State of the eReader

When the nook first came out, I fell in love. It was the first e-reader I’d found that I could actually use and enjoy. I still have it, and though it’s suffered a hairline crack in the page turn button from sheer overuse, in many ways it’s better today than the day I bought it, thanks to excellent software updates along the way.

That’s not to say that it’s still the best reader out there.

(insert collective gasps here)

In fact, I’d say that there really isn’t a “best” reader to buy right now, but a whole lot of options for different reading habits. There’s too many for me to look at all of them here, but I did take a look at the most recent and most common readers available for people in the US. Here’s my short, quick and easy shopping guide:

If you want an excellent e-ink reader that’s easy to use, doesn’t lock you in, has a touch screen, has library books and other free book sites available and has the longest battery life, and don’t mind the lack of 3G, buy the new NOOK (simple touch version). (Yes, this would be my pick for best general reader out there. It gets you reading fast and keeps you reading longest. And it’s fun to use on top of it.)

If you want e-ink but need a physical keyboard, 3G or text-to-speech (though do remember it doesn’t work on all books) and don’t mind the lock-in, lower battery life (though it’s still pretty good), lack of a touch screen or lower availability of library/free books, buy the Kindle 3G. (Why not buy the old nook 3G? Because B&N seems to be moving away from 3G support, and if you depend on it you should be aware that it may only exist another year or so – the nook will still work, but probably not the 3G.)

If you want a color touch screen and plan to mostly read children’s books, cookbooks and magazines, but would also like some tablet functionality for a good price, and you don’t mind a drastically lower battery life and a much less pleasant “just reading” experience, buy the NOOK Color.

And if you want a tablet computer that happens to allow reading as a secondary or even tertiary function, and you don’t mind the expense (or Apple), yes, you can go ahead and buy the iPad 2.

P.S. Yes, I’ve seen the new Kobo. My two word review: don’t bother. If you’ve seen it and liked it, go look at the new NOOK simple touch, which is ten bucks more, has far more features (including longer battery life), has the backing of Barnes and Noble (Borders just sells the Kobo, which uses its own ebook store.) and is just plain slicker.

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