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Oh My Tech!: Advice on narrowing the crowded field of e-readers

Take these steps to pick the one that’s right for you.

First Published Jul 12 2012 12:29 pm • Last Updated Oct 30 2012 11:32 pm

I am interested in purchasing [an e-book] reader but I’m confused as to which one to buy. I am leaning toward the Kindle but there are so many to choose from. I mainly want it to download books and Scriptures, etc. I probably would never watch a movie or TV show, and I use email on my PC, but having access to games would be good. I’m not sure if I need the Kindle Fire, but which of the others would be best for me. Any help? Thanks. — Jacquie Simper.

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Jacquie’s right in that there are a lot of e-book readers out there, and it can be a tough road to figure out which one to buy. At last count, there were at least a dozen different readers, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Although there are a number of manufacturers who make e-readers, I’ll first narrow that field to just three worth considering — the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook or the Apple iPad. These are the three biggest players in the market, and you can be assured these companies and their line of readers will be around for a long time, and therefore technical support will always be there.

Second, I always like to start by asking the question: Exactly what do you want to do with it? There are two different types of readers, and each one performs different tasks.

If you want to just read books, stick with an e-reader that uses the simple black and white E-ink technology, such as that in simple devices such as the cheaper Kindles and the Nook (Apple doesn’t make an E-ink reader).

E-ink is merely for reading. It’s advantage is it consumes very little battery power because the screen is not backlit. You can read it easily in the sun and it’s more comfortable for your eyes over long periods. The downside is it can’t perform animation and it’s only in black and white, so you can’t watch videos or play games with animation such as "Angry Birds," although you can play simple card or puzzle games on a Kindle.

That’s the kind of reader that Jacquie probably should consider, but given that she would like to have access to games, that’s where this choice would be limited.

Of the E-ink readers, either the Kindle or the Nook would be good, but I would favor the Kindle because there is a bigger line of models from which to choose for as little as $79. And that cheapest model should perform everything she wants except games.

If you want to do more than read, there is the other kind of device, the LCD backlit model that displays full color and can run video and games, making it more of a tablet than just a reader. The disadvantage is that they are more expensive, their batteries don’t last nearly as long, and their screens are harder to read in direct sunlight. A plus is that the screens can be read in the dark unlike E-ink readers.

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For this type of tablet, Barnes & Noble has the Nook Tablet, and Amazon has the Kindle Fire (both $199). Both can perform all kinds of functions, including showing movies and TV shows; displaying music, books and games; and providing access to the Web. Between the two, I would go with the Kindle Fire because it’s connected to Amazon’s vast library of streaming movies, as well as to other multimedia content.

The Apple iPad is the third LCD tablet that also can be used as a book reader. It does that as well as any of the other LCD tablets, but it’s much better for viewing movies, playing games and performing other tasks. But the iPad is also a lot more expensive, with the cheapest model coming in at $400.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he’ll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.

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