Choosing an eReader: Reviews of the Top Five Devices

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For the book lovers among us, e-readers are a mixed bag. They’re still a relatively new technology, and they’re becoming more and more popular each year. Although print books will certainly be around for some time, in coming years, the bulk of reading will be probably primarily accomplished by looking at screens rather than paper. This being the case, bookworms who are interested in transitioning to the new platform need to educate themselves about the different available models. Of course, one of our main objectives is to save money, so the sticker price is an important consideration. But, understanding how each model serves the needs of different readers, and understanding what your needs are will maximize your use of your device, thereby saving you money in the long-term.

Here are few of the major players in the e-reading market.

  1. Borders Kobo ($140)

    Although the Kobo doesn’t get as much hype as its major predecessors, the Kindle and the Nook, the Kobo is my personal favorite. Why? Because for the same or lower price as its competitors’ basic models, you get a device that supports both PDF and ePub, meaning you have access to multiple formats and library books as well. It has all the basic features that most eReaders have, although it’s missing some of the typical add-on features like MP3 and note-taking abilities. If you are looking for cheap e-reader to read books only, then this is probably your best bet.

  2. Barnes and Noble Nook ($150)

    The Nook is a little pricier than the Kobo, but it has a few additional and some different features that the Kobo doesn’t. The most noticeable difference is the Nook’s striking interface. Underneath the standard e-ink display (the display that makes screens look uncannily paper-like), there’s a touch LCD screen, which is pretty neat.

  3. Sony PRS 630 ($230)

    The main reason that you might want to shell out almost $100 dollars extra for the Sony is that it’s great for note takers with its interactive touch screen. I’ve never used a Sony, but colleagues who have say that it’s an enjoyable experience. The negatives of this Sony device are true of other (more expensive) touch screen readers. They’re easier to break, don’t have that e-ink paper-like quality, and the battery life on these babies is substantially shorter than non-touch screen devices.

  4. Bookeen Cybook Opus ($190)

    This one’s a little pricier, but if you want to read books in different languages, then this is pretty much the only reasonably priced multilingual e-reader. As you can guess, it’s more popular in the European market, but it’s definitely worth it if you want to sharpen your language skills.

  5. Amazon Kindle ($140)

    The Kindle was my first e-reader, and since Amazon has been working on the e-ink display readers the longest, it’s a hardy device. I will say, however, that, much like Apple‘s products, the Amazon Kindle is an entirely closed one, meaning you can only buy and read products offered through Amazon. Of course, Amazon has thousands of ebooks, but it can be exasperating when Amazon doesn’t have the books that you want. As Rick Broida pointed out in his recent post on the most important feature in doing an ereader comparison, the Kindle doesn’t have access to library books. You can’t do much of anything special with the Kindle unless it’s through Amazon. These can’t and don’ts add up, making it, in my opinion, a generally poor choice. At the same time, however the Kindle is great for reading newspapers, so if want a device that can give you access to e-editions of print newspapers, then the Kindle might be for you.

Of course, there are tons of different e-reader models out there, but these were the models that are on the cheaper end of the spectrum, offering the most quality bang for your buck. If you want more than just a reader, delving into the tablet arena might be something you want to look into. Also note that each reader brand has several models offering different wireless capabilities. Paying extra for 3G is a waste of money unless you are constantly on the road.

Check out this CNET article for a very thorough list of questions you should ask yourself when choosing an e-reader. It also includes the editors’ picks with the more expensive models. Good luck, and happy reading!

Katheryn Rivas is a freelance writer and blog junkie, who blogs about online universities.

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