eBook reader reviews

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The three large companies making eBook readers are Amazon Kindle, Kobo and Barnes & Noble Nook. There are also some Android tablet devices which are marketed primarily as eBook readers. The market for dedicated eBook readers focuses on being as cheap as possible, and so they tend to be small and light, with few features. Tablets are larger and heavier, with colour screens and more features.

Reading with text-to-speech (TTS)

The market for dedicated eBook readers focuses on being as cheap as possible, and so they have minimal accessibility and no speaker.

The Kindle Fire, often thought of as an eBook reader, is actually a tablet device with many other capabilities, including text-to-speech. There are a number of other devices in the same category.

Kindle Keyboard

It may still be possible to purchase a Kindle Keyboard second-hand. This has a voice for the menus on the device, so you can browse the list of books on it, and also for book content. It is not possible to read by word or character, and neither the dictionary nor annotation facilities are accessible. 

It is also possible to enlarge the font for book content. The facility for buying books on the device is not supported by either large font or speech.

Download our guide to using the kindle keyboard accessibility guide.doc (Word, 263KB)

Reading with magnification

For magnification users, there are many more choices for eBook readers. Screen resolution, rather than simply being the number of rows and columns (e.g. 800 x 600) is measured in "ppi" or "pixels per inch", which means devices with different size screens can be compared.

Font size

All eBook readers allow you to change the font size within a book. When the font size is altered, text 'reflows' to make best use of the screen size. For documents whose font cannot be altered, such as PDF documents, there may be a 'zoom' feature which does not reflow text.

Font size options and zooming are only available for the content of a book, so the process of getting books onto the device, or finding and choosing a book from those available on the device can be tricky or impossible if you can't see the menus. You can use a hand-held or video magnifier for this.

Colour

Dedicated eBook readers use eInk displays that work very well for text, but cannot show colour. They are restricted to dark text on a light background, and need an external light to be visible, but do work in bright sunlight.

Light and contrast

One of the innovations of the last couple of years is the "front light", which appears on eBook readers like the Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Glo or Nook Simple Touch GlowLight. While a front light is intended to make the screen visible in low ambient light, it also enhances screen contrast without producing the glare of a back-lit LCD screen.

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