Which eReader should I buy?

I’ve been thinking about getting a device for reading eBooks/PDFs, but the selection of eReaders is so wide and deep right now that I’m not sure which is the best investment.  I’ve narrowed the field with a few criteria:

  • The reading area should be no smaller than 6″, preferably 7″+.
  • I don’t really care if the devices uses eInk or an LCD screen — I stare at a computer screen all day, every day, and my eyes are no worse for wear.  I don’t read outside very much (sunlight–what’s that?), but I do read at night (typically with a lamp on).
  • A color display might be nice, but for the books I read (technical, literature, philosophy, economics), is really unnecessary.
  • I go back and forth on internet access.  I want to be able to purchase books on the fly, but I don’t think I want full browser support because then I will be tempted to surf rather than read.  (I do read a lot of blogs, but I want to focus more on books).
  • The device must support bookmarks, marking and annotating passages, full text search etc.
  • Format support is important:
    • The device must have PDF support, and the screen size must be such that two- or three-column PDF formats aren’t out of the question.
    • ePub or Mobi support is required.
    • Text, HTML, and Microsoft Word format support would be nice.
    • Image support (.jpg, .png) would be nice, but won’t be a show stopper.
  • I don’t care about audio support.  I have an iPod for that.
  • Weight is a factor; I don’t want to feel like I’m getting a workout when I hold my device.

So far, I have looked seriously at two devices:

The Kindle gets universal praise and has pretty much every feature I want, and it’s also the cheapest eReader at $139 (for the base model).  It is very light and feels nice to hold.  The eInk display is crisp, but the reading area is only 6″, which means that PDF files with odd formatting may not display correctly.  The Kindle lacks a touch screen, which I found slightly annoying when I tried a demo model (my first inclination was to drag my finger vertically across the screen to scroll the text), and user input requires a built-in keyboard.

The Barnes and Noble NOOK Color has a slightly bigger viewing area than the Kindle, and it’s color LCD is vibrant and appealing compared to the monochrome eInk display on the Kindle.  It is also a touch screen with a virtual keyboard which is much closer to the iPhone experience I am used to.  The Nook is actually a trimmed down tablet device — it has a built in browser and support for “NOOKextras”, which are small apps that can be installed.  It’s a little over $100 more than the base Kindle device ($249), and is a bit heavier as well.

Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble provide large book selections:  810,000 and “over 2 million” respectively (at the time of this writing).  I purchase a lot of books through Amazon, but rarely from Barnes and Noble.  Most technical publishers that I favor offer PDF/ePub/Mobi versions of their books directly.

Finally, a special additional point in favor of the Kindle is that my hero Penn Jillette thinks it is better than the iPad.

Any suggestions?

4 thoughts on “Which eReader should I buy?

  1. Zack says:

    My wife in an eBook junkie, I will let her know you are looking but be warned she is a Kindle owner and a very passionate one at that 🙂


  2. Amy says:

    Ha….Zack forwarded this to me because he knows I’m IN LOVE with my Kindle. I don’t generally do PDF on my Kindle so I can’t really speak to that, but another factor I would suggest you take into consideration is customer service. Just looking at the Kindle facebook page vs. the Nook facebook page, Kindle is full of people talking about their great experiences with CS whereas Nook is full of people talking about contacting the attorney general and never buying from that company again. Also, in regards to how many books are available, B&N takes into account all of the free/out of copyright (my mind is going blank as to what those are called right now…) whereas Kindle is not so I think their numbers of available books are much closer to each other than that. Also, you can get books from other places (project gutenberg (sp?), smashwords, etc. There is a whole list on Kindle’s discussion boards of all of the sites that you can get books from. I’d say the only benefits to the Nook are being able to get library books and color (if the LCD doesn’t bother your eyes). I think the Kindle performs better, and has better customer service. Also, with the ability to borrow books from other Kindle users, the library thing is not as big a deal to me. It sounds like you’ve done a ton of research so you probably already know all of this, but if you have any other questions feel free to ask =)

  3. @Amy @Zack — thanks for the replies! I had not considered looking at the Facebook pages for each device, but that’s actually a really good litmus test. I also didn’t know that B&N counted books in the public domain, but I did read that their books are, on average, more expensive anyway. I think I’m definitely leaning towards the Kindle.

  4. The one thing I don’t like about the smaller Kindle is the PDF and ePub support. The larger-sized Kindle doesn’t quite have this problem for PDFs since you have a lot more viewing area.

    However, there are other ways to get around this as far as I can tell. There are file converters that can get you from one type of file to another. But ask Katelyn, she can probably tell you more.

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