Let’s start by defining our terms.
E-reader: A dedicated device used for reading print materials
Tablet: A device like an IPad that can serve as an e-reader but also functions as a computer with access to games, internet browsing and other distractions
Kindle: E-readers produced by Amazon
KOBO: E-readers produced by Rakuten Kobo
If you already have a computer, smart phone or tablet, yes you can read e-books on those devices using apps that you can download for free. So why do you need an e-reader?
- Fewer Distractions–while reading on your phone or tablet, you can become easily distracted by incoming email or an Instagram post. However, e-readers have limited access to the internet and so you won’t be interrupted by tempting notifications.
- Lighter–My biggest KOBO (yes, I have several) weighs a little more than my phone, but it is definitely lighter than a tablet. This matters because it enables you to carry it with you, and it makes a huge difference when reading in bed at night, as anyone who has fallen asleep and been rudely awakened by a tablet smashing into their face.
- Integrated Dictionary–If you are looking to expand your vocabulary, an e-reader can be your best tool. Most e-readers include internal dictionaries that allow you to get a quick definition for any word int he text that you are unfamiliar with.
- Built in Light–The internal light means you can read anywhere, at any time.
Kindle or KOBO?
This can be a personal choice but here are the advantages/disadvantages for each of them.
Kindle is owned by Amazon and has a massive catalog of books, some of which are exclusive to Kindle. The main advantage for International Students is an added function in the Kindle’s dictionary. While reading you can touch a word that you don’t know and a dictionary definition will pop-up on screen BUT you can also add that word to a personal list, creating a study list of new words. This is massively helpful for students looking to expand their vocabulary. Kindle also has a subscription program called Kindle Unlimited that allows you to read as much as you want to a monthly fee. Now for some drawbacks. Kindle uses a proprietary e-book format that includes added Digital Rights Management meaning that you are not in complete control of your books on your device.
Kindles start at about $80 US and go up to $250 US. The cheapest version doesn’t have a light which I do NOT recommend. The internal light makes a huge difference in ease of reading. I would suggest starting out with the Kindle Paperwhite which sells for $120 US.
KOBO began as part of the Chapters bookstore chain in Canada, but is currently owned by Rakutan. KOBO is more international and may be more familiar outside of the United States. However, there are a couple of reasons to choose a KOBO over a Kindle. First Rakutan also own OverDrive which supplies e-books to libraries worldwide. So if your library uses Overdrive, you can easily borrow and download e-books to your e-reader (my KOBO Aura One does it automatically). Also KOBO uses a regular e-pub format for its books. KOBO also has an internal dictionary that you can use to look up definitions, but it doesn’t keep a list of the words for study later.
KOBOs start at about $130 and go up to $250. They all have lights and the more expensive models have lights that can be adjusted so you are not getting blasted with blue light than affects your ability to sleep. More expensive versions are also waterproof, so you can read in the tub or pool. I would suggest starting out with the Aura Edition 2 if you are new to e-readers, BUT if you foresee doing a lot of reading on an e-reader (I have college textbooks on my e-readers), try the KOBO AURA One because its screen is bigger, its light is more flexible, and it is waterproof.
Yes, there are other options out there, but they are not as integrated as Kindle or KOBO and I don’t have enough experience with any of them to give you good information.
If you don’t want to spend money on a machine just for reading, you can use apps on your phone, tablet or computer and read e-books from both Kindle and Kobo (and Overdrive). They work well and you can start reading on one device and switch to a different one without losing your place.
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