Who needs a tablet? Bookworms know that eReaders offer the most pleasant reading experience, by far. The LED displays found on tablets and smartphones strain the eyes, while the eInk screens featured on the popular NOOK and Kindle lines look stunning , especially with text… just like real ink on real paper.
In the past, eReader displays were sluggish and had subpar contrast, but recent advances have boosted refresh rates, increased contrast, and most recently, added light sources for reading in the dark. Compared with tablets, eReaders are less expensive, more portable, slightly more rugged, and have a battery life that is measured in weeks, not hours. In addition, glare is never an issue; in fact, eReader displays look great in the sun.
Competition from tablets has weeded out the lesser eReaders over the past few years, with Amazon and Barnes & Noble reigning supreme. Here are their best eReader offerings.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is the best all-around eReader because it has the best display. Its built-in light uniformly illuminates the screen for reading in the dark, and it has a negligible effect on battery life. It’s available with either Wi-Fi for $119 (with ads, $139 without) or Wi-Fi and free 3G (free for downloading Amazon eBooks and looking at Wikipedia, anyway) for $179 (also with ads, $199 without). Amazon’s eBook selection is second to none, making the Paperwhite the best device on the best platform.
The Barnes & Noble NOOK Simple Touch GlowLight came out before the Kindle Paperwhite, and we claimed that it was “simply the best eInk reading device currently available.” With microSD support, it has the edge on the Paperwhite in terms of expandable memory, and it matches the cheapest Paperwhite in terms of price, at $119. The NOOK GlowLight is a no brainer for those already invested in the B&N eBook ecosystem, but the Paperwhite gets the slight edge for first timers.
The Amazon Kindle Keyboard is bigger and bulkier than the Paperwhite, and it features older screen tech with no illumination, slower page turns, and lesser contrast. At $139, it’s also more expensive than the Wi-Fi Paperwhite. So why is it on this list? Because it has free 3G complete with an “experimental browser” for free internet access almost anywhere, speakers, text to speech, and a full QWERTY for simple word games. Even though it is more than two years old, it’s still a good device with great features.
The Barnes & Noble NOOK Simple Touch is only $99, and it has a very crisp screen with great contrast. It’s also touch controlled, but lacks the onboard light and features of some of the other eReaders on this list. It’s the best entry-level device for anyone looking to get into Barnes & Noble eBooks.
The basic Amazon Kindle is only $69 with ads ($89 without) and has the same display as the Kindle Keyboard, meaning it has no light, and lacks the crispness and contrast of the Paperwhite and NOOKs on this list. With no touch controls, 3G, speakers, physical memory expansion, or keyboard, it’s very basic. It also just works, and is a great Kindle bargain.