Kindle or Nook? Choose the Best E-Reader

Will your next e-reader be Amazon's Kindle or Barnes & Noble's Nook?

Will your next e-reader be Amazon's Kindle or Barnes & Noble's Nook?  (AP Photo/Reuters)

E-readers will be a popular gift item this holiday season. The book-lover in your life has probably already asked for one. But which is the best to buy?

There are many e-reader brands on the market. I can narrow that field quickly for you to just the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. These units have the best price-performance ratio and the best content-delivery systems.

Amazon Kindle

All Kindles have the same 6-inch E-ink screen with the exception of the DX, which retains the 9.7-inch E-ink screen. Amazon has improved the background processing, so page turns will be faster and smoother than in past generations.

It's important to clarify Amazon's pricing scheme. Each reader has two price points. The higher price is the standard cost.

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The lower Special Offers version includes advertising on the reader's home screen. You'll have to decide if putting up with the ads is worth the discount to you. If you're giving it as a gift, I wouldn't go that route unless it was specifically requested.

For a low-cost, entry-level e-reader, the Kindle ($109/$79) is the model to consider. It's smaller and lighter than previous Kindles, thanks to its 5-way button that replaces the typical hardware keyboard. The Kindle sports a one-month battery life, which gives you plenty of time to make in-roads on the 1,400 books it stores.

The Kindle Touch (Wi-Fi - $139/$99; 3G - $189/$139) is a nice upgrade for folks who own touch-screen phones and are comfortable with that interface. Like the standard Kindle, the Touch ditches the physical keyboard.

You can hold the Kindle in either hand because you don't need to swipe to turn a page. Just tap the screen. Tap the left edge of the screen to bring up the previous page; tap the top to bring up tool bars. There is also a virtual keyboard if you need to do some typing.

The built-in Wi-Fi works fine if you have high-speed Internet and a wireless network at home. Consider the 3G model if you travel a lot. There is no monthly fee or contract for Amazon's 3G service.

The Kindle Keyboard (Wi-Fi - $139/$99; 3G - $189/$139) is the older version of the Kindle with a new name. If you like a hardware keyboard for making notes and annotations while you read, this is the one for you.

There's nothing new about the Kindle DX ($379), but in many ways, it's still the gold standard of e-readers. Many love its large, auto-rotating 9.7-inch screen. Turn the DX to landscape mode to view full-width maps, graphs, tables and Web pages. Keep in mind, however, that it weighs nearly 19 ounces, making it a relative heavyweight.

Amazon hasn't merely updated its e-readers this year. It's added a new goodie to its services. All Kindles now allow you to borrow Kindle books if they're offered by your local public library.

This service is also available for non-Amazon e-readers, as well.

Barnes & Noble Nook

The Nook Simple Touch ($99, Wi-Fi only) is small, light and uses a standard 6-inch E-Ink Pearl display – the same display used in the latest Kindles. However, it lacks the original Nook's 3.5-inch color screen. The Simple Touch is designed to buy and read books. That's it. No Apps. It's a good choice if you're looking for a simple, low-cost e-reader.

The Nook 1st Edition ($89, Wi-Fi only) is a renamed version of the original Nook. Like the Simple Touch, the 1st Edition has only one job to do, and it does it pretty well. However, it is larger and relies on older processing hardware, so it will be a bit slower. It allows basic apps, so you can play chess against the device or take on a game of Sudoku.

The Nook Color ($199) features a multi-touch color LCD screen, but this e-reader also runs a customized version of Google's Android operating system. That makes it part e-reader/part tablet. It can run some Android apps, for example.

For all of its tablet-like features, however, the NooK Color's main objective is to be an e-reader. It excels at that. The LCD is bright, and text is sharp. Note, however, that the LCD uses a lot of electricity. Unlike e-readers with E-ink displays that can last months, you'll need to recharge the Color every day. That makes it more of a hassle on long trips.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Get the podcast or find the station nearest you at Subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters at Copyright 1995-2012, WestStar TalkRadio Network. All rights reserved.