The decision of which e-Reader to buy can be broken down into many different criteria. These basically break down as follows:
– What kind of books do you read?
– Color versus black-and-white?
– Touch Screen or not?
– Sharing capabilities
– Wireless technology
– What else can it do?
What kind of books do you read?
Answering this question determines whether an e-Reader is appropriate for your needs. All e-Readers have 95% or more of New York Times Bestsellers, but their selection of less popular titles can be lacking. If you like older books by obscure authors then finding them will be hit-or-miss. As for which e-Reader might be best for a reader with eclectic taste, stay with Nook or Kindle. They have been around longer than the iPad, and have had time to fill their collection with more books other than recent bestsellers. It would be a good idea to go online and look at the collections for whichever e-Reader you’re interested in to see if they have the titles you would want. If not, an e-Reader might not be the best solution for your needs, at least at this point.
Color versus black-and-white?
This is largely a question of personal preference. Most adult books are going to be black-and-white except for the cover and if reading an academic book perhaps some illustrations. If the e-Reader is to be used for solely adult purposes, then the question is whether you want to see the cover and infrequent illustrations in color. Color capability is most important if the e-Reader might be used by children. Children’s books have many illustrations; removing color from them would severely hinder the magic of a child’s reading.
The Nook has a color version, and all iPad models come in color. Currently, there is no color Kindle, though with the fierce competition in the e-Reader market a color Kindle is probably in the works. That being said, you’re going to pay for color. The Nook Color is the most expensive Nook available at almost $250. iPads are the most expensive options by far, with the base model being $499.
Touch Screen or Not?
The iPad is fully touch screen, having no buttons except for the Home button. The Kindle has no touch screen, instead offering a full keyboard and menu keys. The Nook is not fully touch screen capable, but it has a section at the bottom of the e-Reader which is touch screen and is used for navigating and searching for books online.
The real question is whether you need the touch screen capability or not? This question is best answered by asking what you want the e-Reader to be able to do (a question addressed later on). Basically, if all you want the e-Reader for is reading books, then having a touch screen seems more a marketing frill than a useful tool. However, if your e-Reader needs to be capable of more, it depends on if the touch screen capability enhances those other applications.
This one is pretty easily answered. The Nook allows you to share the books you’ve purchased with other Nook owners for a period of 2 weeks. The Kindle does not support this feature, nor does the iPad. A further benefit of the Nook which is not quite sharing in the sense of peer-to-peer sharing but I’ll include it here anyways is that many libraries offer downloadable books for the Nook. At the time of this writing the Nook is the only supported e-Reader for this service, but in the future this may change. Libraries are facing (and have been for a while) dwindling budgets and an increasingly competitive world in terms of information services. This means they have to come up with innovative ways to maintain relevancy and utility in their communities. Since not all e-Reader owners have Nooks, it’s a safe bet that libraries will want to offer electronic books usable by Kindle and other e-Readers in the future.
The subject of wireless technology probably yields the least variance in terms of what each offers. The Kindle and Nook are identical. Each offers 2 versions of their product; one with Wi-Fi only, and another with both Wi-Fi and 3G access. For those who don’t know, 3G is essentially the ability to shop the online bookstore from anywhere. Wi-Fi requires a wireless network, such as the one found at a Starbucks, public library, or at home if you have a wireless router. You might be familiar with 3G if you have a phone that you can access the internet with. Unlike phone data plans, however, accessing the 3G network on a Kindle or Nook is free. The difference in price for a Wi-Fi versus Wi-Fi plus 3G model of both the Nook and Kindle is $50.
Things are slightly different when talking about the iPad. The iPad offers the same Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi plus 3G versions of the 3 hard-drive size models. However, access to the 3G network is not free. You have to sign up for a data plan with a telephone network, which can cost between $20 and $60 a month. The cost difference between the 2 versions is also more notable. Using the base 16GB model as an example, the Wi-Fi only version cost $499. The Wi-Fi plus 3G model is $629.
What Else Can it Do?
This is what separates the iPad from the Nook and Kindle. The Nook and Kindle are e-Readers first and only. You can download PDF’s and read those, and some titles offer the ability to be used as crude audio books, but basically all extra features are an extension of consuming the written word. The iPad, however, is an e-Reader, but only as one of many other possible applications. The iPad can browse the Internet, check e-mail, view pictures, play music and movies, play games, and do hundreds if not thousands of other things utilizing Apple’s infamous App Store. The iPad really isn’t just an e-Reader; it’s a tablet that has an e-Reading capability.