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Which ereader should I buy?

At the library, we get asked point blank, "What should I buy?" when it comes to ereaders.

With the new Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet and Kobo Vox tablets just entering the market, we get asked to compare them, and to declare one of them a winner. The devices are so new we have yet to see them; so we turn to online reviews. Comparison reviews for these devices are easy to find, and it seems that there is no consensus on which is the best. The hardware is similar, and each device has distinct arrangements for access to books, music and video.

All are excellent ereaders for those who want a full-color, backlit screen. Both the Fire and the Nook handle video very well and have good access to content. The Kobo has a video player, too.

As tablets go, there are two levels: full-bore tablets like the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Touch, and these ereader/tablets. An important distinction between these two levels of devices is functionality. A full tablet is essentially a netbook computer with a touchscreen instead of a keyboard: they are much more powerful and capable than what these ereader/tablets. Understanding the differences between these categories of devices will help you make a better buying decision.

First of all, with either the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet, you do not get access to full app stores, like you do with tablets. Kobo promises 15,000 apps, and Nook says it has "thousands" of apps. The collections of available apps for these electronic content devices will not be as rich as those available for full Apple/Android tablets. The app collections available on the ereader/tablets are good, however. They all of most of the the really popular apps like Angry Birds, and music and video apps, etc.

Secondly, each of these devices is tied to a particular bookstore: you will never be able to download a Nook ebook app on your Kindle, and vice versa. With a full tablet, you can download all of the major ebook apps: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc.

Thirdly, web browsing may not be as smooth and as fast as you would like: Several reviews indicate that this appears to be a problem in these smaller devices.

But, is a web browser that isn't as fast as a PC version, or a smaller app store really that important? After all, an iPad is twice as expensive as a Kindle Fire or Kobo Vox. Are the benefits of a full tablet really worth that extra money? And, is a full tablet a comfortable ereader?

That is entirely up to you: the most important factor when choosing a device is, your expectations. You need to know what you want to use the device for. You don't want to buy a device that you aren't going to like after a few weeks.

So, when considering the purchase of an ereader--whether a tablet model or a black-and-white model--go to an electronics retailer and try various devices out. If something about the way the device feels, looks, or functions annoys you in the store, that annoyance may lead you to regret buying the device when you use it on a regular basis.

To help in your research, we have resources on our new Downloadables Support page. Under the "Basics" tab, there are guides that identify important characteristics of these devices that you should consider, and that offer comparisons of their specifications. There are also websites that provide good reviews for electronics.

Another thing to keep in mind, there is a price war in ereaders: all of the major black and white ereaders except the new Sony Reader are available for under $100. And it's not even Black Friday yet. So, do your research and keep an eye out for deals!



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