We certainly have a lot of choices. As holiday season is here, I’m reprinting my purely personal thoughts on the current crop of ereaders. (Since I wrote this there are a lot of comments to the article that are worth reading, also, if you are undecided.)
I look at an ereader as a long term proposition, so I would only choose one that has an established market presence and a well-known brand name. This limits the field to Sony, Amazon, B&N and Kobo. PocketBook is another possibility, as they are pretty big in Europe, but they don’t have their own ebookstore.
Stay away from the cheap, Chinese ereader clones that are flooding the market. Their hardware may actually be OK, but you will find that their software is abysmal. Stick to a name brand.
If you want an ereader for your kids, then there is only one real choice right now and that is the Nook Color. I’ve seen it and it really is lovely. It’s sharp, bright colors will entrance any of your younger children.
To cut to the chase, the Kindle 3, followed by the Sony Daily Edition.
The Kindle 3 is a beautifully thought out machine with a long history behind it. Amazon’s customer service is the standard to beat and their ebook selection is first rate. I would plump for the WiFi + 3G model at $189. Once you have 3G you will be surprised at how often you use it. WiFi is not as ubiquitous as you might think. I know that Amazon’s format is proprietary, but, to be honest, Amazon has gotten so big in this market that I don’t think it’s an issue any more. Everyone else is proprietary too, as they all rely on some form of DRM, mostly from Adobe, and I think that if anyone will go bust it will be Adobe, not Amazon.
Also consider the Kindle 2, if you can find one. The Kindle 2 is an excellent unit and you can’t go wrong with one of them – especially if you can get a deal. I loved mine.
The Sony Daily Edition is a wonderful machine if you want a bigger screen. It also has WiFi and 3G (3G for book downloading only) and the touch screen is very nice if that is something you need. Their browser also works much better than the Kindle implementation. A big point in its favor, or any Sony’s favor, is that they use the “standard” form of Adobe DRM and so books purchased from Sony can be read on other ereaders that support Epub. Build quality is top of the line, but it’s pricy at $249. Since I consider connectivity a “must have” I would not consider the other Sony models.
For non-techie adults
If you have a grandma, father, mother or someone else who is not a techie, the choice is clear to me: the Kindle. After you do the initial setup on Amazon (open an account and register the machine), which takes only a few minutes, the reader never, ever, has to look at a computer again. It’s so simple to operate that even a technophobe will be able to use it.
Why I didn’t choose the others
The Nook (e-ink): two reasons. B&N is still working the software out and this shouldn’t be the case for something that’s been out so long. Also, the Kindle, in both WiFi and 3G models is a little cheaper.
Kobo: if you want a WiFi only model the Kobo unit is fine – it uses the same screen as the Amazon and Sony units, but for the same price you can get an Amazon unit with Amazon’s customer service behind it. Kobo is on a roll, though, and given their investors I think they will be a formidable player in the future.
Other Sonys: as I mentioned, no connectivity.
iPad: the iPad is a pretty clunky ereader – heavy, limited battery life, and its hard to use it outside. Also the iBookstore is pretty limited compared to all the others. Finally, Apple’s DRM implementation means that you are locked into reading on Apple equipment only if you buy a book from the iBookstore. So I wouldn’t buy an iPad primarily for ereading. However, Amazon, B&N and Kobo have apps that will allow you to read their books on the iPad, so you are not limited to the iBookstore if you buy from those guys. Also the iPad is the one to get if you are into comics.