The Kindle, Nook, iPad, and Reader Compared

Because I am in the publishing industry, and because I have written extensively on the topic of digital publishing, I get asked several times a week, what e-reader I recommend. Frankly, I’m probably not the best person to ask. I experiment with all kinds of technology and am very fickle. I am always trying something new.

So, rather than simply offer an opinion, I spent Saturday morning creating a spreadsheet that compared the four major e-reader brands, representing a total of ten models. I included the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, and the Apple iPad. (You can download the actual spreadsheet here or the PDF.)

If you are thinking about buying an e-reader—or upgrading the one you have—this is where I would start. Compare the prices and features of each and then make a decision.

In researching these products, keep in mind that:

  • The prices vary widely: From $139 for the Kindle 3 to $499 for the cheapest iPad.
  • The battery life varies widely: from 9 hours on the iPad 3G to 1 month with the Kindle 3.
  • The storage capacity varies widely: from 350 books on the Sony Reader Touch and Pocket editions to tens of thousands on the iPad.
  • The interface varies widely, too, from the five-way controller on the Kindle 3, to the touch and stylus of the Reader to the multi-touch of the iPad. The Nook is particularly unique, sporting both e-ink and full-color touch technologies. The iPad is the easiest to use out of the box.
  • The manufacturer web sites vary widely. In my opinion, Amazon is the best for offering the most facts. Apple is the best at demonstrating the features via video. Barnes & Noble is somewhere in the middle. Sony is the most difficult to navigate and compare. (I wanted to pull my hair out!)

We have really come a long way since Amazon introduced the first Kindle. Today, there are so many great options. Competition has not only created a viable e-reader and digital publishing market, it has also improved the quality of all the offerings.

In addition to looking at the price and features, I think you should also must answer one preliminary question: Do you want a dedicated e-reader device (like the Kindle, Nook, and Reader) or do you want a multi-function device (like the iPad)? This will at least get you pointed in the right direction.

I just got the Kindle 3 and am loving it (see my unboxing video, along with my initial impressions). I plan to write a full review in the next few weeks, after I have thoroughly tested it. I can’t wait to see how Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Sony respond.

Questions: Have you bought an e-Reader? If so, which one and why?