Amazon and Barnes and Noble are two booksellers leading the field with the Kindles and Nooks, respectively. When deciding which eReader best fits the needs of the consumer, the decision often comes down to a preference in features.
Types of EReader Displays
The majority of dedicated eReaders use an E-Ink display that looks very similar to printed words on paper. The E-Ink display is black and white only and produces a page that doesn't strain the eyes. The E-Ink screens can be difficult to read in low light because they are not backlit.
LCD screens, like the Nook Tablet, Amazon Kindle Fire or the iPad, are color and backlit, making night reading easier without a reading light. Some studies show LCD screens causes eyes to fatigue faster than e-Ink screens.
Most eReader screens range from 6" to 10", which is slightly smaller than most full-size tablets. The average is a 6" screen, although the Kindle DX rivals the iPad with a 9.7" screen. The Nook Color offers a 7" touch-screen.
Some eReaders have touch-screens, others offer full QWERTY keyboards and navigational keys. While Kindle models depend on navigational keys, newer models are touch-screen. Barnes and Noble only offers touch-screen eReaders.
Typically, eReaders weigh less than a pound, making them ideal for one-handed reading. The larger eReaders, such as the Kindle DX, tip the scales at slightly more than a pound. Some readers find a few ounces can make a significant difference.
Most eReaders allow limited wireless connectivity, typically Wi-Fi, that allows for downloading new books on the fly. Early Nook and Kindle models also offered free 3G connectivity -- for downloading books anywhere, anytime, but newer models are Wi-Fi only. In addition, Nook models have free access to Wi-Fi networks in all Barnes & Noble stores.
Library Lending and Book Sharing
Many eReaders including Nook and Kobo readers offer access to millions of free books through library lending.
Some eReader manufacturers allow for ebooks to be lent to friends with eReaders. The Nook and Kindle both allow sharing of certain books. But unlike real books that can be shared over and over again, book-sharing on eReaders is typically limited to a one-time, 14-day lend per book. After lending a book once, it can never be lent out again.
A typical dedicated eReader can set a consumer back $80-$200.
The Nook Tablet and the Amazon Fire, which offer both tablet and eReader functionality, cost $200-$250, more than typical eReaders but significantly less than dedicated tablets.
Tablets, most of which offer eReader apps, typically start at $400-$500 for top-rated models.