I've been going through ereaders like a fiend these past few months - it seems that either Amazon or Barnes & Noble release a new one every few weeks - so I think it's time we talked a bit about which one of the latest crop is best for various users.
First, a little background. Right now there are really only four ereaders you should be thinking about. From the tablet family - meaning devices that are like iPads - Amazon makes the Kindle Fire and B&N makes the Nook HD. In the e-ink camp - the devices with black and white, high-contrast screens - you have the Kindle Paperwhite and the Nook Simple Touch With Glowlight.
Your first question is simple: Do I want a color device that will let me watch movies and television shows or a basic device designed only for reading?
As an avid reader, I've found that dedicated e-ink devices that are devoid of games and other frippery allow me to read with more concentration and control. E-ink readers mimic the printed page almost perfectly and they're visible in direct sunlight. They're also considerably lighter than LCD devices with color screens.
The Nook HD and Kindle Fire, however, are essentially tablets with special software that reduces the overall complexity of the device and allows quick and easy access to books and media with one click. You can also download apps and games - Angry Birds! - onto your LCD devices and browse the web.
Amazon and B&N are selling both 7- and 9-inch color ereaders, but the functionality is the same. The larger-sized readers are for users who might have problems seeing a smaller screen (although you can change the font size on any e-reader we mention here).
Could you use an iPad or Android tablet as an ereader? Sure, but you're looking at a slightly more expensive device that offers content creation apps as well as reader, music, and video apps. If you're so inclined, however, the Google Nexus 7 and iPad Mini make excellent readers.
Best E-Ink Device - Amazon Paperwhite - $119 - The Amazon Paperwhite is a wonder to behold. The screen is almost paper white (hence the name) and it is backlit, which means it lights up when you turn it on. This allows you to read it at night without a nightlight and, more importantly, makes the text much more readable. It is my favorite e-ink reader this year and it's an excellent choice, even over the arguably capable Nook Simple Touch With Glowlight.
Best Color Device - Nook HD - $269 - The Nook HD beats the Kindle Fire HD by a hair. Both devices are quite capable and they work seamlessly when browsing books, magazines, and movies. However, the Nook HD has a very cool catalog-browsing service and a good magazine interface. The system allows you to "rip" pages from the catalog for future reference and you can even order right from the device. It's a boon for those who might not want to thumb through a glossy catalog.
The Nook HD is priced right, too. At less than $300, you get a very capable device and a sturdy ereader for travel and home. Add in a free charger and you're getting a pretty good deal.
Best Cheap E-Ink Device - Nook Simple Touch - $99 - You've never seen a simpler or more attractive non-glowing e-ink device. At $99, the Nook Simple Touch is about as low as you can go in terms of price, and you'll be amazed that this thing actually turns on - it looks like a case wrapped around a piece of paper. The technology is cool and the price is right.
Do you have an ereader? What's your favorite? Do you plan on buying one for the holidays this year?