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Buying an e-reader this holiday season? Here are things to consider

More Information

Checklist for buyers

E-reader or tablet?
A tablet is best if you want to surf the Internet, play videogames and watch movies. A tablet may save you from buying two separate devices for your diverse needs. iPad2s are still considered to be the most popular tablet, partly for the thousands of applications available for it, although the entry-level price is $499.
Lighting needs?
A disadvantage to most tablets is they are difficult or impossible to read in some levels of sunlight. E-readers work well in sunlight, but you may need a special light to read in darker rooms.
Wifi or 3G?
To have 3G so you can buy books anywhere costs more. Many people find the WiFi version is acceptable, especially with more places offering WiFi.
The bottom line?
How does the e-reader or tablet feel to you? Some people, and children especially, dislike e-readers that are black and white. Others find the added weight of a color screen is not comfortable for long periods of reading.
More advice
The December issue of Consumer Reports graded stand-alone e-book readers in the following order:
•Best Buys: Kindle Keyboard with Special Offers, $100; Kindle, $110; Kindle with Special Offers, $80; Barnes & Noble Nook Wi-Fi, $90
•Best touch-screen model: Nook Simple Touch Reader, $140 but recently cut to $99
•Best color model: Nook Color, $250 but recently cut to $199

Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 4:05 pm

One of my treasured possessions is an illustrated copy of E.B. White's “Stuart Little,” which I received for my 7th birthday. How the texture of the pages felt back then is etched in my mind.

Books have been my constant companions ever since. So accepting and enjoying an e-reader has not come easily.

My transformation in thinking about e-books began last year, when my 12-year-old daughter received an iPad for Christmas. At $499, which was her Christmas gift money pooled together with family members, she received the e-reader on her wish list.

Plus, there were many, many other applications and uses. The device would act as a piano or violin, and let her create flyers and books, among other functions. It came laser-engraved with her name, and she was thrilled.

On the other hand, I had little interest in the iPad. Until late one night, when Katelyn instantaneously downloaded a book for me I desperately wanted.

Sure, I missed the feel of the pages, and had to learn to electronically bookmark my place. Reading on the iPad in bed wasn't as comfortable as a print book, and reading while soaking in a bubble bath was out of the question.

But the stories were there. Ultimately, the attraction of a 24-hour bookstore, many discounted e-books and freed-up bookshelves, drew me to the dark side. There was no going back.

Varied options

For people who haven't tried an e-reader, once you learn these devices, whether on your own or with help, they are easy to use.

If you're shopping for an e-reader this season, the three most popular categories are as follows: Kindle, Nook, and tablet notebooks, such as the iPad. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and new versions are available on all of them this year. There’s Apple’s iPad 2 ($499), the Nook Tablet ($249) from Barnes and Noble, and the new Kindle Fire ($199) from Amazon.com.

The introduction of the Nook Tablet was announced Nov. 7.

The Kindle Fire is also very new and adds many extras. With these two new devices, the older versions remain available and have dropped in price. So if you don't have to have the latest and greatest, an older version is worth considering.

Another consideration: Kindle Fire users have built-in access to the Amazon Appstore, which includes thousands of free and paid games and apps, news reports say. Apple's online App Store has more than 100,000 apps tailored specifically for the iPad — including apps for Amazon.com and the Kindle.

E-reader users' thoughts

An informal survey of people who own e-readers — taken by sending queries to a few email lists I am on — showed they were happy with their devices, but one size does not fit all.

“I bought the newest model Nook that is black and white, because it is very slim, small and lightweight, since I have pain in my hands,” Doris Gaines Rapp of Huntington says.

Marsha Wright of Fort Wayne is a fan of her Kindle.

“I use a Kindle 3.1,” says Wright. “I purchased it early spring before a trip to Rome and a Mediterranean cruise. ... On past vacations, half my suitcase was taken up with reading material.”

Newspapers can be read on e-readers. Magazines are also available, and several people mentioned they liked having their coffee tables free of magazines. Many magazines and e-books allow you to read a sample before buying, to see how you like the format.

“Some of the magazines, like People, have enhanced versions of the magazine for Nook, with links that take you to more pictures or information,” says Nook owner Bethany Cole of Nashville, Tenn. “Another great feature is ‘Lend It.' I can add Nook ‘Friends,' and we can share some titles in our libraries.”

Selecting the best for you

Each e-reader makes a different set of books and applications available. So you'll want to consider what you read most often and choose accordingly.

A disadvantage of early e-readers was most newer books had to be purchased. The options to get books continues to expand. Amazon recently began offering a lending program, which is available through a paid membership costing $79 annually.

All of the devices allow readers to enlarge the letters or letter style for easier reading. There are highlighting and underlining features. Certain books let your device read the story to you like an audio book.

However, e-readers produce the written words differently. The Nook's original screen is backlit and the Kindle uses something called e-ink. The iPad screen is similar to a computer monitor. Because you may be looking at the device for extended periods of time, test it at the store before buying.

More e-books available

Along with the e-reader revolution, the number of electronic books to read has exploded, partly because individuals are producing e-books for free and selling them in Online bookstores. Check the book's specifications for the publisher's name if you want to know more about what you are getting.

“I have found the free or 99-cent books have me reading new authors,” Wright says. “Some aren't so good. But some are great! Other than for travel, I still prefer to hold a good, old-fashioned book in my hand.”

In September the Allen County Public Library began offering 5,000 e-books on loan.

“Our borrowed e-books disappear (from your e-reader) when they come due, like turning into a pumpkin,” says Bessie Makris, a librarian in the Reader Services department. “I've been getting a lot of calls. People are really excited about it.”

Once someone converts to e-books, their enthusiasm can be boundless.

I recently searched for an e-book of the original version of E.B. White's “Stuart Little,” but came up empty-handed. Apparently, some print books really are sacred.