The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care AboutS

There are too damn many ebook readers and it's tough to figure out what's worth buying and which reader will even survive the market. To make things easy, here's our guide to the readers that matter—for now. Updated.

Of course we're skipping some of the many ebook readers floating around, but quite frankly we can't really stomach all of them. We decided to focus on the ones that matter to us—whether because they stand a shot of surviving the over-saturated market, or simply because they are examples of what we think matters about these gadgets. Feel free to let us know if you disagree with any of our survival odds or if you think we missed a significant device.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care AboutS

Barnes & Noble Nook

When we reviewed the Barnes & Noble Nook, we decided that it was pretty damn good all around. At the time, we mainly focused on pitting it against the Amazon Kindle, but even without that limited comparison the Nook remains a rather good device:

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

It's got a second screen which actually serves a useful purpose

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Expansion and evolution possibilities of this very device are great, especially with touchscreen and Android OS

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Lending and in-store Barnes & Noble action will be huge

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Native ePub support

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

A little thicker than Kindle, but as a tradeoff, it's a little smaller footprint

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Wi-Fi doesn't seem to matter now—hopefully it will prove to be an advantage later

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

LCD and other features mean less battery life than Kindle, but still adequate, "measured in days"

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Current software is buggy and sluggish in spots; hopefully fixes and optimization will come soon

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Second-screen possibilities are great, but current implementation is cautious and conservative

Taking all those features and shortcomings into account, we think that the Nook's survival chance is 80%— if it can fix its firmware and get production up to speed.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care AboutS

Entourage Edge

A hands on of the Entourage Edge left us hesitant about whether there's actually a market for something that has the price tag of a good netbook and barely more features than most readers:

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

It does have two full screens on which actual work can be done

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Can run Android applications and be used to browse the web

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Wi-Fi built-in, so you're not stuck relying on 3G

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Two built-in microphones for noise-cancelation, but unfortunately no synchronization with notes

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Note taking can be done using a stylus

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Switching between the screens allows for websites to be loaded on one screen and "pushed" to the other

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Just as with most other readers, you can highlight, annotate, and bookmark

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

It's three whole freakin' pounds and ridiculously bulky

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

$500 price tag.

The Edge shows us what happens when you try to make a reader into what it's not—a pseudo netbook or tablet. We think the device's survival chance is 0% and consider it pretty much DOA.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care AboutS

Plastic Logic Que

We liked the feel of the Plastic Logic Que when we got our hands on it, but we didn't like the price tag. The device is mainly aimed at business folk who want to carry a notepad-sized device instead of a stack of documents, but it could make a rather nice reader if you crave for a large screen:

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

At 8.5 x 11 x .33 inches, its about the size and thickness of a standard notepad. It weighs about one pound. Like a heavy notepad.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

The screen is huge—and I mean huge. Over ten inches.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Because of Plastic Logic's obsession with its namesake material, the Que is light as a feather

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Formatting from magazines and other publications is maintained on the screen

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

The interface seems snappy and intuitive

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Que Mail and Que Calendar services allow email and calendar updates to be pushed over WiFi and 3G networks

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

While odd to look at, the wide bezel actually makes the Que a lot more comfortable to hold than some other readers

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

The back of the device is a magnet for fingerprints. It's annoying, but not unusual for shiny toys like this.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

$650 for the 4GB model with Wi-FI and $800 for the 8GB model with WiFi and 3G are quite the prices to swallow

We think the Que's features, design, and business as well as consumer appeal leave it with a survival chance of 70%—higher if businesses feel like spending so much on a device that will certainly help cut back on paper use. Or if Plastic Logic manages to cut back on that price.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care AboutS

Spring Design Alex Reader

Our hands on of the Spring Design Alex Reader left us thinking that the Nook might have some serious competition, but even on its own the Alex is a rather good device:

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

It's thin—we thought we'd break it just by holding it—but it turned out to be surprisingly sturdy

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

You can run any Android app including the browser, email client, and music player apps

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

The interaction between the two screens doesn't seem fully worked out

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

No news about whether there's a data provider secured for the device

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

$399 makes the Alex a wee bit pricier than the nook

Assuming that a data provider is secured for the Alex, we could see its survival chance being 80%—higher if there's a price drop to bring it closer to the Nook's.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care AboutS

Sony Daily

When the Sony Daily Edition reader was announced, we got a bit excited about its electronic library program and wide screen, but alas, we're still waiting to actually get one of these devices into our hands to check out all the features:

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Sony's got plenty of partners for this device to provide content

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

The on-screen content is rotated automatically to allow viewing in a nice, comfortable, and super wide landscape format

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Native EPUB support

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

The electronic library program will let you borrow books from your local library's electronic collection

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Free 3G service is included—but limited to accessing the Sony Store

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

$399 is a bit much for a device with so few tricks up its sleeve

Until we actually take a Daily for a test run, we're deeming its survival chance as 40%—mostly because the library program is appealing along with the push for EPUB formatting.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care AboutS

Kindle

In our review of the Amazon Kindle 2, we discovered that it's not too different from the original model, but we still liked all the features:

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

The rounded design makes the device appealing to hold and look at

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Zippy interface, decent refresh rate

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Plenty of internal storage and long battery life

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Text-to-speech book reading

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Crisp, sharp display

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

It's hard to read longer, more complex books

While the Kindle 2 wasn't a huge leap from the first generation, we still think the device about a 80% chance of survival, especially if Amazon works on improving the interface and how the device treats flipping through book sections.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care AboutS

Notion Ink Adam Pixel Qi

When we got our hands on the Notion Ink Adam Pixel Qi, we discovered that it's more of a tablet than it is a reader and that it tries too hard to be both:

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

The device runs on Android 2.0

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

There's a snappy Nvidia Tegra 2 processor lurking inside

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

10.1-inch panel that can switch between backlit LCD mode and low-power electrophoretic reflective mode

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

3G service, which is becoming fairly standard among readers

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

LCD colors aren't as vivid as a plain LCD

Despite having "ink" in its name, the Adam falls too far into tablet territory for us to take it seriously as a reader so we give it a 40% chance of survival in that particular market. As a tablet device though, it might actually do rather well.

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care AboutS

Skiff Reader

When we got a hands on with the Skiff, we were pretty impressed by its size but uncertain about most features since we didn't get to play with a final production model:

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

It's big and thin: 11.5 inches of touchscreen space on a device only a quarter of an inch thick

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Light and—quite importantly—solid feeling

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Layout mimicks a real newspaper better than most readers

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Can handle 12fps animation, which is pretty primitive compared to an LCD device

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Reasoably responsive to taps and swipes

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

You can highlight and annotate content

The Ultimate Guide to Ebook Readers We Care About

Magazines feel awkward to read as they're full page scans and any zooming feels slow due to the e-ink refresh rate

Once again: The Skiff unit we tried out was not a final version, so plenty can change by the time it hits shelves. But based on what we've seen so far, this could be a pretty great reader overall—despite its key focus being periodicals. Assuming that it's price turns out to be reasonable and the interface is fixed up a bit more, we give it a survival chance of 70%.

Any Others?

Those are the ebook readers we think deserve some discussion right now. There are plenty we left out—super cheap ones, poor imitations of readers mentioned already, and some that just plain make us gag. We didn't want to promote crappy products or those where "you get what you pay for" rings a bit too true. That disclaimer aside, we welcome discussion and mentions of other readers, simply because it's always possible that we omitted something worthwhile—like the Skiff which has now been added—by accident. So let's hear it in the comments.