After Hours

Ready to ditch paper? Here are the top 10 e-readers

Since the sales of ebooks and the use of e-readers are exploding, we've put together this list of the top 10 e-readers, along with a companion photo gallery.

According to Amazon, ebook sales have already surpassed hardback book sales and will surpass paperbacks sometime in 2011, and then both hardback and paperback combined sometime shortly thereafter. That's a much faster timeline than most of us expected and it speaks to how fast the e-reader market is accelerating.

With that in mind, we'd like to help TechRepublic readers in selecting an e-reader, since many of you are using them not just for reading books but business documents as well. Take a look at our photo gallery of the top 10 e-readers. You can also read the list in text format below.

1. Apple iPad

The premier e-reading device is the Apple iPad, for two reasons: 1.) Its high-quality full color screen, and 2.) It's ability to handle everything from ebooks (from multiple ebook stores and in multiple formats), magazines, PDFs, newspapers, web pages, emails, and many other electronic files. It's the information omnivore's device. If you just want to read books, there are better options.

2. Amazon Kindle

If you're only interested in books and newspapers and don't want the distraction and expense of all that other stuff on the iPad, then the Amazon Kindle is the best choice. The third generation Kindle was just released in August and it is smaller, thinner, and less expensive than ever. And, the Kindle ecosystem is bigger than ever, with Kindle apps on iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, PCs, and Macs so that you can read and sync your Kindle ebooks across lots of different devices.

3. Barnes & Noble Nook

Brick and mortar bookseller Barnes & Noble has gotten into the e-reader mix with the Nook. You can try one out at a kiosk in one of its book stores. The device itself has a much more clunky experience than the Kindle or the iPad, but it offers the largest ebook library with over a million titles (Amazon offers 700,000).

4. Apple iPhone

Not to be overlooked as an e-reader is the iPhone. You can read Kindle and Barnes & Noble ebooks on it as well as lots of news sources via apps and web pages. You may not want to sit down and read on it for hours, it's great for reading when standing in lines, waiting at the doctor's office, and traveling, for example. You'd be surprised at how much reading you can get done just by using these short snatches of time.

5. Borders Kobo

The Kobo is Borders' answer to its chief rivals Amazon and Barnes & Noble in the e-reader race. It's a lightweight, low-cost device that does a good job of syncing with a PC and reading ebook files that can be loaded from your PC (including ones from the Borders ebook store) but doesn't offer wireless book buying like Amazon and Barnes & Nobile. It also doesn't do highlighting or note-taking.

6. Sony Reader, Touch Edition (PRS-650)

Possibly the most elegant e-reader is the Sony Reader Touch, with its metal exterior, ultra-slim form factor, and integrated touchscreen. Like the Kobo you'll have to transfer ePub and PDF files to the Sony Reader Touch from a PC. But, the Sony includes annotation ability, even freehand drawing notes on the touchscreen using the included stylus.

7. Amazon Kindle DX

Amazon's oversized Kindle, the DX, is made for people who read larger format books or simply want more screen space to read regular books. You'll pay for that extra space since the Kindle DX is over twice as much as the smaller standard Kindle. This is a niche product aimed primarily at textbooks for students.

8. HTC EVO 4G

Just as we talked about the iPhone as an e-reader, we also have to keep in mind that Android phones can be effectively used as e-readers as well. Like the iPhone, the three major ebook stores -- Kindle, Nook, and Kobo -- all have apps for Android. The best of the Android phones, in my opinion, is the HTC EVO 4G and its large 4.3-inch screen make a great e-reader as well. Other top Android choices for e-reading: Samsung Vibrant and Motorola Droid X.

9. Spring Design Alex

The Alex is an e-reader that runs Android. It looks fairly similar to the B&N Nook (and Spring Design has sued B&N over that) in that it combines an e-ink screen for reading and a touchscreen at the bottom. But, the Alex is a little more sophisticated, not nearly as sluggish as the Nook, and a lot more expensive. It's an interesting experiment in e-reading nonetheless.

10. Pandigital Novel

Another interesting e-reader that we're starting to see in a lot more retail stores is the Pandigital Novel. At first glance, it actually bears some resemblance to the iPad -- although it has a lot more plastic and the screen size is only 7-inches (vs. 10 inches on the iPad). Like the Alex, it's based on Android. It's not nearly as polished of an experience as the iPad, but it's much cheaper and it's still an attractive touchscreen e-reader with a lot of future potential.

Honorable mentions: Copia Ocean and Bookeen Cybook

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

83 comments
printerguy
printerguy

The comfort and joy of curling up with a book in a blanket.... I miss that when using Kindle

HilaDG
HilaDG

What about being able to read langauages other then English? I'm afraid there is no reference to that in your reviuw and that is quite critical to many people

nudgee34
nudgee34

A brave man to write such an article! What about The Bebook Neo and the BenqnReader?

lostinspace
lostinspace

You could have done way, way better. E.g., no argument about your opinion on the difference between Kindle and Nook devices, but part of your up-rating of Kindle includes the wide variety of devices on which Kindle purchases can be read. B&N has essentially the same variety, and its Nookstudy for the PC and Mac is far and away the best such reader, offering easily available font choices, the ability to view two parts of a book (for example, main text and notes) simultaneously, note-taking (including export and printing). Even for those who just want to be able to read books on a non-dedicated device it deserves way more than the 0 consideration you gave it. I should also mention that many if not most of the other dedicated devices also offer the capability of reading books purchased through them on other devices. Overall your take on the whole scene looks uninformed and pretty much beside the point. Sorry.

fdaugherty
fdaugherty

what about the Nook app for the Droid? I downloaded it this weekend along with the PC app. I think I would prefer a tablet to a PC as a reader. But I'm not sure a mono functional device is the way to go anymore. Besides I still like the act and feel of holding a book. However, the functionality of being able to make a note and wiki something in the book is a great feature.

metaphysician
metaphysician

Why has everyone ignored Palm? It was driven out of the market, but it had more apps than any i-whatever. I've been using various models since around 2000 to read books and probably have 3000-4000 books on the SD card in my current one. And you don't have any problems with who has control of your purchased books.

sotires
sotires

Why no mention of netbooks in your list? I am using my netbook (in fact an Acer ZG5) as an e-reader. It's a bit chunkier but still portable and full color as well as doubling up as a photo viewer, MP3 player and even (ocasionally) a computer. The big advantage is that I can use it to read Le Monde (French daily newspaper), for 6 euros a month, while Amazon charge $30 a month for the same thing. I believe the Kindle can't handle the Web version (it comes as a zipped file which unzips to an index page and folder with an HTML file for each article). The only problem is the battery life.

Handak
Handak

Number one on the list is not e-reader. Have you heard about e-ink?

SteveAlee
SteveAlee

Dell Streak with 5" display is good as eReader IMHO. The choice of android reader apps is a bit limited but kobo seems good, at least at handling most formats.

nikthiemann
nikthiemann

I reread my paperbacks and read "Wired" for funky and novelty, read the news on the WWW. I cannot afford a Blackberry like most commun folks so I don't twitter and twist my fingers in texting, no need so far.(Don't like cell phone, have one for EM) Agreed the Cell is important for biz deals. Some public libraries have free ebooks to download. A "pocketbook" or a damn tablet?

demitchell
demitchell

I was definitely surprised that the Ipad was the number one; however, I can see why this is so. I own an Ipad.

ianni67
ianni67

ditto: they are just different devices for different targets. LCD requires refresh and therefore suffer from flickering. e-ink does not. I work in front of a PC and/or a notebook at all time and get really tired. I can read from an e-book for hours. Also, e-ink does not waste energy and this allows veery long lasting batteries: a power charge is enough for almost a week reading on some e-ink devices. Finally, e-ink devices are generally more lightweight and definitely less noisy (no fan ever at 43?C). I love those new generation UMPC tablets, but they are just different devices.

janet.rosado
janet.rosado

I'm wondering why the Australian made Kogan isn't on this list...

santeewelding
santeewelding

I follow all this intently, reader in the diaspora of readers that I am, foot lately in both camps. Thank you, and thank all the others for their input. Keep it up.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

Sure, it's doesn't have a 7" screen but I'm never bored now. Since I ALWAYS have my phone with me I can read a book anytime I have to wait for anything. Amazon, and especially gutenberg.org, have hundreds of free books.

ScarF
ScarF

And, putting it on the first position looks like a good joke, at best. With no more than 10 hours of battery life, it's far behind any e-ink ereader - btw, an ereader estimates the battery life in turned pages. Reading in the daylight is almost impossible under certain conditions. Wearing polarized glasses makes your experience with the iPad miserable. The price is horrendous should one buy the iPad for eReading. Just to mention some of the downfalls. Then, even mentioning the iPhone among the eReaders is a greater joke. Ah. Nook, on the first position. Or Kindle, or even Sony. So, we would be in the eReaders world. But, hey, I am a reader not a mambo-jumbo-full-of-bells-whistles-and-crap-and-over-marketed stuff owner. So, I have a desktop, a laptop and... a Sony eReader. But, neither iPad nor iPhone are eReaders. They are something else. And, from whatever point of view you look at them and in any category you try to put them, they will always be something else - good for nothing serious. (see the recent Dilbert episodes about the wood device) And, really, has TechRepublic some kind of marketing contract with Apple? I wouldn't see other reason for such a gross misinformation.

sbrell
sbrell

Which one is best for indoor AND OUTdoor reading? Is the iPad okay outside? The phone is not. Thanks.

simonduz
simonduz

The problem I have with the ebook it does not allow for the first-sale doctrine. First sale means that when you purchase a protected work, you own it outright and are allowed to dispose of it any way you want. I should be able to trade my ebook, sell my ebook, give away my ebook. I can't do any of these with 90% of the publications on a Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc. The only thing I should not be allowed to do with an ebook is duplicate it.

jarretf72
jarretf72

My wife has one, it has e-reader on one side and android tablet on the other side. It is really pretty awesome. She doesn't go anywhere without it.

jvhulst
jvhulst

first: The premier e-reading device is the Apple iPad, for two reasons: and then: If you just want to read books, there are better options. If you do a survey on E-READERS, this is a strange combination inside one paragraph, to say the least.... And you forget to mention that the IPAD (and other devices in this list) are using LCD screens, which are unreadable in bright sunlight, while the E-Ink devices get better then. And you forget to mention that dedicated E-Readers with E-Ink technology can last some 8000 page turns, while LCD based systems last a maximum of maybe 10 hours.. I have a BeBook One (not mentioned in your list, but according to a Dutch consumer magazine the best E-Reader to date), I don't even care to switch it off. If you want to make a list of E-Readers, mention E-Readers and not tablet devices (or even a phone). You might just as well mention netbooks then... Dedicated E-Readers have great advantages (i.e. battery life and readability) compared to multi-function devices. If someone wants to buy an E-Reader, I guess he/she does this to read E-Books...

jacobus57
jacobus57

Four critical pieces of information are glaringly absent from this article. 1. EULA--anyone who reads the Kindle's EULA and has ANY concerns about intellectual property and privacy would run the other way. 2. The iPad and e-readers are apples and oranges. E-ink technology, for a serious reader, is far superior to anything else. It is easy on the eyes and for a voracious five books at a time reader like me, an amazingly liberating experience. ANd the Nook interface is, I find, very intuitive and very easy to use with one hand. The alleged lag is seriously overstated. How long does it take to turn the page on a paper book!? 3. Accessibility. For a person with visual impairment, the--ug--Kindle or iPad are the best choices, with excellent text-to-speech capabilities. 4. Calibre, a FOSS program, opens up ALL e-readers to EVERY format. Get it--and the whole world of digital books, including millions of free classics (and not so classic) works is yours.

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

You know, I don't think I am ready to ditch paper. Having a real book is a simple joy. Now, if there was an inexpensive way to get the daily paper (of a smaller town), perhaps I would get a reader for everything besides books.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

For some unknown reason, I have a hard time absorbing detailed information on a computer screen. User manuals and MS Technet drive me nuts, especially since Technet doesn't offer a way to print more than a single at a time. I realize dedicated readers use different technology, but my workplace experience means I'll be sticking with 'dead trees' whenever possible. E-books also limit my ability to trade books with my father, although the continued decline in prices may one day make it affordable for us to get one each.

codybwheeler
codybwheeler

Absolutely correct. Love my Kindle because of this. It's just like looking at a page in a book, which is relaxing, not stimulating. Makes it great for winding down before bed.

aroc
aroc

who can read straight through more than a few hours at a time (and not be near an outlet)? I just don't see it being a showstopper unless you are reading on camping trips a lot. Just as phone reviewers and new smartphone users are so shocked that the high-powered gadgets require more power input, and do not last as long as simpler devices, so a reader who prefers color and other functions (and does not sit out in the sun all the time to read - like a camper I suppose ;), can get by just fine with a nightly recharge. I do. I guess it's another YMMV situation, so do not assume your criteria are equally important to others. Actually, I object to the iPad on other grounds - i.e. it is too big, heavy, and sharp-edged for me to hold comfortably, and I don't care for Apple's walled garden dictatorship or expensiveness. FWIW

JPugliese
JPugliese

I have not seen anyone do a review on how e-book readers handle Technical & School Text Books. I would like to know how to replace out my 1500 page tech manual or 1200 page C++ Programming book. What would be the most critical features when selecting an e-book reader for this type of reading? Any help would be appreciated.

online
online

This is a legitimate concern. If you purchase one of these devices, it's one thing you have to consider. If you aren't concerned, what's the problem? I'm irritated by this as well, but though I've given up my first sale rights for the particular copy of the book I've put onto my Kindle, I haven't given up all such rights for copies of the book that don't fall under the license. If I want to share a book with someone, I'll get a used paperback for lending out, or suggest the library.

bgrandaw
bgrandaw

It is interesting to see the transition from ownership to subscription/licensing. As a society we will own less and subscribe more.

online
online

He's reviewing devices to read books on, not just dedicated ereaders. I read book on electronic devices long before eink readers were available. PalmPilots, Windows CE devices, whatever worked. In my opinion, the eink devices are far superior to any LCD-based device. But people have all sorts of reasons for using LCD devices. Why not let them know what their best choices are? The point is, they're still reading!

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

Thanks for the tip on Calibre!

online
online

Well, I have plenty of concerns with privacy and intellectual property, and I'm not running away from my Kindle. Yes, there are concerns there. I'm simply not put off by them.

pratapmishra1
pratapmishra1

Very good attempt to review top 10 e-readers. But primary features of most are vague. In addition, without prices, the comparison becomes only an opinion of the author.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Apart from the kindle, I haven't seen one that doesn't suffer from glare or other eye-fatiguing artifacts that make long reading sessions unpleasant. I also haven't found an ereader that is quite as navigable as a paper book (though it really wouldn't be that difficult to create an interface:dual screens, velocity measured flicks to control the speed of page flipping., and a position bar one could touch to open to a relative position in the book... But apart from that, the DRM aspect is one I can't get over. Trusting someone else's server to remember what I own, having to pick the right device(s) for the title(s) I wish to read... In part it is my upbringing I suppose, books were revered, cared for, passed down. Having the ability to protect the content taken from me, and placed in the hands of a corporate entity, whose owners and values are unknown and ever-changing...just doesn't seem right somehow.

online
online

Don't know about other devices, but it's actually pretty easy to share books on multiple Kindles, as long as they all share the same Amazon account. Most books allow usage on multiple Kindle devices (including Kindle-enabled smart phones, PC, Mac, etc). Just set up a new Amazon account you can share and you're good to go.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

they change so quickly. Kindle alone has had three price drops in the past year. With all the competition, we could see further price drops this fall heading into the holiday shopping season.

DNSB
DNSB

If you are looking at PDF format books, reflow is the critical feature. Otherwise, you'll be look a a full page displayed on a small screen with text in a font size that is unreadable for most people. For most textbooks in other formats, a large screen ereader works better since shrinking the diagrams down, again, makes them hard to read. So you are looking at a Kindle DX/iPad/netbook size screen. YMMV but, at this time, my opinion is that none of the ereaders are a good replacement for a paper textbook or manual.

TechnoDoc
TechnoDoc

This week I bought a Kindle, and then when I saw how bad it was for technical books I went ahead and bought an iPad too. I bought the iPad after the Kindle turned out to be horrible for anything requiring "lookups." (Plus I planned to develop for the iPad later and just need to work with it). I bought a bunch of books also. I have not had enough time to really shake it all down, but have some early opinioins. The vast majority of books on Amazon including technical books, do not have indices or hyperlinks or lookups of any type. TEven huge expensive reference books in which anyone would know that you need to navigate all the time, are just like a crude ports from text. Some of the tables of contents are even small IMAGES on multiple pages unnecessarily broken up, that can't be searched or navigated! The converters were even too lazy to combine two scans on the one kindle page to reduce having to look though so many pages in the contents. Moreover, there are no true "pages" in Kindle e-books anyway, just "locations," so what good does a scan of a TOC showing a physical page number do for you anyway other that let you know what order the chapters come in? When you are lucky enough to get a table of contents, even that is a pain to access. Text search is available but is not good enough for books that you look through for reference. In contrast, you can get "App" versions of quite a few books in my field for iPad that are much easier to use for lookups. It is also dramatically faster to leaf through the books to find what you need even if there are no navigation features. All the Amazon Kindle books are way easier to use on the iPad. However, App books to not have the same nice feature of being readable on Kindles and PC. I also got a bunch of classic novels free on the Kindle, and I can share all the things I bought with the iPad and all my computers. The Kindle is cool to the touch, and fits in my back pocket, and I think that for extended reading it seems great. I am sure I will be grabbing it frequently for novels and more extended reading. For $189 with "free" 3G it costs scarcely more than some of the accessories people buy for computers and tablets. Cases for the iPad (so you don't drop it -- Kindle does not even need a case) are over $50! So I do not regret getting both. But just beware if you think the present Kindle is going to let you function well as a replacement for manuals and technical books.

online
online

This is possibly something the Kindle DX is better at than the smaller Kindles. With its large screen, a PDF copy of a technical book probably looks pretty good. Where it falls down, though, is in being able to easily flip back and forth between pages. I don't think any of the e-readers are flexible enough for rapid movement between widely separated pages. I know at least one experimental use of Kindles in a college was abandoned for that reason.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'd start by finding out what formats your manuals are available in, then go with a reader that can access those formats. That said, I have no idea how to go about doing either of those.

online
online

... is there an intrinsic advantage to ownership over licensing? Many would say there is (and I'm one of them). After all, we've willingly licensed expensive software for decades (not without complaint and resistance, granted). But we can probably live in a world where both exist. One of the primary complaints about e-books is the loss of the first-sale doctrine. But if the publishers had their way, that doctrine would be eliminated anyway. Publishers don't really like used bookstores, libraries or your right to pass your copy of "The Da Vinci Code" on to your mom when you're done reading it.

online
online

My upbringing was like yours, in its reverence for books...and I haven't lost any of that. If a book is truly important to me, if it changed my life somehow, I have a physical, preferably hardback, copy of that book. I don't care if it means buying the books twice, or even three times (one of my favorites is out of print, so I have a first edition hardback and a paperback). I bought a recent release in Kindle, and will be buying the hardback as soon as I can get a nice copy used. I bought and enjoyed all three of Stieg Larssen's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" trilogy on the Kindle, but I doubt I'll spend the money to get physical copies. I think my take on this is that the convenience offered by my Kindle trumps the DRM. Nothing about buying (or licensing) an ebook for my Kindle prevents me from also buying a copy of the book in paper and doing whatever with it. It isn't an either/or proposition. If it's that critical to my happiness as a reader, I'll get it both ways, and not regret the money spent.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The prices are enough to tell me I'm still not interested, regardless of the details.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Sharing them would require us both to have readers, and $250 will buy a lot of paperbacks instead.

aroc
aroc

At least with my Pandigital Novel. I have some Oracle WebLogic PDF docs on the SD card I use with the reader (so I can keep copies without fear of the seller yanking them back from my backups), and their system diagrams do not seem to be rendering as compared to viewing them with the Linux Document Viewer and Adobe or Foxit readers. However, other ebooks I have with some images show those ok, so win some, lose some at this stage of immaturity I guess.

JPugliese
JPugliese

Thanks Palmetto... Most are available in ePub / PDF. But, other posts have eluded to that certain readers are better handling these types of books. So, I guess what I am looking for is what makes one e-book reader better at handling Textbooks than another. Is it the ability to handle graphics? As another reader said... you can handle most of the format issues with products like Calibre.

DNSB
DNSB

There are publishers who seem to have no issues with you being able to pass on your ebooks, who supply multiple formats without DRM, who seem to regard passing books on as being a form of free advertising. See Eric Flint's diatribes in the Baen Free Library for a sample of that attitude though with Eric's on-going health issues, the Free Library has suffered. Then we have the ebook publisher (unnamed due to my lack of interest in legal hassles) who insisted that only their ereader app could be used to read ebooks on my computer and that I was to allow their application to report home about any and all other software installed on my computer. Oddly, after reading the EULA, I declined to install their app. Just as well, since a few months later, their webpage disappeared and their DRM server(s) shut down.

DNSB
DNSB

For me, the books I have on my Kobo actually cost less than the paperbacks much less the hardcovers that I often buy. Looking at my book purchases in the last year, the problem is that I find myself buying both an electronic version and a paper version. Though some items such as the Grantville Gazette series ebook form is the only way to go -- up to volume 32 in electronic and 5 in paper. Hmmm... quick calculation using the cost of paperback compared to ebook says my Kobo is more than paid for. This might depend on the publishers whose books you read. Some such as Baen have priced their ebooks lower than their paperbacks while others charge more for the ebook than for the paperback (and in one memorable case, the hardcover). In the case of one book I picked up for my daughter, (Patricia Wredes' "A Matter of Magic", the trade paperback cost here was $13.71 (plus taxes) while the ebook was $7.69 (plus taxes). Since she enjoyed reading my old copies of "Mairelon the Magician" and "Magician's Ward", the combined version made a nice minor gift. Odd to find yourself living the comments of a character in an old science fiction story where some people just prefer the feel of a real book.

aroc
aroc

Try out some cheaper ebooks with the free PC or Mac ereader app downloads from Amazon/B&N/Borders to get a feel for the reading experience. I did that while on vacation, when I just had to get the 4th book in Michael Scott's Alchemyst series after going through the 1st 3 (paperbacks) early in the week. The only feasible option at the beach was the $20 hardback (no paperback till early 2011) at a nearby bookstore vs installing the Borders reader on my notebook, and buying the ebook version for under $10 with my Borders Bucks discount, so I decided to give it a shot. The only downside was "their" reader is Adobe's Digital Editions, and it has a horrible tiny semi-light font on a black background with very little adjustability, and that did not play well on my 9-inch, hi-res 1280x768 Fujitsu P1610 (with my eyes). I searched around on the 'Net, and found utilities to decrypt the file, so I could then view it with FBreader on Linux, and it was then quite delightful (I was reading inside since the only problem for me with the beach is the Sun/sand/heat/surf - I stay in the beach house, and my wife gets her fix of Sun/sand/heat/surf ... ;-). So that having worked out, I went further with the Pandigital Novel ($146 from Bed,Bath & Beyond with their 20% coupon, and if you combine coupons, rebates and price matching at Kohl's when they mark it down to $165, it can dip under $100) since it is a decent Android tablet with the proper unlocking hacks from slatedroid.com. Now I can read Kindle, B&N, and Borders ebooks on a nice color screen that fits the hand like a (hefty) paperback. I had to hold the P1610 on a lapdesk for the hours of reading a book right through. Now I am hooked, and there are loads of free out-of-copyright books from gutenberg.org, and even Amazon/Borders/B&N, plus their many ebooks that are not flashy bestsellers for $5 down to 50 cents (even less), so it can be inexpensive fun, and no more books stacking up in the house to get musty, and give/throw away (or pack up for moving) some years later. There are reader-friendly publishers like O'Reilly who make it a point to sell their ebooks without restrictive DRM encryption to give you a choice of readers (although it ain't hard to "get out of the way" anyway, but I do not advocate that for piracy, just for choice of MY reader for MY copies - like real books).

online
online

Yes, good point. You do have to make the decision to commit to the technology in the first place!