal. Spur of the moment purchases on the Kindle don't help foster responsible spending habits.

The Sony Reader, and other readers like the EZ Readers, are more open to different content types and thus you have access to thousands of free ebooks that will take you years to get through. You can also find thousands of free books for the Kindle, but there are more for these other devices and the content is easier to get to the reader because of the more open nature of them.

I like to treat my ebook reader like a book and that means being free of distractions with a display that most closely matches a book. The Kindle 1 display was good, but the Sony Reader 505 sets the bar for devices I have tried out and the Kindle 2 actually has lighter, thinner fonts and is not as easy to read as the Sony 505. I worry that the touch screen on the new Sony Reader takes away some clarity and if that is the case I may not have my new reader too long, unless other features can overcome clarity issues.

Another benefit to using a PC (and now a Mac for the Sony Readers) is that you can have a local copy of your book content that you can backup to a DVD for storage and a distributor would have to physically come into your house to get that content back. It really is not a big deal to spend 5-10 minutes loading up an ebook reader with hours and hours of books once a month and in my experiences it will save you money by letting you think a bit more before making rash purchases.

Do you think wireless capability is essential in an ebook reader?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Networking, Wi-Fi

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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