E-book readers aren't dead yet. Just when it looked like tablets were about to eat the devices alive, 2012 has shown us exciting breakthroughs. Advances in display technology have made e-readers more advanced and more affordable.
While Apple dominates the tablet market with its iPad, there are two big names competing for your dollars in the dedicated e-book realm: Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook. Both have been around for several generations, and have closely followed each others' footsteps.
This year both product lines saw a long-anticipated upgrade: backlit displays. This tech allows for easier reading in low-lit conditions, which was long the Achilles heel of e-readers.
How do Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite and Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight stack up? Let's take a look:
Though it's slightly longer, the Kindle Paperwhite is the more svelte reader. Most notably, it's significantly thinner than B&N's offering.
It's a bit more stout, but Barnes & Noble put a lot of thought into the Simple Touch's back: it has a soft design that makes it more comfortable to hold.
Though the Simple Touch is a larger device, it's lighter than its rival. Neither should be heavy enough to cause problems, but every ounce shed is a bonus for one-handed reading.
This is probably the most important category, and the Kindle Paperwhite runs away with it. Though Amazon doesn't specify its resolution, its 6-inch e-ink display has a much higher pixel density than the Nook's. This will make the black-and-white text look sharper.
Another tick in Amazon's column comes from the backlight technology. Engadget's review notes that the Paperwhite has a more even glow, lending itself more to the advertised illusion of paper. It also has a whiter hue, while the Nook emits a bluish tint.
Both devices sport touch screens, but only the Kindle Paperwhite offers multitouch.
Both devices sport 2GB of internal storage. From there, the Kindle offers all the cloud storage you need (for Amazon content), and the Nook's memory can be expanded with a microSD card.
Keep in mind that, since neither device plays video or runs apps, 2GB should be plenty for most people.
Amazon offers a Wi-Fi-only Kindle Paperwhite for US$119, or a version with free 3G for $179. The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, meanwhile, only comes in a Wi-Fi model - also at $119.
Both e-readers provide terrific battery life, but Amazon boasts of the higher uptime: a mind-boggling two months. These figures are based on reading 30 minutes a day with wireless off and the light on.
For those rare times when you do need to charge your device, it will take several hours. Barnes & Noble's estimated times are a bit lower than Amazon's.
Okay, so maybe you won't see Billy Mays selling OxiClean, but the Kindle Paperwhite has ads. They aren't intrusive (they're never shown when you're reading), but it will cost $20 to get rid of them. This can be done either at checkout ($139 upfront), or any time after receiving the reader.
Not only is the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight ad-free, but it also features – drumroll please – a charger! This wouldn't normally be anything to write home about, but Amazon's cost-cutting has led Jeff Bezos and company to require a separate $10 purchase for a power adapter. This essentially has the Kindle costing $149 if you want to avoid ads and charge it; the Nook rings up at $119 with an adapter and no ads.
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