Are you on the fence about getting an e-reader? There is no time like the present. There are more devices available today than ever before, though only two manufacturers really stand out in terms of quality versus affordability: the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.
There are two basic types of e-readers: the black and white e-ink-only readers, and the color LCD models. Both have pros and cons that you’ll want to understand before making a choice. The e-ink versions generally have a longer battery life and offer the best paper-like reading experience. These e-readers are usually less expensive than their full-color counterparts.
The color, LCD-based models offer a more tablet-like experience, combining e-book reading with other entertainment options, such as games, apps, and Internet browsing. However, the LCD-based e-readers don’t compare in terms of speed or functionality to actual laptop computers.
Best “Audio Enabled” E-Reader Device
Amazon Kindle Touch
Amazon has long been a top-notch provider of e-readers, and the Kindle Touch is no exception. This highly affordable e-ink e-reader has all the basic functionality necessary to give readers a truly enjoyable reading experience.
- Responsive Touchscreen.The Amazon Kindle Touch has an amazingly responsive touchscreen that allows you to “flip” pages with ease.
- Wi-Fi Integration or 3G Cellular Connection. You can get this e-reader equipped with either WiFi connectivity or 3G. The main difference between the two lies in your ability to access the Amazon Store to download new content. If you don’t always have access to a WiFi signal, but don’t want to let that stop you from accessing the store, then 3G is for you. However, you’ll pay for the convenience since you’ll be on the hook for a monthly data access plan. On the other hand, if you don’t need constant access to the online store, then stick with the more affordable WiFi version.
- Audio Support. This device comes with speakers, so audiobooks can also be enjoyed.
- EPUB Support. Not only can you choose your next novel from literally hundreds of thousands of titles in the Amazon Store, but you can also “check out” some e-books from your local library using this device.
- Extra Cost for Accessories. All of the accessories for this device, including the AC charger, cost extra.
- Ad Overload. Unless you spend the extra $40 to get the upgraded model, you’ll be subjected to seeing quite a few ads in the ad-supported version. The Kindle Touch comes in four basic versions: WiFi ad-supported and WiFi non-ad-supported, as well as 3G in both formats.
- Lack of Hard Controls. The other main drawback is that left-handed users may find the touchscreen a little aggravating since there are no hard page controls and the touchscreen is geared toward right-handed users.
The Kindle Touch is one of the best e-reader devices out there. It is a one-trick pony, but it performs its one trick very well.
Best Ad-Free e-Ink E-Reader
Barnes & Noble Simple Touch eReader
The Barnes & Noble Simple Touch eReader is an exceptional device, and could have possibly taken the top slot in terms of being better than the Kindle. However, because there are a few notable features missing here, I had to give it second billing.
- Price. This is one of the best Pearl e-Ink readers out there (Pearl technology offers enhanced readability and low energy consumption), and you won’t find a better one at this price point.
- Responsive LCD Screen. The screen offers high resolution and high contrast, so reading your favorite novel in two days won’t result in a nasty headache due to eye strain. You also won’t get finger fatigue. Thanks to the screen’s ability to interpret your commands easily and quickly, page turning is a breeze.
- Integrated WiFi. You get built-in WiFi for instant access to the Barnes & Noble Nook Store.
- Expandable Memory. I love the ability to expand the memory of this device via microSD. This means that I can carry my entire e-book collection in the side pocket of my purse and have them at my fingertips.
- Long Battery Life. The battery is perfect for anyone who is too busy reading to remember to plug in the device, lasting up to two months between charges.
- EPUB Support. You can borrow books from your local library, as well as buy them from the Nook Store, and you get a little social media support.
- Lack of Audio Support. The main reason this device gets second billing to the Kindle is its lack of audio support. While this really may not seem like a big deal to many people, sometimes it’s just nice to be able to listen to a well-read story rather than put in the effort to read it yourself.
- No 3G Connectivity. You also can’t get 3G support, so it’s WiFi hotspot or nothing.
All in all, the Nook is an exceptional choice as an e-reader. If Barnes & Noble would have added audio support and 3G connectivity, this one would have definitely made the cut above the Kindle.
Best e-Ink Reader on a Budget
The Amazon Kindle (2011 model – not the Touch or the Fire) is one of the best e-readers you can get for less than $100. As a matter of fact, this device will only set you back around $80, which is amazing for the quality it offers. If a no-frills e-reader is what you seek, look no further than this Kindle.
- Access to the Amazon Store. With this e-reader you will get access to the huge Amazon library of e-book titles.
- High Resolution LCD Screen. The screen offers you a truly enjoyable reading experience thanks to its high contrast Pearl e-Ink screen that adjusts from daytime reading (black print on a white background) to nighttime reading (white print on a black background) with the flip of a switch.
- Wi-Fi Integration. Thanks to the WiFi integration, you can access titles on the go, and the ultra-compact size and weight makes this the perfect travel companion.
- Large Internal Memory Capacity and Long Battery Life. The internal memory space can hold hundreds of titles, and the battery lasts for weeks between charges.
- No Touchscreen or Audio Support. As a tradeoff for the lower price point, Amazon left many of the bells and whistles off of this particular model, such as a fully functional touchscreen and audio support.
- Ad Overload. There are a lot of ads since this is an ad-supported-only device.
- Extra Cost Accessories. You’ll also have to pay extra for a cover, and even the AC adapter.
If you want a cheap, quality e-reader device, this is the one for you. You won’t pay for a lot of functionality that you don’t want, and it offers hard key controls for those who do not want a touchscreen-only device.
Best Entry-Level Tablet With E-Reader
Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet
The Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet is more than just an e-reader – it’s a fully functional tablet computer, albeit a little less capable than some of its more expensive competitors.
- Seven-Inch LCD Touchscreen. The seven-inch LCD touchscreen is beautifully colored.
- Wi-Fi Integration. Whether watching YouTube videos, Internet content, or full length digital movies, you will not be disappointed with how this tablet displays them.
- Large Internal Memory Capacity and Expandable Memory Option. If you like taking your entertainment with you instead of finding it on the web, the Nook Tablet has 16GB of internal memory capacity, as well as slot for expandable memory via microSD memory cards. You’ll never run out of memory.
- Access to the Nook Library. While the Nook library isn’t nearly as expansive as the Amazon Store (yet), there are plenty of options to keep you busy, from books, to games, to apps designed to help make your life easier.
- Netflix and Hulu Plus Optimization. If you have a Netflix or Hulu Plus account, this device is already optimized for these services, helping you make the most of your subscription service.
- Adobe Flash Support. This little device can do one thing that the Apple iPad can’t: It supports Adobe Flash.
- Lack of Tablet Computer Functionality. As I mentioned before, this is a tablet computer, in addition to being an e-reader, but it is lacking in a few vital functions that many of the more expensive tablets out there have. Most notably, you won’t get GPS, Bluetooth connectivity to your cell phone or other Bluetooth device, or a built-in camera.
- Lack of Support for Rented or Purchased Content. You can’t rent or purchase movies from the Nook library like you can with Amazon. So if you like taking your movies with you, you’ll need to add them to your device or a microSD card.
- Lack of Android Market Access. The only downloadable content is available through the Nook Store, as you won’t have access to the entire Android Market.
This is a great entry-level tablet or a super-advanced e-reader thanks to its enhanced capabilities. But even though this device has the ability to perform many tablet-like functions, if a tablet is what you are after, you might want to think about a different device.
Best Overall Tablet/E-Reader
Amazon Kindle Fire
The Amazon Kindle Fire is a relative newcomer to the tablet arena, and although it lacks some of the functionality of the more expensive models, it is a solid performer and has earned its spot as one of the best budget tablet computers available.
- Access to the Amazon Store. Some of the more impressive features of the Kindle Fire include its access to one of the largest and most comprehensive collection of digital content music, videos, e-books, and magazines available.
- Integrated Internet Browser. This device comes with a built-in, user-friendly, powerful web browser, as well as access to thousands of apps including Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora – plus a vibrant seven-inch screen.
- Lack of Tablet Computer Functionality. Of course, skimping on price means that there are a few noticeable drawbacks to choosing the Amazon Kindle Fire over the iPad. Some of the more notable shortcomings include a lack of premium features, including 3G support, camera, external microphone, and GPS.
- Smaller Internal Memory Capacity and No Expandable Memory Slot. It only contains 8GB of internal storage and there’s no way to expand it via microSD cards. There is also no Bluetooth connectivity.
The Amazon Kindle Fire is a great addition to any collection where entertainment, including movies, e-books, and Internet browsing, is the main focus.
The main consideration when determining which e-reader is best for you lies in what you are looking for. Do you want the ability to read e-books on the go without breaking the bank? Or would you rather have a more comprehensive device that allows you to read books, listen to audio books, browse the Internet, and take your DVD collection along with you for the ride? Regardless of what you are looking for, there is a device out there that can take your needs and turn them into a reality.
What experiences have you had with e-readers? Is there a particular device that you’d recommend?