e-readers


Ethical shopping guide to e-readers

Ethical shopping guide to e-readers


This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

This guide is part of a Special Report on Buying Books Without Amazon which includes:

 

This guide includes:

  • Ethical and environmental ratings for 15 brands of e-readers
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • what are e-readers
  • the dominance of Amazon's Kindle
  • using a tablet as an e-reader

 

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Score Ratings

Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings

 

Score table

The score table shows simple numerical ratings out of 20 for each product. The higher the score, the more ethical the company.

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Click on a product name to see the stories behind the score (subscribers only). 

 

Full Scorecard

The Full Scorecard shows the 'black marks' for each product, by each of the 17 negative categories. The bigger the mark, the worse the score. So for example a big black circle under 'Worker Rights' shows that the company making this product has been severely criticised for worker abuses.

Scores start at 14.  A small circle means that half a mark is deducted, a large circle means that a full mark is deducted.

Marks are added in the positive categories of Company Ethos and the five Product Sustainability columns (O,F,E,S,A).  A small circle  means that half a mark is added, a large circle means that a full mark is added.

The Full Scorecard is only available to subscribers. Click on the More Detail link at the top of the score table to access it.

 

Customising Rating Scores

Move the sliders to change the weighting given to each category. You can open up each of the 5 main categories by clicking on the + sign. This way you can compare products according to what's ethically important to YOU.  

 

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Stories and Data behind the scores

To see all the stories and research data behind the ratings you'll need to be a subscriber.

You must be signed-in to save your customisations. The weightings you have given to each category will be saved premanently (subscribers) or only for this visit to the site (registered users).  Once set, they will be used to calculate the scores in all the buyers' guides that you view. 

 

Stories and Data behind the scores

To see all the stories and research data behind the ratings you'll need to be a subscriber.

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Key to expanded Score table

Best Buys

as of May/June 2013

Best of a bad bunch

On tax, there are a number of companies that score our best rating and make viable alternatives to Amazon. These are Archos, Bebook, Bookeen, Boox, Elonex, Gobook, Iriver, Libre, Pixelar and Pocketbook. However all these companies score badly for supply chain and environmental policies.

The only company who scored better on these supply chain and environmental policies was Sony which rated middle for tax, so this could also be considered a better buy.


 

 

What are e-readers?

 

 

e-reader 

 

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.

 


 

 

Amazon's monopoly

 

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.

 

 

Company Profile
 

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.

 


 

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