Choosing the Best E-Reader … for me, and for you

As someone looking to join the e-reader world, I feel cautious about which device to choose. What with the new lines of Amazon and Kobo e-readers that just launched, and the fact that new tablets are coming out quicker than most people can keep track of them, there almost seems to be too many options.

There are backlit and front-lit devices to think about; there are E Ink screens and LCD screens; there are touch-screens and page-turning tabs and ads and perks … the task feels daunting.

Thankfully, I recently stumbled upon a Tech News Daily article that helps consumers choose which e-reader is best for them. I delved right in, looking to find the answers to my e-reader questions.

Should I get a tablet or an e-reader?

Usually, I would jump right into tablets with their color screens, fancy apps, and ability to watch video and browse the Internet. They seem like the logical choice since you can do so many things on one device. But I’m looking to do some serious reading, and the tablets just don’t seem to cut it. E-readers are cheaper, they won’t have that annoying glare in sunlight, and I like that they’re designed with one purpose in mind. For me, tablets are out.

Do I want to type or tap?

The consumer electronics industry is definitely moving to touch screens, but there are still those who prefer to use a physical keyboard. Amazon offers its Kindle Keyboard 3G for $139 (or $159 without Amazon’s Special Offers), while its standard Kindle—recently knocked down to $69 for the Special Offers Version—uses simple page-turning buttons and a five-way controller button. Kindle Paperwhites and Nook e-readers both operate via touch screen. Personally, I’m used to touch screens, and I don’t feel the need to have a full keyboard. Looks like I want to tap.

Kindle vs. Nook: Which has the better display?

Originally, Amazon claimed that its trademark grayish background was easier on the eyes for longer periods of reading. Their new Kindle Paperwhites, however, have E Ink displays that are front-lit—not lit from below, like the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. They also have a much whiter background against black text. Or as Amazon describes it, the Paperwhite offers “exceptional lighting uniformity and evenly balanced whiteness across the entire display.” That has me leaning toward the Paperwhite.

Do I want to read in bed?

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight was the first e-reader to have a built-in light, allowing users to read in the dark without disturbing their partners. Amazon, however, has added adjustable lighting to its Paperwhite, which is also said to have up to eight weeks of battery life (with the light at half-brightness and the Wi-Fi turned off). That’s based on a half-hour of reading per day, which means a full hour of reading per day should give you roughly 30 days of battery life.

Barnes & Noble, meanwhile, claims that the GlowLight’s battery will last for 30 days, based on a half-hour of GlowLight-enabled reading per night. Assuming those stats are accurate, the Paperwhite offers twice as much battery life as the GlowLight.

What about book selection?

Barnes & Noble claims to have the “world’s largest bookstore” with 2.5 million titles. Amazon says it has a “massive selection,” along with 180,000 exclusive-to-Kindle titles. Both offer New York Times bestsellers, with comparable prices. There seems to be very little difference between the two selections, so this does not affect my choice a great deal.

Do I get any perks?

If I sign up for Amazon Prime, a $79 yearly membership service that includes free two-day shipping purchases, I could choose one book a month to read for free, including books from the Harry Potter series.

Barnes & Nobles’ $25-a-year membership program doesn’t offer much for Nook owners; discounts apply only to physical books. Nook owners can, however, read any e-book for free–for an hour a day–over the Wi-Fi at B&N’s brick-and-mortar bookstores. But e-readers are meant to make reading easier and more convenient; I don’t feel like traveling to the bookstore just to read for an hour a day.

Amazon also offers trade-ins on old Kindles, and both devices enable you to borrow e-books from public libraries. Amazon appears to have more in the ways of perks.

So, which device have I chosen?

The Kindle Paperwhite! At $119, it’s cheaper than a tablet. It comes with a touch screen and adjustable lighting, so I can read in bed. It has a better display than the Nook; it also comes with more perks. After doing the research, it feels like there’s only one e-reader choice for me.

What other models are available?

If you’ve found that your preferences don’t match mine, check out the list of e-reader models below. Any tips? Share ’em in the comments section.

Kindle – $69 to $89

Nook Simple Touch – $99

Kindle Paperwhite – $119 to $199

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight – $139

Kindle Keyboard 3G (ads) $139 to $159

Also …

Kobo Glo – $130

Kobo Mini – $80

Kobo Touch – $100 

9 Comments on Choosing the Best E-Reader … for me, and for you

  1. The “… and you” part of the title didn’t work for me. I would choose differently and use different decision points.

  2. Thanks Frank – what sort of decision points would you consider to be most important, if you didn’t already own an e-reader? I’m interested in learning if there are, say, one or two features that almost *everyone* is looking for in an e-reader.

    As for myself, I want simplicity … but in a product that’s nevertheless of a high-quality. I’m also looking for a low price. The Kindle 4 is pretty much perfect for me for all those reasons. In fact, I’m not even really interested in trading up for a newer model (like the Paperwhite, for instance.)

    If I was actually going to buy a new device — and assuming my Kindle still worked perfectly well, which it does — I would want something with a completely different (but still complimentary) set of features. Which would probably mean a tablet of some sort.

  3. Just wanted to comment on the hour of free reading at B & N. That would have been a great feature. But I have always found it to be very frustrating. Books load very slowly which would have been okay if it weren’t also that there were a lot of dropped connections and freezes necessitating reloading.

    I also thought it would be great to be able to preview children’s books before buying. Unfortunately due to performance issues, I quickly lost patience. So the whole in store experience was very frustrating and not at all pleasant.

  4. I think that eReaders have now reached a stage where all devices from major manufacturers can probably do an acceptable job of displaying a book.

    Whenever I am asked to recommend a device to someone, I always tell them to go to a store and to pick up and handle each device that is being displayed.

    Even if two devices have “identical features”, based on their descriptions, they may feel and act differently when you are holding them.

    Your subtle, personal reactions to the physical device make the difference between being immersed in reading a book, and being unable to forget that you are holding an eReader. Being able to hold the thing comfortably is more important, to my mind, than any feature such as backlight vs. frontlight.

    And, of course, for anyone living outside the US, the simple availability of a device in your country is a major factor. Is the device you see reviewed on the internet available for purchase where you live?

  5. Regarding the selections offered by the two bookstores: You may find that your personal reading preferences have a significant effect here.

    For example, I’m a sucker for series. When I find a series I like, I want to go back to the very beginning. I find that Amazon and B&N tend to mirror each other’s offerings on curent releases, but as you try to go back for older books, you start noticing the differences.

    I settled on a Kindle rather than a Nook by making a list of the books I had purchased in print form over the prior 6 months, and then checking the e-book offerings of both stores to see if I could have obtained them from either store. It just happened that Amazon had far more of the books I had actually wanted than B&N. I have little doubt that other people with different reading patterns might find less difference, or might find that B&N was a better match for their personal reading tastes.

    I recommend a similar experiment to anyone considering which store’s ecosystem they want to lock themselves into.

  6. Your battery-life analysis for the Nook is incorrect. The Nook’s 1 month battery life is also based on only 1/2 hour of reading per day, not 1 hour as you indicated.

    From the Barnes and Nobel website: “•Read for over 1 month on a single charge with GlowLight on (based on a half hour of daily reading time)” (

    If both companies’ claims are true, the Kindle Paperwhite will have twice the battery life of the Nook.

  7. @Vonda Z – You’re right, and just to be clear, that was an editing mistake of mine. Cara Gavin had the facts correct, in other words, when she submitted the article; I was the one who screwed that up. Thanks for pointing it out!

  8. My decision would be based on the ebook stores first, and the device itself second. I only would consider Kindle, Nook and Kobo, as you can at any point switch between eink and LCD when your preferences change, and they all have apps on a myriad of operating systems.

    I find that Amazon has the cheaper prices and largest selection. My friend has a Nook, and some of the books I would like to recommend to her are not available on Nook, so she is missing out. Kobo has a very small selection of books that I am intersted in, so for me would not be an option.
    Amazon prices are cheaper in many cases, on other cases the same, but never more expensive. I compared a lot of the books that we both read, and a one dollar difference makes up the cost of a new book every nine or ten books I read (and I read a lot).

    More aspects to consider:

    – library books: They are just so much easier to borrow in Kindle format, especially if you read on eink. No need to use your computer at all, unless the publisher insists on Adobe DRM, which I only had to deal with once so far.

    – customer service: I love Amazon customer service and dislike B&N’s.

    – easy returns: you have a long time to return kindles (I forgot how long) and 7 days to return ebooks

    – lending: you can only lend a kindle book once. Nook may be more often? Does Kobo have this feature?

    – accessibility: when my form of payment changes, I can still access my kindle eboks.

  9. My Sony PRT1 is very lightweight and I can hold it in one hand or the other for long periods of time. Plus, the size of the veiwing area makes reading easy and fast.

    If there is a drawback, is that it takes 3 to 5 viewing pages, depending on the font size, to cover one printed page. As a 200 page pBook becomes a 700 page eBook. But, as I stated, holding me Sony eBook reader is easier than holding a pBook

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