Holiday Gift Guide 2009: E-book readers

In the second half of 2009 we saw some major updates to the market leading ebook readers, followed by announcements of new products coming at the end of 2009 and into 2010. We now see wireless and touchscreen functionality being added to these electronic readers, as well as access to more content. With some of these readers you can now check out electronic copies of books from your local library and have access to thousands of books for free. Adobe Digital Editions PDF and ePub are becoming content standards that are rolling out across most of these readers so you won't be limited by access to content and can look for a reader that you find functional and priced right.

2009 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

In the second half of 2009 we saw some major updates to the market leading ebook readers, followed by announcements of new products coming at the end of 2009 and into 2010. We now see wireless and touchscreen functionality being added to these electronic readers, as well as access to more content. With some of these readers you can now check out electronic copies of books from your local library and have access to thousands of books for free. Adobe Digital Editions PDF and ePub are becoming content standards that are rolling out across most of these readers so you won't be limited by access to content and can look for a reader that you find functional and priced right.

I personally ordered the new Barnes & Noble Nook that is scheduled to ship at the end of November. The interesting aspects of this device include the dual displays (one small color one for library browsing and a larger 6 inch eInk display for reading), ability to loan books to others for 14 days, connectivity via both AT&T 3G and WiFi, and ability to sync bookmarks, annotations, and last reading location across multiple supported platforms. Sony also has their wireless Daily Edition PRS-900 coming out before the end of 2009. In 2010, we will see more of these readers, including the Plastic Logic QUE also powered by the B&N eBookstore.

Ebook readers are a convenient way to carry several titles with you in a small package and are perfect for the business traveler. Prices of new ebooks are now less expensive than hardback titles and in many cases can be downloaded and accessed within seconds of discovering them. Most all new releases are available in electronic format and 2010 should be an exciting year for ebook fans.

Amazon Kindle

At the beginning of 2009, Amazon updated the Kindle (often referred to as the jump from Kindle 1 to Kindle 2) with a much sleeker form factor, reorganization of controls, and more integrated memory. Amazon recently added an international Kindle to the mix with support for wireless access outside the US and then made all new Amazon Kindle devices the same US/international version to avoid confusion with multiple models. They switched from wireless access provided by Sprint to wireless access provided by AT&T in the US.

The Kindle has about a third of the front taken up by a QWERTY keyboard that you can use to look up words or search for books in your library and on the Amazon store and also enter in notes. The Kindle holds up to 1,500 books and is sleek at only 0.36 inches thick. Best sellers and new releases generally start at $9.99. Unfortunately, the Kindle has limited format support and does not support checking out ebooks from your local library. Native PDF files are not supported and must first be converted to be read on the Kindle.

The Amazon Kindle revolutioned the ebook market with the wireless capability and easy access to their content, but others have now caught up and surpassed the functionality and content access of the Kindle.

Price: $259.00 MSRP

[Check out my review and the ZDNet Reviews page for the Amazon Kindle]

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2009 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Amazon Kindle DX

The Amazon Kindle DX was launched in 2009 and provides buyers with a larger form factor device (9.7 inch EInk display compared to 6 inch on Kindle) with more integrated memory, US only wireless radio (service provided by Sprint), and native PDF support. It has a QWERTY keyboard and operates much like the standard Kindle.

The Kindle DX is designed more for professional or academic reading with the larger display that can be rotated into landscape mode. Professional documents are more readable on a larger display and that is the intent of the Kindle DX, compared to a more mobile personal experience seen in the Kindle.

Price: $489.00 MSRP

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews page for the Amazon Kindle DX]

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2009 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Astak EZ Reader Pocket Pro

While Sony and Amazon were the leading ebook manufacturers in 2009, there are a few other compelling readers available as well. Astak launched their updated EZ Reader Pocket Pro in black, blue, pink, purple, white, and red for a reasonable price. The Pocket Pro is a more compact ebook reader than what we have seen with the standard 6 inch EInk display in the past. It has a 5 inch 600x800 pixel resolution 8-level grayscale display and I personally found it to be as good as the industry leading Sony Reader PRS-505 display in terms of brightness and clarity. The EZ Reader Pocket Pro has both integrated Flash and a SD card for expandable memory.

Over 20 open formats are supported, including Adobe Digital Editions, ePub, PDF, DOC, TXT, and more so you can check out local library books, access books from Google, and purchase ebooks from vendors supporting these open formats so you should never run out of available content. There is no wireless capability so you will need to connect to a PC or place ebooks on the SD card to get content onto the device.

The Pocket Pro has a soft touch casing that feels great in your hand and is very portable. A case is included with your purchase to carry and protect the device and this is a good choice for those looking for a more compact reader.

Price: $199.00 MSRP

[Check out my review and the ZDNet Reviews page for the Pocket Pro]

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2009 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Sony Reader Pocket Edition, PRS-300

While the Amazon Kindle provides a good wireless buying experience, I personally prefer the rock solid construction and high quality of the Sony Readers and find I do not need a connected experience to enjoy ebooks. The newest compact solution from Sony is the Sony Reader Pocket Edition, PRS-300. Similar to the Astak Pocket Pro, the Pocket Edition has a 5 inch EInk display. This display is also as wonderful as the PRS-505 one and has easy navigation controls on the bottom and right side.

The Sony Reader Pocket Edition is available in blue, rose, and silver colors so you get a chance to have a bit of personalization added to your collection. Like all Sony Readers, Adobe Digital Editions and ePub standard open formats are also supported so you can check out local library books and access a ton of content. Native PDF documents are also supported by the Reader Pocket Edition. Sony also now has a Mac client of their eBookstore software so you can purchase and transfer content to your Reader from a Windows PC or Mac computer.

There is only 440MB of available memory, with no expandable memory, on the Pocket Edition so there is a limit of approximately 350 books that can be carried at once. This may not be much of a limitation since people can't read that fast and it is easy to transfer content to the device, but it is important to know when comparing other ebook readers in this price range.

Price: $199.99 MSRP

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews page for the Sony Reader Pocket Edition]

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2009 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Sony Reader Touch Edition, PRS-600

The Sony Reader Touch Edition is the successor to the PRS-700 that was not a great seller for Sony because the eInk display was ruined by a touch layer and backlight layer that hampered the display clarity. The Touch Edition has a much clearer and viewable display, but I still personally found the reflectivity to be a bit too much and went back to using my Sony PRS-505 because it is so clear and readable. The Touch Edition adds more than just a touch user interface with a touchscreen keyboard, integrated dictionary, and ability to create notes and annotations.

The Touch Edition is available in black, red, and silver and also comes with two memory card expansion slots (SD and MemoryStick PRO Duo, as well as integrated storage so you will never have to worry about limits on content with this device. It has a large 6 inch EInk display and supports rotation into landscape mode. You are also not limited by content with support for Adobe Digital Editions, PDF, ePub, and more. Local library content, Google book content, and content purchase at various online stores, including the Sony eBookstore, can be loaded on the Sony Reader Touch Edition.

Price: $299.99 MSRP

[Check out my review and the ZDNet Reviews page for the Sony Reader Touch Edition]

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