Nothing soothes quite like curling up with a good book. But with the booming e-reader market, the avid readers on your gift list might soon be curling up with thousands at once. As the popularity of e-readers continues to soar – reports show that 12 percent of adults in the United States own one, up 6 percent from last fall – they’re sure to be a hit this holiday season. And with plenty of models on the market, choosing the best can be a challenge. Knowing the features and fine-tuning them to what fits their potential owner is the best way to choose. Here are some of the most popular devices on the market and the features that make them stand out.
Kindle Fire & Kindle Touch
The Amazon Kindle is like the iPod of the e-reader category – there are a lot, none are the same, and there always is something new. The latest model, the Kindle Fire ($199) is the first color Kindle, with a 7-inch multitouch display, and it’s a lot more than an e-reader. The Wi-Fi device treads into tablet territory with apps, games, music and the new cloud-accelerated Amazon Silk browser. Its 8GB of memory is enough for 80 apps plus either 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books, and Amazon Cloud storage is free for all Amazon content. The Kindle Touch (Wi-Fi, $99) and Kindle Touch 3G ($149) debuted alongside the Fire, offering the same 6-inch display as classic Kindles while eschewing the keyboard for a multitouch interface.
Barnes & Noble has updated the classic NOOK with the NOOK Color ($249), the market’s first full-color e-reader. The 7-inch touch screen allows users to “turn” the pages of their e-book with a swish and a flick, and with 8GB of storage the NOOK Color holds up to 6,000 books at a time, as well as downloadable apps and even magazine subscriptions (all available through the online NOOK store). It also comes equipped with built-in Wi-Fi, meaning readers can buy books straight from the NOOK itself, no wires required. And with a 2-month battery life, there are no abrupt blackouts in sight.
Sony’s latest e-reader, the Reader Wi-Fi ($149), also is the lightest on the market, weighing just 168 grams. It has a 6-inch screen, holds up to 1,200 titles and has a battery life of three weeks. The Sony Reader Wi-Fi also offers wireless public library access to allow users to borrow books directly to the device Harry Potter fans will be especially interested: Sony is offering a promotion with the Wi-Fi that allows buyers one free download of the first “Harry Potter” book in the series via Pottermore, the exclusive online retailer of the “Harry Potter” e-books.
Sony’s Pocket Edition ($179) is the most portable of its e-reader offerings. The Pocket’s 5-inch touch screen may be small, but this 5.47-ounce e-reader packs a serious punch, carrying up to 1,200 titles and high-speed USB connection capabilities. It’s available in both a fun pink color and classic silver.
Kobo e-reader Touch
The Kobo e-reader Touch ($139) is another crisp, simple e-reader, holding up to 30,000 books with expandable microSD memory (1,000-plus without). It comes with a unique soft-quilted back for added comfort while reading and is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi and a USB connection. Available in colors like lilac and blue, and weighing in at 6.5 ounces, the 6-inch display screen and monthlong battery life keep the Kobo Touch in line with its competition. Kobo also offers the Kobo Wireless e-reader that comes pre-loaded with 100 classic reads.
iriver Story HD
The iriver Story HD ($139) is Google’s contribution to the e-reading craze. Known for its crisp image quality, the Story can load up to 1,500 books at a time and weighs just 7.3 ounces. It has a 6-inch, high-res display, which boasts 63 percent more pixels than the original Story model. The Story also comes with a full-functioning keyboard and has six weeks’ worth of battery life after a single charge.