Shopping for an e-book reader? The good news is that you have more choices at better prices than ever before. The bad news? There are more choices than ever before. In the realm of dedicated e-book readers, the market has consolidated around a handful of major players: mainly Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with Kobo and Sony bringing up the rear. But every major tablet, including the Apple iPad and nearly every Android, also doubles as a reader.
So, should you get an inexpensive e-ink reader or go for a more versatile color tablet? Should you wait for new versions to come out? These are the dilemmas facing any shopper today.
Start by asking yourself what you’re really looking for. Do you just want to read books? How about magazines and newspapers? What about browsing the Web? Want to add multimedia to the mix–music, audiobooks, or video? E-mail and messaging? Games? If you want to stick with “just reading”–books, and maybe some newspapers and magazines–an e-book reader is probably your best bet. Prices will range from $120 for an e-reader to $800 for a tablet.
Next, ask yourself how large of a screen and weight you want. Even if you plan to never leave home with your e-reader, you should consider its size. The Kindle is very lightweight, but the heavier Nook Color will offer you a larger, 7-inch screen. If you require an even larger screen, you’ll want to look at buying an iPad or a Sony Tablet. Remember though, that all readers have adjustable fonts, and a smaller screen does not necessarily sacrifice readability.
Consider whether or not you want a color screen. Some e-book readers, such as the Kindle, use an e-ink screen, which means they are black-and-white. They’re not backlit–so you can’t read in the dark–but you can read them in direct sunlight, which is something you can’t do on an LCD or touch screen. By contrast, the LCD screens found on all tablets (and the Nook Color) are bright, colorful, beautiful displays. But those advantages have trade-offs. The reflective screens on LCD tablets make it hard to read in bright light, and many people find that the backlight tires their eyes over long reading sessions. If you enjoy reading Web sites, magazines, and newspapers, and if you want support for interactive children’s books, you’ll want to go with color. However, if you prefer the look of newsprint or if you enjoy reading outside, an e-ink display is your friend.
Decide if you need LG or Wi-Fi. If you’re primarily interested in reading books, you’re going to be fine opting for Wi-Fi-only models. You need Wi-Fi access when you’re buying new books. If you’re using your hardware to access anything besides e-books–magazine or newspaper subscriptions, e-mail, the Web, apps, and so forth–ubiquitous wireless access becomes more important. Still, if you’re using the reader/tablet primarily at home, Wi-Fi will remain sufficient. The current Nook and Kobo models are only available in Wi-Fi versions. Amazon and Sony offer more expensive step-up Kindle and Sony Reader models that offer 3G wireless. Tablets, of course, offer a much wider array of media options and, as a result, data access is much more tempting. However, most tablets are carrier-specific and can come with hefty bills. With more phones and more businesses offering free Wi-Fi, there are plenty of ways to get seamless online coverage with your reading device without it having 3G network support built-in.
These are all important factors in deciding which e-reader is right for you. Take them into consideration when doing your shopping, and you’ll find the reader best suited to you, or whoever you’re shopping for. Happy reading!