What are e-readers?
What do they do?
An e-reader (electronic reader) is a portable device for reading digital content, such as electronic books (e-books), newspapers and documents.
How do they work?
They use e-ink screens that eliminate glare and reduce eye-strain, making them much better for viewing digital documents than laptops and tablets and computer screens.
An e-reader usually has wireless connectivity and allows a user to download content straight from the internet. You can get files from your computer via a USB link.
What file types can I read?
This differs from model to model. Some e-readers officially only allow you to access content from their own online bookstore (e.g. the Amazon Kindle) while others can easily access content from a wider range of sources (e.g. the Sony Reader). It’s best to check the availability on each model before you buy.
The market for e-readers is expanding rapidly. In 2011 global sales of e-readers stood at 22.82 million, a year-on-year increase of 107 per cent and experts expect this number to exceed 60 million units by 2015.
This market is dominated by Amazon’s Kindle, whose low price helps to keep sales volumes high and puts a real squeeze on the competition. James McQuivey, analyst with the Forrester research firm told the FT in December last year: “Prices are falling so quickly that at some point Amazon’s going to give you one for free to extend its customer relationship...”
Amazon has never released figures for Kindle sales, but IHS iSuppli estimates that their total e-reader sales grew from 1m worldwide in 2008 to 10m in 2010. Researchers believed this figure reached 23m in 2011, but improvements to tablet computers along with falling tablet prices mean that this phenomenal growth is likely to slow.(1)
This slowdown for the Kindle may become even more pronounced as a Berlin-based company plans to launch an e-reader in 2014 which is expected to cost less than €10 posing a real challenge to the dominance of the Kindle.
Using your tablet as an e-reader
If you have a tablet we wouldn’t advise you buy a separate e-reader. There is plenty of software available for both Apple and Android platforms that lets you read e-books on your device.
This software includes:
- Google Play / mobcast / moon + / kobo / Aldiko / ebooks.com – for Samsung Galaxy
- Lexcycle Stanza /ebooks.com / Apple iBooks – for iPad
See our Best Buy advice for tablets.
Apple paid less than 2% corporation tax on its profits outside the US in 2012. It channels much of its business in Europe through a subsidiary in the Republic of Ireland which has almost half the rate of corporation tax that the UK has.
Despite being progressive on conflict minerals, toxic chemicals in products, and reporting on the energy efficiency of its products, it does not seem to have set any targets for its environmental performance and so gets our worst rating in that category. It was also the first technology company to join the Fair Labor Association which now audits its Foxconn supplier. Apple gets our top rating for Supply Chain Management despite there being ongoing problems at some of its suppliers.
If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table.
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This product guide is part of a Special Report on Amazon Alternatives. See what's in the rest of the report.