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We’re only about five weeks away from Christmas, so now’s as good a time as any to talk about (drum roll, please) e-books. Amazon kick-started the e-book market (with apologies to earlier e-book readers) with the introduction of the Kindle in the fall of 2007. Two years later, Barnes and Noble, IREX, and Sony announced new or updated e-book readers of their own.
The question becomes, which e-book reader is right for you? The truth is, they’re all very similar, so it should come down to what books their compatible book stores carry. Oh, and price, of course.
Amazon Kindle: Starting at $259 (Amazon.com)
The elder statesman of the current crop of e-book readers, the Amazon Kindle is now in its second iteration (putting aside for a moment the Kindle DX, which isn’t exactly a “traditional” e-book reader, if such a thing even exists). As the name suggests, it has the full backing of Amazon—you may have heard of it—which should ensure that it’ll stick around for a while. You can find it on Amazon.
• Compatible with e-books (and magazines and newspaper) purchased from Amazon. There’s some 360,000 books available, so odds are you’ll find something you like.
• 6-inch, non-touchscreen E Ink display. Very legible, believe me.
• Free 3G wireless data access. That means you don’t have to be tethered to a computer to add new books to your device.
• It now works in more than 100 countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Australia, and Brazil.
• Holds up to 1,500 books simultaneously.
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Barnes & Noble nook: $259 (BarnesandNoble.com)
Yes, the nook is written in all lowercase letters, so accept no substitutes. It, along with the Kindle, is destined to become one of the two biggest e-book readers available. It’s backed by the enormity of Barnes & Noble, and all that that entails, has a color scroll bar at the bottom (color = huge when it comes to e-books), and seems to do just about everything right… It’ll be available in a few days (currently scheduled for a November 30 release) from the Barnes & Noble Web site and brick-and-mortar stores.
• 6-inch E Ink display, with color touchscreen navigation bar along the bottom. Note that the screen itself isn’t in color, just that navigation bar.
• Free 3G and Wi-Fi.
• Works with the Barnes & Noble e-book store, which has “thousands” of books.
• Enough storage space to hold around 1,500 books, plus a microSD card slot in case you need more space.
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Sony Reader Daily Edition: $399.99 (SonyStyle.com)
Sony has been in the e-book business for a while now, but the Daily, as it’s called when brevity is an issue, is the company’s latest attempt to make these things finally “click.” As of this writing (November 19, 2009) it’s not actually available yet, but Sony says it will ship in time for Christmas. (It’s available for pre-order right now.) The following is based on what Sony has already publicly announced.
• Compatible with more than 40,000 books from places like the New York Public Library and overdrive.com. (Interestingly, not all of Sony’s partners have been revealed yet.)
• 7-inch, touchscreen E Ink display.
• Free 3G wireless data access. Again, no having to be tethered to a computer to download new content.
• Supports a whole host of file formats, including Adobe PDFs (hello, alt.binaries.books!), Microsoft Word documents, and MP3/AAC audio.
• Thanks to the touchscreen, you can take notes on it like you would a regular notebook. Might be handy.
IREX DR800SG: $399.99 (IREXReader.com)
This little guy was the first e-book reader announced to include support for the Barnes & Noble e-book store. It has the biggest screen of the lot, and manages to check all the right boxes. Its name is woeful. Like the Sony Daily, it’s not available yet, but will be at Best Buy and online in a few weeks.
• 8.1-inch, touchscreen E-Ink display (but it uses a stylus, so…)
• Compatible with the Barnes & Noble e-book store, along with Newspaper Direct and LibreDigital.
• Free 3G wireless, plus Wi-Fi.
• Unique navigation via left-hand side bar.
• If you want to support the future, IREX has already said that it’s working on a full-color e-book reader that it intends to launch next year. It’s the only manufacturer to commit to releasing a color reader just yet.