Digital distribution has radically changed the music and movie industries - the majority of music is now purchased as digital files, while the failure of Blu-Ray to match DVD's ubiquity can in part be blamed on the fact that both legal and illegal digital movie files are a more convenient alternative. Publishing has been altered too; newspapers have seen their circulation figures plummet while their websites draw in tens of millions of readers.
One area of entertainment that has remained relatively untouched by digital distribution are books - yet the momentum behind eBooks is growing, thanks in part to Amazon taking them seriously with its Kindle, and of course, the inevitable improvements in technology and drops in price.
Currently, if you want to read eBooks, you've got four choices - a regular PC, a smartphone such as the iPhone, one of the new tablet/slate PCs, or a dedicated eReaders. We're taking a look at three of the latter today. Far from comprising a TFT panel, simple CPU and a memory card, eBook readers are designed to emulate the experience of reading the printed word thanks to their e-ink displays. These work quite differently to LCD panels - see page 2 for details. As well as eBooks, dedicated eReaders also allow you to view other common text file types on them, such as PDFs, and many are capable of annotating text, making them ideal study aids.
Manufacturer:Amazon UK Price (as reviewed): Available to import from Amazon US US Price (as reviewed):$259 (ex. Tax)
The fascia of Amazon's Kindle is made from high-quality, bright white plastic. While this feels good in the hand, it also makes the displayed pages look like they're written on recycled toilet paper, given the inevitable grey and black colours of the eInk screen. The brushed aluminium back is pleasant to hold, and the Kindle feels solid and satisfyingly weighty in the hand. The Cool-er reader feels as though it was put together in the Fisher-Price factory. Fortunately, there are six other colours available if you don't like our review sample's bright pink colour.
With its cheap and cheerful build quality, you won't want to sling the Cool-er in a rucksack unprotected, although at least it only weighs 168g. The Sony Pocket Edition PRS-300 is solid and reassuringly weighty, with the aluminium casing folded around the reader like the cover of a book. The Pocket is the smallest of the three on test and, as the name suggests, the only reader that will fit comfortably in your pocket.