A lot of people thought that one-job e-readers would be wiped out by do-everything tablets like the iPad, but that hasn't been the case.
With Amazon's launch of its new Kindle Paperwhites, avid readers have more choices available to them. Although there are several smaller e-reader makers, such as Kobo, it's basically a two-horse race between Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook -- but you've still got eight e-readers to choose from between them.
So, which one is best for you?
Because Amazon and Barnes & Noble offer both e-readers and tablets under the same series names, Kindle and Nook, the difference between the two types of devices can be confusing. But keep this in mind, once you see a color screen, it's a tablet. Further, tablets will allow you to watch video and browse the Internet -- e-readers are for reading. See the list at the end for all the currently-available e-readers.
The biggest reason that e-readers have not been replaced by tablets is price. You can buy a Kindle for as little as $69. Only Amazon offers a discounted unit in exchange for ads that run on the homescreen, but once you are inside of an e-book, you won't see ads. The new Kindle Paperwhites are also ad-supported, but you can have the ads removed for $15 on Amazon's website. Barnes & Noble Nooks do not have ads.
Connectivity helps determine price. An Internet connection -- Wi-Fi or 3G -- is only used for downloading books and periodicals. You don't need to be online to read them, so a pricier 3G connection (like your cell phone uses) is usually unnecessary. Only Amazon offers 3G-capable e-readers.
Do you want to type or tap? While the electronics industry is moving to touchscreens -- even on computers, there are still those who prefer a physical keyboard.
Amazon offers its Kindle Keyboard 3G for $139 and its standard Kindle operates by simple buttons. Kindle Paperwhites are touchscreen-only, as are both Nook e-readers.
The most noticeable change with the introduction of Paperwhites is the display. For years, Amazon claimed that the grayish background, the hallmark of e-ink technology used for e-readers, was easier on the eyes for long periods of reading.
However, the new Kindle Paperwhites use e-ink with much whiter backgrounds against black text. It's about the same difference as reading a newspaper and a magazine. Resolution is also higher in the new Kindle displays than in previous models -- at 1024-by-768 pixels. Nook e-reader displays have a resolution of 800-by-600 pixels.
Both Kindle and Nook offer options for those who like to read after lights out.
The Nook Glowlight was the first e-reader to offer a built-in light, so users could read in the dark without disturbing their partners. Amazon has matched -- and perhaps exceeded -- Barnes & Noble, adding adjustable lighting to Kindle Paperwhites. Amazon's battery life using Paperwhite's light is about twice that of the Nook Glowlight's -- two months compared to one month.
Both brands of e-readers can also be read in bright sunlight, something you simply can't do with a tablet.
As for selection of reading material in each company's online store, there's not much of a difference. Barnes & Noble claims to have "the world's largest bookstore" at 2.5 million titles. Amazon says only that it has a "massive selection," along with 180,000 exclusive-to-Kindle titles. Both companies offer New York Times bestsellers, and prices are comparable. Frankly, I could find little difference between the two bookstores' offerings in a spot check.
That said, Barnes & Noble offers an intriguing way to browse books by "instant collections" which group titles by more specific categories than the traditional ones like thrillers and literary fiction. Spy novel devotees can see 92 choices in "International Intrigue" and Jane Austen fans get 118 titles to choose from that include the classics along with modern adaptations, such as Victoria Connelly's "Weekend with Mr. Darcy."
Each company has its own set of perks and as for which one is better, it's really up to you. With Amazon Prime, a $79 a year membership service that includes free 2-day shipping on Amazon purchases, Kindle owners can choose one book a month from nearly 200,000 titles to read for free, including the Harry Potter series. Barnes & Noble's $25 a year membership program offers little for Nook owners -- discounts apply to physical books. However, Nook owners can read for free any e-book for an hour a day over the Wi-Fi at B&N bookstores. Customer service by in-store personnel is also available to Nook owners, which can come in handy if you have a problem with your device.
You can borrow e-books from public libraries through both devices. There's no difference in lending selected e-books to friends because publishers set the rules, not Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
What models are available? (All displays are 6-inches)
* Kindle, $69 (with ads)
* Kindle, $89 (no ads)
* Nook Simple Touch, $99 (no ads)
* Kindle Paperwhite, $119 (with ads, add an additional $15 to remove them)
* Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, $139 (no ads)
* Kindle Keyboard 3G, $139 (with ads)
* Kindle Keyboard 3G, $159 (no ads)
* Kindle Paperwhite 3G, $179 (with ads, add an additional $15 to remove them)
Ogden-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question for TopTenREVIEWS? Email Leslie Meredith at email@example.com.