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Old 02-10-2009, 02:27 PM   #1
BenE
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Netbook vs dedicated eBook reader

Does anyone have any direct experience with using the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook computer as an eBook reader? I need a netbook and I want an eBook reader but I cannot afford both at the same time.

FBreader software works (which reads several formats, including Mobipocket) on the Dell with Linux Ubuntu as the operating system.

An Ebook reader's electronic paper has real advantages over an LCD screen and weighs less than a netbook (especially in bright light). However, a netbook is a fully functional computer that can display ebooks and do lots of other things too.

I was considering a BeBook reader but more and more the netbook approach seems not only more versatile but also fairly practical, with the advantages outweighing the disadvantages.

What is wrong with my ideas about this?
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Old 02-10-2009, 03:09 PM   #2
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NOT A RECOMMENDATION
This is just a summary of what my thoughts were when I was recently shopping for a new reader. I looked at a netbook. I also thought, hmmmm, combo computer/reader. But the netbook costed as much as a large screen laptop (the laptop was on sale), so I thought, hmmmmm, I need a new computer, and I could read books on that nice screen. And the size was too big for lugging around and reading, but too small for me to see if I wanted to go on the internet.

So I got the laptop. It was sooo heavy that it pinched a nerve in my neck! I tried it as a reading device for 2 months, and it was perfect for reading, as long as I was sitting up and had it propped on a table or something. Or I would put a pillow on my tummy and set the computer up there to read at night. Made breathing a bit difficult, and I was afraid of falling asleep and dumping it on the floor.

After I pinched the nerve, I said, well, it was pretty profane so I won't tell you what I said. Then I went and ordered the 505 that I originally planned to get.

To make a long story short, in my case, the netbook was too small for my computer needs, but too bulky for my reading needs. So for me, it was not quite right for either computing or reading.

RECOMMENDATION
Pick up the netbook, hold it like you are reading, spend some time with the menus, and see if you can see and work with the small icons, etc. If it's comfortable for you, then get it. If you would have to compromise comfort, then don't get it, because if you don't like to use it, then it will just be wasted.
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Old 02-10-2009, 04:55 PM   #3
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I haven't had a lot of experience with netbooks - but I find the laptop form-factor isn't that well suited for reading. I like a landscape format screen with no keyboard in the way to read from.

Do what you can to try the form factor before you buy.
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Old 02-10-2009, 05:21 PM   #4
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Battery life. On a netbook the battery life will be considerably shorter.

Ergonomics. I have an Acer Aspire One, and while I like it, it's nowhere near as comfortable to sit with for reading as a dedicated reader device. I'm even thinking my iLiad Book ed. is a little too heavy and cumbersome.
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Old 02-10-2009, 06:14 PM   #5
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The problem with netbooks are battery life (much improved with 6-cell batteries, but at the cost of more weight) and the screen aspect ratio (not tall enough). The 2nd problem goes away if you can use it in "portrait" mode, which is possible with a convertable netbook. These are new, and the only one available currently is the Classmate PC "tablet". Asus is supposed to be introducing the Eee PC T91 and 101H convertible touch netbooks this spring. However, there have also been news reports that Asus is delaying the introduction of new products, perhaps including these.
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Old 02-10-2009, 08:46 PM   #6
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I am waiting to see how nice the convertible netbooks are because, for me, they offer more value. And while they might be a bit heavier, they are no less bulky since one should really have a cover of some sort on any of the eink based readers. Plus you can run almost any app you might want...mostly, like reader software, crossword puzzle software and basic word processing and email...all for under or near $500. It will be interesting...

The biggest con for a netbook is the fact they will pretty much stink outdoors since they are using standard LCD type displays (usually glossy which is even worse) not some form of transreflective display.

I am also waiting to see what comes up the end of this year with the plastic based displays instead of glass eink.

But right now if there was a known good netbook convertible to be had, I would need to talk myself out of buying one.

I wonder if netbooks are one reason for the rumor of the Kindlebooks on everything sorta stuff going on...the writing would seem to be on the wall that netbooks will eventually be the dominant device. Especially once color flexible eink is mainstream in a couple years.
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Old 02-10-2009, 10:13 PM   #7
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I have a mini 9 and its an awesome little gadget but its not really ideal for reading on unless you are sitting at a desk with it in front of you or in a comfy chair with it in your lap. Its not the best for reading in bed etc. Its just not as comfortable as a dedicated book reader.

I use a Sony PRS-505 for books and in my opinion its the better option for reading on.

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Old 02-10-2009, 10:22 PM   #8
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I don't have a netbook, but I do have a laptop that's about as small as one (10.something" screen), and whilst I have read on it I find it far less comfortable to read on than my Sony, and the positions I can read in are more limited. In fact for comfort, and despite the much smaller screen, I'd sooner read on my Nokia N800 than the laptop!

The downsides of it, compared to my Sony (and my N800, for that matter):
Bulky
Short battery life
Awkward to hold for any length of time
Gets hot
Not many comfortable reading positions

However, if you can only afford one, and you need the netbook and only want the ebook reader, then get the netbook now and keep an eye out for cheap readers for later. You can read on the netbook, it just may not be as anjoyable an experience as on a dedicated reader.
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Old 02-10-2009, 10:54 PM   #9
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PDS:

Was your comment in response to mine about netbooks as a reader? If so read the next comment I make below and it will explain why a netbook will soon be a very competitive device for the current ereader devices in many instances. Not for everyone though...

SNC:

I actually like my N800 pretty well, and you know the reason? Well there are several, but one that I had not considered when the thing showed up is the kickstand acts as a nice wrap around hand holder. I just slide my hand between it and the N800 body and I have a very secure device I really don't need to grip to hold on to. And I can reach around with my thumb to tap the screen in order to change pages. Though, to be honest, it is still a bit awkward. I do like that FBReader can operate in portrait orientation. More like all the dedicated readers. I wish someone would try and move Kovid's Calibre to the N8x0 family running OS2008...it's beyond me to make that work but someone might give it a shot someday.

But for sure battery life is not near the eink devices. Nor will any netbook be either. But the upper end netslate/tablets using the newer low power SSD's will get near 10hrs of continuous use with wifi running, that won't be horrid. You do know they have a new gen of netbooks which are going to be convertible into a tablet/slate PC? I will be hunting the cheaper convertible devices with standard 9.5mm HDD's instead as they will be $200-$300 cheaper. From my reading those will be hitting the shelves in earnest come the end of Q3 or Q4 '09.

BTW, I was looking today and you can find oodles of Kindle 1's for well under $300 including shipping on eBay and the N800's are under $175 too. When the Astek devices using the flexible screens show up the end of the year I suspect a lot of folks with our older readers will jump in feet first if the price is right. And I suspect prices will have some pressure specifically due to the new net-tablet/slate systems in that $300-$600 price range.

I sure would not want to read on any of my laptops and a current netbook in landscape orientation is but my idea of fun at all! hehehehe...

Last edited by brecklundin; 02-11-2009 at 01:36 AM.
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Old 02-11-2009, 02:57 AM   #10
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There's a great difference between sitting and reading for any length of time, with a light device such as a BeBook, compared to a much larger, at least 5 times heavier device. Even though tablet PCs are nice.

I think you should save your money for a few more years
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Old 02-11-2009, 09:54 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by _Ea_ View Post
There's a great difference between sitting and reading for any length of time, with a light device such as a BeBook, compared to a much larger, at least 5 times heavier device. Even though tablet PCs are nice.

I think you should save your money for a few more years
again...each person is different. eink is not the end all of displays for reading. How heavy were the text books you learned from? If you were like many people, your texts were HUGE and you held them for hours on end under all manner of conditions. Though, most of the time that kinda sucked...hehehehe...still we did it easily enough.

Weight is also not as significant in many cases for some people. Other than carrying something in my pocket, weight is my last criteria when looking at a portable device.
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Old 02-12-2009, 03:57 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by brecklundin View Post
again...each person is different. eink is not the end all of displays for reading. How heavy were the text books you learned from? If you were like many people, your texts were HUGE and you held them for hours on end under all manner of conditions. Though, most of the time that kinda sucked...hehehehe...still we did it easily enough.
I'm apparently not like many people , even if I did go to university for five years, I think I had 4 or 5 of those big, floppy books and I read them sitting at a desk so I could easily make notes. My professors were good at making compilations and apparently European text books are less text heavy (it was rumoured that American publishers pay more for longer books) I studied comp. sci. and communication for that matter.

Anyway, it's not a good argument that I should keep 'punishing' myself with something uncomfortable just because I'm used to it

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Weight is also not as significant in many cases for some people. Other than carrying something in my pocket, weight is my last criteria when looking at a portable device.
There's a big difference between sitting and reading in a comfortable chair and holding either 200 g or 1.5-2 Kg
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Old 02-24-2009, 11:02 AM   #13
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I have a Dell Inspiron Mini 9 (the 32GB SSD version, running XP) and I wouldn't recommend using it an eBook reader. It's a superb "mobile web/e-mail" platform, excellent for writing the odd letter on, etc, but it's entirely the wrong form-factor to read on.
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