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2012 eBook Reader Holiday Buying Guide

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Reader K Harris emailed me a couple of weeks ago with the following question:

Hi! I was wondering if you were planning on doing a post on e-readers for the coming holiday gift-buying season. I have a Sony Reader Touch which I love dearly but I’m feeling seduced by the new generation of readers with built-in lights. I feel a Nook makes more sense as an upgrade (I won’t have to convert all my current epubs and can avoid contributing to the Amazon monopoly) but the Kindle’s better backlight and print quality sway me and I feel the need of expert input to help me decide. Please consider it if you’re not already planning it, and if you are planning it, I look forward to the results. Thanks!

The following is my recommendations for eReader purchases.

The eInk devices

There are two types of eink devices on the market these days. One is the low, bargain priced eink devices and the integrated light version.

* Bargain price eink devices.

This is a device you might give to a kid or a grandparent and all they need to do is turn pages. Organization and notetaking is possible, but tedious. The Kobo and Nook Simple Touch both have touch screens. The Kindle Basic has a rocker. The screen size is 5″ for the Kobo Mini and 6″ for the Kindle Basic and Nook Simple Touch. Choices include the Kindle Basic at $69.00; Kobo Mini at $79 or Kobo Touch at $99; and the Nook Simple Touch at $79; Sony Reader at $129.99.

The best in this class of bargain devices is the Nook Simple Touch. You get great in store customer service and a 6″ eink touch screen at the price of $79.00.

* Lighted eink device

The key difference between the lighted eink device and the basic, bargain priced eink devices is the integrated light. There are three options for fans of the integrated light. Kobo Glo ($129.99), Nook Simple Touch with Glow Light ($119) and the Kindle Paperwhite ($119). All three feature 6″ eink touch screens, wifi, and the integrated light. The Kobo Glo and Nook Simple Touch have a mini SD slot which expands your memory options up to 32 GB. Kindle offers to store up to 5 GB of your books for free via Amazon’s Personal Document service; however, you will need to be connected to WiFi to access your cloud stored archive.

Most reviewers who have seen both the Nook and the Kindle Paperwhite feel that the uplighting by Kindle is more even and less intrusive than the sidelighting offered on the Nooks. Based on the quality of the lighting, screen, and the low priced books available on the Kindle, the Paperwhite is my recommendation for the integrated light devices.

The Tablets

Within the tablet market you have many options from new entries like the Microsoft Surface and Google’s Nexus to the multi-function devices such as the Nook HD Tablet, Kindle Fire HD, and the Kobo ARC. Within the tablet market, there is the 7″ screen and the 10″ screen devices. The larger devices are more for entertainment and less for reading. I never was able to enjoy reading on an iPad in bed.

If you are buying the 7″ tablets, you are buying it because you want a device you will primarily use to read, play a few games, and watch videos. You may answer a few emails and browse the web but the 7″ devices are not for creating content but merely consuming it. 7″ tablets are as follows:

In this shoot out, the Google Nexus 7 is the winner because it runs a full Android Operating System rather than the frankenstein one offered by Amazon and you can still watch all the Amazon movies with the Amazon Instant Video App for Android. For a slightly lower resolution (and it’s not all that noticeable), the Google Nexus 7 offers more options in terms of Apps and content. The Kindle Fire HD is the second runner up based on price and the screen resolution. It has the best screen resolution of all the 7″ devices for the lowest price.

While BN’s device has a screen resolution similar to Amazon, B&N doesn’t offer the content that Amazon or Google offers for its devices and when it comes to having a multi function device, you will want the ability to easily purchase music and movies and take those with you.

What to Buy

If all you want is an ereader device, I recommend getting the Kindle Paperwhite. At $119, you get the best integrated light eink screen on the market; access to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library where you can borrow one book a month for free; as well as the best pricing available.

If you are upgrading from an existing device, I’d stick with the same format unless you are prepared to download your previous purchases and convert them. Thus if you own an ePub reader, it makes sense to go with the Nook Simple Touch Glow Light.

If you are in the market for a multi function device but are still primarily a reader, then take a look at the Google Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire HD. The Google Nexus 7 will give you the most options. You can download the Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Sony apps. You can have full access to the Google Android Marketplace. Even the movies that are on sale at Amazon can be viewed via the Amazon Instant Video App. Have a little more money to spend? I really love my iPad Mini.

Best of luck deciding which device is perfect for you. If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll answer in the comments.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Meoskop
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 07:15:09

    Totally agree with your summary.

    I find it bizarre that we live in a world where Barnes & Noble is considered the ethical choice. Their business practices over the first 20 years are pretty toxic. They are also a major factor in Agency Price developing. Support any company you want, but Barnes & Noble is just Amazon in an older dress.

  2. Danielle D
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 07:59:54

    Oh I want a Nexus Google tablet so bad. Santa do you hear me, I’ve been good.

  3. Estara
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 08:44:55, formerly, keeps having a sale on the newest Sony Reader (which I took advantage of in October because they also offer a 30-day-back guarantee) of three German ebooks (from a selection) plus the PRS-T2 at €99 – a very good price. Some of the pure electronics retailers are trying to follow suit, because that sale has been around since October and no one else offers the Sony Reader that cheap in Germany.

    Correction: It’s now at 129 € with three preloaded books and a selection of four books from the Spiegel Bestseller list, but at least you can still give it back within 30 days.

  4. Luce
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 09:34:45

    FYI, if you click on the Google Nexus 7 link, it’ll take you to the Kobo page.

    (Personally, I’m wavering between the Nexus 7 and the Samsung tablets. My wallet is not happy.)

  5. Lia
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 09:58:04

    I’m from outside the US, and currently own a Sony PRS350 and am thinking of upgrading as well. I’ll probably get a Kobo Glo.

    As to why anyone would prefer the Nook above the Kobo Glo is beyond me!!! B&N’s epub format can only be read by the Nook, as far as I know. It might be epub, but it’s a lock-in system, just as much as Amazon’s Kindle is.

    Also, geographical restrictions make it near enough impossible to buy ebooks from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. As you are probably a US resident, that’s probably not an issue for you. At Kobo I can legally buy nearly all of the content that Amazon and B&N offer, without the geographical restriction hassle and their epub-format isn’t solely for their own e-readers, but can be read on a Sony or any other epub reading device as well.

    I would definitely go with a Kobo Glo or one of the newer Sony e-reading devices, rather than Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but that’s just me.

  6. Marc
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 10:29:38

    I have a Sony but the Kobo Glo managed to get me. I have been very happy with the quality of the lighting feature and the Kobo Glo itself. I love the SD card option. I did have a minor issue getting the Wi-fi working but a reset of the Glo fixed that right up. I am thinking of getting one for my Mom for Christmas.

  7. Carrie G
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 10:33:47

    I have a kindle keyboard and a kindle fire. While loading epub onto the Fire is doable, it’s a pain. Since I started way back with the first kindle, I’m in the system and I really like the kindle products for ease of use in other ways. However, my next device will probably be a Nexus or whatever is equivalent when I buy. I want something you can read anything on with ease, plus the features of a tablet for web surfing.

    I like having two devices, a dedicated ereader (it generally stays at home near my bed) and a tablet. I don’t care for backlighting for extended reading so a dedicated ereader is a must for me. I want a paperwhite so I can read in bed without a light on, but it will be a while for that because my keyboard is going strong.

  8. Darlynne
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 11:44:59

    Thanks, Jane. This is so helpful for the family members who are trying to figure out what they need/want.

  9. Marjorie
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 12:58:40

    Thank you for posting this article. Lots of good info. I was disappointed, however, to see that you did not mention the Nook HD Plus. I was blown away with it when I saw it! It is a bigger screen than the regular HD & is just pow! Also, for Nook machines that have expanded memory, you can go to & make your Nook an Android Tablet also! How it works is that you get a micro SD storage card & have the Android OS put on it through N2ACards. You put it into the slot. When you boot your machine up, you boot into Android or Nook so that you have BOTH a full Android Tablet & the Nook. It has no affect on your Nook so it does NOT void your warranty & you are not rooting it. I just checked & they don’t have a card for the HD’s yet but they are working on it. I think it is totally worth looking into! You can have B&N books & Amazon books on the same device. :) I dk how this compares to the Google Nexus.

  10. Sunny
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 13:19:37

    Google’s had leaked that a Nexus 7 for $99 will be appearing soon, although it may not be the full-featured tablet. It’d be nice if it came out in time for the holidays but I think it’s too late — still, something to keep an eye out for!

    My Kindle keyboard’s battery isn’t lasting very long (and I find it wild that I think 3-4 days isn’t very long anymore) so I’m upgrading to a paperwhite, after reading all the reviews and comparisons that have been linked here. Thanks so much for them!

  11. Mireya
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 19:12:19

    My husband got me a Nexus today. My previous device was a Lenovo A1 K7, 7″ tablet. The only reason why I switched to Nexus was because to upgrade the Lenovo from Gingerbread 2.3.4 to Jelly Bean 4.1, the process was pretty ardurous for a home user like myself (suffice it to say I spent over 4 hours yesterday trying to do it myself, ended up “bricking” it so I had to figure out how to “unbrick” it … bleh). My husband gave me the new tablet today as an early Christmas present because he took pity on me. The brother-in-law is “inheriting” my Lenovo now. Suffice it to say that I loved the Lenovo and am loving the Nexus as well, with the added bonus that the Nexus automatically updates from Jelly Bean 4.1 to 4.2 without having to jump hoops. If you want a device for a bit more than just reading, the Nexus is fabulous. Oh, and my husband has one, he bought it on Cyber Monday and he’s majorly happy with it as well, that’s why he chose the same model to give me. With my Lenovo I checked emails, went to FB, played hidden object games, etc. I certainly can do all that with the Nexus. I definitely recommend it and so does my husband.

    On a side note, I don’t know if the B&N tablet has access to the google marketplace. The initial reason why I didn’t go for a store-tied (Kindle, Kobo, Nook) gadget was because I didn’t want any sort of restriction. I do remember that when the nook tablet was introduced it was “unlocked” meaning that you could install any android apps in it. Shortly after, they “locked” it. That’s when they came up with the SD card workaround to make it work with an open Android platform. The stats of the Lenovo were good to begin with, resolution a bit below the nook. Haven’t compared the stats of the Nexus to that of the new nook HD.


  12. Carl V.
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 21:34:15

    I bought a Kindle Fire HD this past week and am enjoying it very much. Though it is not a cheap toy I have to admit that I bought it almost entirely for the reason that I wanted to read the many e-only science fiction and fantasy magazines out there and wanted to do so in color. Also because I want to be able to read John Scalzi’s episodic novel that comes out starting in January while being able to see all the great John Harris covers in color.

    So far I’m very pleased with it.

  13. Mireya
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 07:30:51

    @Lia: You can read DRM-free epub books using your nook, if I am not mistaken. I read most of my epubs that are not DRMd using nook app. You do need to sideload the books to the right folder within the app/software (in the case of nook, MyDocuments within the nook folder).


  14. Stephanie Doyle
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 09:21:24

    I’m curious for those buying new Kindles… is there any trick to keeping your folder structure? I know everything loads to archive – I was just wondering if there was a way to save my favorites folder, my TBRs, etc.

  15. Jane
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 09:22:32

    @Stephanie Doyle: No, unfortunately that is one of the worst features of the Kindle – the lack of folder organization synchronization.

  16. Kwana
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 15:46:42

    Thanks so much for this fantastic summery of all the devices. Just perfect for the holiday shopper.

  17. De
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 17:42:57

    As a reference librarian, when we get people asking about ebook readers, they’re primarily wanting to read library books. We recommend the Sony. You can do the entire process on the reader, or as I recommend, do search and check out on any computer with a real monitor and keyboard, and then log in and download on the reader.

  18. Nicole
    Dec 11, 2012 @ 10:44:48

    When the Paperwhite came out, I was determined to get one, but ended up with the Nook Glow instead. Why? Because I wouldn’t have to convert any of my books that I currently had (previously used a Nook Color) and I find the light to be nice and perfect for my needs at night.

  19. Maureen
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 09:00:16

    I’ve been searching for an answer to this question, but so far no luck. I’m hoping someone here might have an answer for me. I am looking for an e-reader with the e-ink display — black and white — that also offers e-mail reading and sending capabilities. (I suppose that means web browsing in general).

    I tend to get sick from the color tablets, most of which do offer email. I can’t tolerate the light (HD? LCD?) and glare on those tablets. I have a Kindle Fire, but it is too uncomfortable for me to spend much time on it reading and/or writing emails. I use it mostly for music. I also tried an Asus eee pad transformer, but the light and glare were even worse than the Kindle Fire so I had to return it. I also have a Kindle Keyboard 3G which I LOVE — no sickness factor!! But also no emailing ability.

    I thought I read somewhere that one or two brands of e-readers/tablets have both the color and the e-ink displays available, and the user can switch back and forth between the displays as needed.

    So, long story short, does anyone know of an e-reader or tablet that I can read and write emails from (without jumping through a bunch of hoops) and that has the e-ink display? Or perhaps a matte screen … something that wouldn’t trigger the nausea/headache factor?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

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