E-Readers and Tablets - Are you ready to take your medicine? - part 1 of 1 2

by Mike McNamee Published 01/02/2012

In preparation for the launch of Professional Imagemaker as an 'app' we have had to get up to speed on the techniques, technology and jargon from the world of electronic books. Here is some of the stuff we learned.

Under the general classification of e-books and electronic readers there are four technologies to consider:

Phones, Blackberrys and palm devices various
Black and white e-readers £90-£200
7-inch colour LCD media tablets approx £130
Large tablets such as iPads and Androids £300-£750

These devices run on a number of different operating systems (OS) principally Apple's iOS, Android, a variety of Android Clones (eg Honeycomb). The formats for the actual documents you might wish to read are summarised as follows and also tabled:

Adobe PDF - the ubiquitous Adobe Acrobat format. This handles all forms of text, fonts, tables, diagrams and images.

ePub - also EPUB (short for electronic publication; alternatively capitalised as ePub, ePUB, EPub, or epub, with 'EPUB' preferred by the vendor) is a free and open e-book standard by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). Files have the extension .epub. EPUB is designed for reflowable content, meaning that the text display can be optimised for the particular display device used by the reader of the EPUB-formatted book, although EPUB now also supports fixedlayout content. The format is meant to function as a single format that publishers and conversion houses can use in-house, as well as for distribution and sale. It supersedes the Open eBook standard. An Adobe epub variant may be exported directly from InDesign with a single mouse click.
HTML - the standard hypertext mark-up language of the web.
MOBI - The Mobipocket software package is free and consists of various publishing and reading tools for PDA, Smartphones, cellular phones and e-book devices (Symbian, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, webOS, Java ME, BlackBerry, Psion, Kindle and iLiad). was bought by in 2005. plain text
RTF - rich text format; text with a few bells and whistles.
KEPUB - (proprietary to Kobo) one of many.

How widespread are these devices?

For these technologies, the sales numbers are staggering. Apple alone has sold 200 million iOS devices along with 14 billion apps. It took Apple three years to sell the first 100 million iOS devices but only another year to sell the next 100 million. Of that second 100 million, 25 million were iPads. The estimated sales of Kindle Fires are 4-5 million, Barnes & Noble Nooks 2-2.5million and an estimated 5-8.8million iPads in the last quarter alone! Regardless of how you cut them up these are mind-blowing numbers and as photographers we should be alert to the fact that the viewed content is graphics-heavy, we cannot ignore the revolution that is marching along beside us.

What relevance does this have to photographers?

Two really: it is technology which uses images and as such we should be keeping up to speed as a matter of course; secondly the technology can be used to help you communicate with clients, create your portfolios and access any apps that might be useful to your business. Factored into this are the marketing opportunities which rely on social media which is generally hosted on these devices, along with your laptops or computers.


We have compiled a table showing the main features of a number of e-readers available as of January 2011. The Kindle, the most popular gift this Christmas, can be discounted unless you are happy to put up with 16-level greyscale images. However, the Kindle Fire, threatened some time soon is a more fully featured tablet with a full-colour LCD screen. The Fire is presently stalled by European data protection legislation but we can look forward to being ripped off relative to our American cousins in the next few months (why these high-paid lawyers cannot sort out these legal issues ahead of launches is a mystery - just what do they get paid for?). You are going to have to think hard about your requirements before taking the plunge. If you cannot compile a list of requirements you might be better to wait until such time as you can. Alternatively you can go with the flow and fork out for an iPad, it will certainly give you the same platform as more of your clients, should you need to share, but you cannot ignore the rising presence of Android-based devices. Here are some pointers:

• The Kindle is the only device that does not have a touch screen.
• e-ink readers work in bright sunshine but not in the dark.
• LCD screens catch reflections and do not work well in open sunshine.
• With their colour screens and bigger batteries, the 7-inch tablets are heavier than their e-ink counterparts. Weight can be an issue in extended reading.
• Apple iPad 2 has twice the screen area of the 7-inch devices.
• Small screens often make magazines and PDFs look cramped.
• The 'Pearl' screen by E Ink is now standard on all major e-ink readers. If you're getting the Nook or Kobo or Sony Reader or Kindle, you're basically getting exactly the same screen.
• If you're mainly interested in reading books, you're probably going to be OK with Wi-Fi-only models.
• If you need to surf, take emails, etc Wi-fi will be OK at home but not always when out and about.
• The current Nook, Nook Tablet, Kindle Fire, and Kobo models are only available in Wi-Fi versions. Amazon offers two versions of the Kindle Touch with 3G wireless.
• If you're a power user or frequent traveller, opting for a 3G product is worth considering.
• If you need Sat Nav you have to have a GPS-enabled device, not all of them are.
• If you need to Skype, check out the camera options.
• If you want to stick with reading books, and maybe some newspapers and magazines (in black and white) then an e-ink reader is probably your best bet. While they have some online features, you won't be distracted while reading by a stream of incoming e-mails, tweets, or Facebook messages.

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1st Published 01/02/2012
last update 07/04/2022 09:16:32

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