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Digital Publishing:

EReaders for 2011


Reading: it's not your mother's pastime, anymore. EReaders, smart phones, iPads, and tablet PCs are the newest generation gap trend. Don't slip into the gap.

If you've been waiting to buy an eReader until you've had time to figure out just exactly what-the-heck you're supposed to buy, check out our handy-dandy AQ eReader matrix and recommendations. We compare basic eReader issues like price, display, and file format in order to assess which eReader we would drop coin on in 2011.

And yeah, it's overwhelming. We get it. So if you're the type that suffers from indecision paralysis in the face of new technology, pick your top three eReader issues: (color display, file format versatility, web surfing) or (price, free ebook selection, ebook library access) and go from there. Or check out our below suggestion about how to download and use the free Kindle app and free Google app on your computer in order to access free eBooks—a great free alternative for anyone looking to dip their pinky toes into the world of eBooks and eReader apps without actually comitting to a device.

If you're a total spec geek, be sure to check out this matrix for additional info. And yeah, although we intend to keep this page as up-to-date as possible, there's no question that by the time you read this, eReaders will likely be able to download a full-scale color e-cookbook, read the recipe itself, and make you dinner.


Brand

Amazon:
Kindle


Borders:
Kobo


Sony:
Reader


Barnes&
Noble: Nook


Apple:
iPad


Versions

Kindle Wi-Fi 6"

Kindle 3G 6"

Kindle DX 9.7"

Kobo eReader

Cruz Tablet (from Velocity Micro)
Sony Pocket

Sony Touch

Sony Daily

NOOK Wi-Fi

NOOK 3G + Wi-Fi

NOOKColor Wi-Fi

iPad Wi-Fi 16G, 32G, 64G)

iPad Wi-Fi+3G 16G, 32G, 64G)

Newest Version to be released March 2011 (so...yeah, we're working on the update)
Price

$139 (Kindle Wi-Fi 6")

$189 (Kindle 3G 6")

$359 (Kindle DX 9.7")

$119
(Kobo)

$249 (Cruz Tablet)
$179 (Sony Pocket)

$229 (Sony Touch)

$299 (Sony Daily)

$149 (NOOK Wi-Fi)

$199 (NOOK 3G+Wi-Fi)

$249 (NOOKColor Wi-Fi)

$499-$699
(iPad Wi-Fi 16G, 32G, 64G)

$629-829
(iPad Wi-Fi+3G 16G, 32G, 64G) plus the cost of the 3G data plan

Display

E Ink only; pad button nav

E Ink only; pad button nav (Kobo)

Color Touchscreen; LCD-backlit display (Cruz Tablet)
E Ink, pad button nav (Pocket)

Touchscreen (Touch & Daily only)

E Ink, color touchscreen navigation
(NOOK Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi+3G)

Color Touchscreen; LCD-backlit display
(NOOKColor Wi-Fi)

Color Touchscreen; LED-backlit screen

File Format

Kindle format; use Kindle app to view your Kindle library with other devices

PDF, TXT, RTF, MOBI, MS Word (DOC, DOCX) via via Whispernet for a small fee or via USB connection for free

Read more about sending and transferring your files to the Kindle...
ePUB, Adobe PDF & DRM
(Kobo)

ePUB, HTML, TXT, PDF, PDB, Music—MP3, WAV, AAC (Cruz)

Cruz Tablet comes with application that allows you to read Word and Excel docs

ePUB, Adobe PDF & DRM, Sony format BBeB Book, TXT, RTF files

MS Word DOC--Touch & Daily Editions only

The previous Pocket Edition PRS-300 model can read MS Word DOCs, but the current Pocket PRS-350 does not support it.
ePUB, PDB, Adobe PDF, MP3

NO Adobe DRM, MS Word (DOC) or TXT except with NOOKcolor

Read more about sending and transferring your files to the NOOK...
ePUB, PDF, and more file formats than God. One of the many benefits of being a computer, not an eReader.

Review the complete iPad Tech Specs...

Wireless

Wi-Fi & 3G versions available for ebook downloading;

Browser exists for web surfing and email access, but its stone-age functionality will make you want to poke your eyes out.

NO Wi-Fi; Bluetooth enabled and synching with desktop via USB connection (Kobo)

Wi-Fi (Cruz Tablet)
NO Wi-Fi for the Pocket & Touch Edition; they sync to your desktop via USB connection

Wi-Fi & 3G for the Daily Edition

Wi-Fi & 3G versions available for ebook downloading; email access, web surfing via web browsers

Wi-Fi & 3G versions available for ebook downloading, web surfing, email access, media streaming and more via web browser

Content

Ebooks, news, mags via Amazon.com Kindle Store

Free ebook collection via Kindle "Popular Classics" and Limited Promotions

Access to various blogs and e-newspapers like The New York Times

Purchase and sync eBooks, news, mags with your Kobo via your Borders.com account

Preloaded with the Borders eBook Desktop app that allows you to download ebooks to your desktop then sync to your Kobo via USB connection (lame!)

Cruz Tablet is pre-loaded with Borders app to allow you access to download Borders ebooks; so what's stopping you from downloading the Kindle App or the B&N app to access their eBook stores?
Shop for ebooks, news, mags via Sony's ReaderStore

Local library access via Overdrive

Access over a million free Google ebooks (ePUB format)

Read more about how to download content onto your Sony Reader...
Purchase and download eBooks, news, mags with your NOOK via your B&N.com account

Local library access via Overdrive

Access over a million free Google ebooks (ePUB format)
Ebooks (free, paid, and illustrated) via iBook app and iBookstore

View Google Books via iPad web browser

Use Kindle account and Kindle Apps to view your Kindle Library on your iPad

Email, internet, photos, video, YouTube, ipod, itunes (music, movies, TV), App Store, Maps, Notes, Calendar, and more


Free eReader Apps and Free eBooks

The Wonderful World of Free eReader Apps -- How you can access free Kindle eBooks and Google eBooks without an eReader

If you don't care about E Ink and you don't mind reading eBooks on your laptop, it should be stressed that you don't need a Kindle (or presumably a Sony or a NOOK or a Kobo) to download and read eBooks. You just need the right app loaded onto your computer (or smartphone, or on whichever devices you'd like to use for reading).

With the Kindle store and its proprietary format, you can set-up a free Kindle account and then use the Kindle App to access and read the eBooks downloaded into your Kindle account. Simply download the Kindle app on your device-of-choice (PC computer, Mac, iPad, or iPhone or Blackberry, or Android phones, etc.) You then have access to download and read eBooks from Amazon's free Kindle ebook collection.

In the same manner, you can use the Google app in order to access Google's free eBooks. If you want a hands-on lesson in this stuff, spend some time downloading and using these apps on your computer. Then you'll have a better understanding of how apps work on eReaders and other mobile devices.
Amazon:
Kindle


Three versions: Kindle Wi-Fi 6", Kindle Wi-Fi + 3G 6", Kindle 3G 9.7"

The most popular of all the eReaders, Amazon's Kindle offers the largest selection of ebooks via Amazon.com. And what's cool is that you can sample the first chapter for free without ever committing to the purchase. They also offer a vehicle for writers to self-publish their own Kindle ebooks. You can transfer other file formats onto your Kindle for free if you don't mind using a USB cable. Plus, you can share your library with other Kindle friends for 14 days (although a book's lending availablity is at the discretion of the publisher).

Since you likely bought a Kindle craving the E ink, eReader experience, you likely won't care that it has no touchscreen, no color display, and a web browser that is basically... useless. The good news that you can access your Kindle library via the Kindle app on other devices (smart phone, desktop, laptop, and iPad). People either love it or they despise its proprietary Fort Knox .azw file format. And don't expect to access Google books, formatted as ePUB files, which the Kindle can't read. Still, for $139 for the Kindle Wi-Fi and $189 for the 3G version, it's the best value for a wireless E Ink device with the best available ebook selection. Plus, you don't even need a Kindle in order to have a Kindle account, download eBooks, and read them on your other devices via their Kindle App. And it's going to be interesting see how unpublished, unagented writers utilize Amazon's self-publishing marketplace to their advantage.

Sony:
Reader


Three versions: Pocket, Touch, Daily Editions.

Sony used to offer its Pocket PRS-300 for under $150—a decent price for a decent eReader without an internet connection. Plus, it could read MS Word DOCs—a big plus for many earlier Sony adopters. Now, for $179 buck-o-roos, Sony's Pocket Edition PRS-350 model ain't that cheap, especially since it offers no Wi-Fi, no touchscreen, and no MS Word file formats. For $50 less than Sony's Pocket—at least the $139 Kindle Wi-Fi 6" is wireless.

For over $200 bucks, Sony's "Touch" Edition gives you a touchscreen (big whoop), but still no Wi-Fi. Wireless is reserved for people who feel the need to waste $300 on Sony's "Daily" Edition. And that doesn't even get you a color display.

Fans of the Sony Readers like their "options." They can download books from Sony's ReaderStore, from Google's free book collection, from their local library, or from anywhere that ePUB, PDF, and DRM file formats are supported. And like Amazon.com, Sony allows self-published authors to make their books available on their store via its Publisher Portal. Sony fans are also goosed up about the fact that these devices can send, receive, transfer, and read any file format, but our research seems to suggest that this isn't actually true (the new Pocket Edition PRS-350 no longer supports MS Word DOCs, for example) and the most recent versions of the Kindle can handle sending and receiving other formats files just fine (with the exception, of course, of ePUB, which is used by Google books).

Regardless, if your biggest concern is file format, and you're willing to spend $300 on Sony's Daily Edition...we say: get an friggin' iPad instead. Otherwise, if you're really sold on the overhyped E Ink experience, consider the cheaper Kindle Wi-Fi 6" or the NOOKColor Wi-Fi over any of the more expensive Sony Editions.

Barnes & Noble:
NOOK


Three versions: NOOK Wi-Fi, NOOK 3G, and NOOKColor Wi-Fi.

It's hard to feel the same antipathy for the NOOK's eReaders as we do for the Sony Readers because at least with the Nook Wi-Fi ($149) or the Nook 3G ($199), you're getting a wireless device for less money. Plus, their color touchscreen navigation is an improvement over the Kindle's E Ink only navigation. Also nice: convenient free download samples of ebooks or in-store reading of the full book for free, works with Overdrive.com for local library access, and allows one-time book lending through email addresses, whether the recipient has a NOOK or not.

But honestly, we're most intrigued by their most expensive version, the NOOKColor Wi-Fi. For $250, you're getting a color touch navigation screen and a decent web browser for color web surfing. And let's face it, color is king. Enhanced NOOKbooks--with full-color pictures and video--are the future of ereading and we're surprised that B&N is there first.

This makes the NOOKcolor a consideration for all of you who prefer backlit to E Ink, but can't spend the extra coin required to purchase the superior iPad or the slew of first-generation tablet PCs. Still, with B&N teetering on the brink of financial insolvency, it's hard to bet $250 bucks on the losing horse in the race. Plus, it's even harder to imagine that Amazon's Kindle will remain greyscale forever. And once you've amassed a B&N ebook collection, switching away isn't going to feel so good.

Borders:
Kobo


Kobo - why bother?

Ask anyone if they know what a "Kobo" is and you'll get some pretty inventive answers. A musical instrument? A new type of karaoke? The fashion faux-paus of matching brown shoes with a black belt?

A year ago, Borders banked on the fact that producing the lowest-cost eReader would help them win the eBook rat race, and help save their bankrupt brick and mortar operation. FAIL! Instead, they've just been decapitated at the knees--again. At $119, the Sync n' Read Kobo is no longer the "value buy" as compared to Amazon's $139 Kindle Wi-Fi 6". Borders--and its Kobo--will be lucky to survive 2011, much less produce an eReader worth buying.

For this reason, Borders has hooked up with the Cruz Tablet from Velocity Micro. For $249.00, the Cruz offers a wireless color touchscreen tablet, just like the NOOKcolor Wi-Fi. It's pre-loaded with the Borders App in order to allow you to download Borders ebooks, which is basically a marketing gimmick because it's a computer not an eReader. So you can also use its web browser to surf over to Amazon.com, open a Kindle account, download the Kindle app, and read Kindle books as well.

Apple:
iPad


Sure, not exactly an eReader, but dude...who cares?

Disclaimer: We're biased. Not because we're Mac-junkies (we're not). But because we actually hate E Ink. As in: loath, despise, find utterly cringe-worthy. For us, E Ink is impossible to read unless you've got a prison spotlight shining on it; and that's with our 20/20 vision. Hey, what can we say? We're children of the internet age, so we prefer LED-backlit screens and zero limitations. End of disclaimer.

Sure, we know that comparing the iPad to the current eReaders isn't exactly fair, but "fair" doesn't mean squat in a free society marketplace. And there's simply no arguing one thing: in terms of functionality and versatility, the iPad kicks butt. If money and E Ink are the least of your concerns, then definitely review all the things that you can do with an iPad, and then try to stop salivating. Then, watch this. Only the NOOKcolor Wi-fi comes close (and does it, really?). If you're not sold on buying a Mac, but you like the whole tablet computer idea, wait until mid-2011 when a slew of Tablet PCs from Dell, Samsung, Rearch-in-Motion, and Verizon/Motorola are going to be all the rage. Talk about a digital publishing tsunami, baby.