First up, here are the known Black Friday deals for ebook readers.
Augen (review at Engadget)
- Menards: $69
Lookbook (review at theDigital Reader)
- Wal-mart: $99 (no touch, old model)
Nook Classic (wifi only):
- Best Buy: $99
Second, there are three basic types of ebook readers on the market: dedicated eink readers, multifunction (such as the iPhone/iTouch/Blackberry Storm/Droid X/Android Tablet), and the hybrid (enTourage Edge, nookColor, PanDigital, Literati ).
If you aren’t sure which device to buy, take a look at the questions and answers provided last week in part 1 of the Holiday Buying Guide. This part of the guide will provide my opinion as to the best device in each class and along with alternatives. If you can, I highly recommend taking a trip to Best Buy. Best Buy has in stock: iPad, Kindle 3, nook, nookColor, Pandigital Reader, Cruz Tablet, Cruz Reader, Samsung Galaxy Tab. There you can touch and feel the different devices and get a sense of which one might the best for you.
1. Dedicated eInk Readers. For the money, I think the $139 Kindle 3 is the best in class. It is easy to use with right and left handed functionality. It is lightweight. You can use it anywhere there is wifi access. The Amazon store has the most books and the cheapest prices. Its apps are available on the widest set of platforms and feature the sync capabilities. You also have the added benefit of emailing yourself content. The case with the built in reading light that runs off the power of the Kindle itself makes it easy to use at night.
Alternatives: The $139 wifi Kobo Reader is a great alternative. The Kobo Reader views ePub format which allows fans of the digital library lending. On the high end is the Sony Readers. Only the Daily Edition has wifi but they are also the only eink devices that have touch abilities. If you want 3G access, there is the 3G Kindle at $189. I know that there are a number of nook fans who will probably be irked I don’t recommend the nook Classic, but I find the nook Classic to be heavy and unintuitive and the people that I know that have both the nook Classic and the Kindle 3 use the Kindle 3.
2. Multifunction devices. At $499, the iPad wifi is the best in this class currently. The 16GB iPad with wifi allows you to buy from Borders, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Kindle. It reads secure PDFs and ePubs using Bluefire App (and thus you can use the iPad for borrowing digital books from the library). The iPad is a mini computing unit. You can hook up a keyboard and create documents, including editing Word documents. There are video and audio capabilities as well as numerous games. What makes the iPad so powerful are the numerous apps that have been developed for it.
Alternatives: Samsung Galaxy Tab at $599 is smaller and runs Android. There are Kobo, Borders, Nook, and Kindle Apps for Android. Android also runs Flash whereas iPad does not. (Note: Hulu does not work on the Android platform yet).
One of the big drawbacks of the iPad for reading is the size. It is very difficult to read in bed and almost impossible to read with one hand because of the weight and size. Of course, the larger size makes it great for reading PDFs. The 16 GB 3G & wifi Samsung Galaxy Tab without a cellular contract costs $599. A 16 GB iPad with 3G & wifi is $629. The Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with cameras whereas the iPad does not. The Samsung Galaxy Tab also offers you the benefit of external memory slot and the iPad does not. External memory is fairly inexpensive these days. In all, if the 7″ screen is preferable, the Samsung Galaxy Tab might be for you. Review from Walt Mossberg here.
The iTouch is smaller yet and runs nearly everything that the iPad runs. For the phones, iPhone and Android devices like the Droid X are your best bet. Have heard nothing but negative things about the Blackberry Storm.
3. Hybrid devices. This is a much more difficult call because with a hybrid device you are making sacrifices for price but at $250 the nookColor appears to be best in class. I’ll have a more full review of this on Tuesday, but I have tested both the Cruz Reader and the nookColor and the screen and responsiveness on the nookColor is superior. Only the reader can decide whether that is worth the $50 difference. I bought the Cruz Reader for review, but I could barely stand to use it for more than a few minutes because the touchscreen required strong pressure in order for commands like page turns or typing to be recognized. I think readers will be happy having spent the extra $50 to get the nookColor but going to a store like Borders or Best Buy and trying out the Cruz Reader will be helpful in making the decision. Best Buy has both the nookColor and the CruzReader along with the Pandigital Reader and the Literati.
This may not be a big issue but nookColor can access ATT Wifi hotspots but it is not free like the nook Classic wifi access.
Alternatives: Literati (this is a popular Black Friday item) is powered by the Kobo store. You can see a review of it here. The basic drawback of the Literati is the screen resolution and the resistive touchscreen. The reviews of the Literati have been very poor. The nookColor, Samsung Galaxy Pad, and iThings all have capacitative touch screens. One of the advantage of the Literati is that it is a cheap wifi color unit. Weirdly, though, despite having a keyboard the Literati doesn’t allow you to take notes.
The Entourage Edge is an interesting as it combines eink on one side and color on the other.