A Comparison of E-Book Readers for the New Year

Before any big trip, I always make sure I have enough books to read. That used to mean weighing myself down with pounds and pounds of paper, but now I can carry a library in my pocket. The new question is not which books to take, but which e-book reader to choose.

Seattle-based Amazon.com’s Kindle e-reader once stood alone as the choice for electronic literacy. But after facing stiff holiday competition from the just-released Nook by Barnes & Noble, along with a new version of the Sony Reader—not to mention reading software for smartphones and other gadgets—the e-book battle has really just begun. (Of particular interest to readers in Xconomy’s cities: All of the above devices use electronic-paper display technology from Cambridge, MA-based E Ink, which recently merged with Taiwanese firm PVI. And Steve Haber, president of the Digital Reading Division at Sony, is based in San Diego.)

In a bit of a departure toward the consumer review end of things, here are my thoughts on a few of the more popular e-reader options heading into 2010:

Amazon Kindle: Certainly the most popular and recognizable e-book reader (at least until after holiday sales are calculated), the Kindle comes in two varieties. There’s the $259 Kindle, which has been dropping in price all year, and the $489 Kindle DX that comes with a larger screen, slightly more advanced features, and a larger memory. Personally, I like the Kindle for its very easy-to-use interface and fast connection and download speed (through AT&T’s 3G network). However, even a library of 360,000 books won’t necessarily have what I want, and the proprietary e-book format means there’s no way to get them. For those who want a good all-around e-book reader, though, the Kindle works very well. Just keep in mind that, judging from Amazon’s history, it probably won’t be long before a new, better version is released and the price of the current model drops again.

Sony Reader: Even more varied than the Kindle, Sony’s Reader comes in three editions, the $199 Pocket, the $299 Touch, and the $399 Daily. Each hike in price denotes a larger screen and … Next Page »

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Eric Hal Schwartz was an intern in Xconomy's Seattle office. Follow @

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3 responses to “A Comparison of E-Book Readers for the New Year”

  1. Wade RoushWade Roush says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful review, Eric. The whole e-book picture will probably change again by the end of this month. Paul Boutin at VentureBeat passed along a rumor recently (http://venturebeat.com/2009/12/28/apple-tablet/) that the Apple tablet device or “iSlate,” expected to be unveiled January 27, is primarily designed as an e-reader. Even if that’s not completely accurate and the Apple tablet is a more general device, the iPhone is already such a good e-book device that the Apple tablet will undoubtedly give the other e-readers a run for their money.

  2. Mike Ash says:

    Everything wrong with a Kindle in one word
    EPUB. The Kindle does not support this format, and cannot be used to borrow e-books from public libraries.