The Nook, Kindle, and other eBook Readers

The popularity of eReaders was a recent, sudden, and growing phenomenon. The first eReader device, the Kindle from Amazon, was released in 2007 (wikipedia) and since, eReaders have only become more popular.

The Barnes & Noble Nook was released nearly two years later, in November of 2009, bringing some much needed competition to the eReader and eBook market. eReaders have come a long way since, morphing into a eReader/tablet hybrid with touchscreens, full browsers, and media players. This new style of eReader can be most prominently seen in the Nook Color and Nook Tablet from Barnes and Noble, and the Kindle Fire from Amazon.

There are other brands of eReaders available as well, but the Nook and Kindle lines of eReaders dominate the market, and for good reason. The various versions of the Nook and Kindle are by far the most feature-packed eReaders around.

Barnes and Noble Nook

The Barnes and Noble Nook comes in three different versions: NOOK Simple Touch, NOOK Color, and NOOK Tablet. Each with its own distinct uses and advantages.

Nook Simple Touch

The Nook Simple Touch is the most basic of the three Nook models. It is the only Nook device that takes advantage of e-Ink, and is most comparable to the basic Amazon Kindle. Priced at only $99, the Nook Simple Touch is a great buy for the eBook reader that just wants to read books, magazines, and newspapers, without all the extra bells and whistles like apps, video, web browsing.

Although newer models donít make use of e-Ink technology, the Nook Simple Touch does, and is hands down the best format for reading. Although e-Ink doesnít offer the reader color display or a backlight, it is still ideal for reading because, youíre never susceptible to sun glare or straining of the eyes.

Nook Color and Nook Tablet

Although the Nook Color ($199) came out well before the Nook Tablet ($249), they are actually almost identical in functionality. They both offer 7 inch color touchscreen displays, wi-fi and video capabilities, and access to the Android App Market. The primary difference between the two is the hardware, with the Nook Tablet offering slightly faster speeds and increased storage.

As previously mentioned, the Nook Color and Nook Tablet fit more into the tablet form factor than they do that of early eReaders, though eBook navigation is still their primary function. Keep in mind, the backlit color screens significantly reduce battery life, are effected by glare, and can strain your eyes if youíre reading for too long.

That said, the Nook Color and Tablet are incredibly useful tools and definitely give the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad a run for their money.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon was the first company to pioneer the concept of the eReader with the original Kindle, and they remain the leading maker of eReaders today. The Kindle comes in many shapes and sizes, but can largely be divided into two groups: the Kindle and the Kindle Fire.

The Kindle

The original Amazon Kindle ($80-$150), like the Nook Simple Touch, is an eReader that utilizes e-Ink in its display. e-Ink displays are easy on the eyes, for hours of reading and in order to resist glare, though do not have backlighting or advanced features like full web browsing and video playback.

Unlike the Nook Simple Touch, the basic versions of the Kindle are available in both touchscreen and non-touch versions as well as 3G + wi-fi and wi-fi only versions.

Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire is the most recent addition to the Amazon Kindle family, and by far the most revolutionary eReader device to date!

Like the Nook Color and Tablet, the Kindle Fire offers a 7 inche full color display, and advanced features like full web browsing, access to Android Apps, video playback and more. Once again, the tablet-esque version of the eReader isnít ideal for reading, but this lost functionality is definitely made up for with all the new features that come packed into the Kindle Fire. However, the Kindle Fire does cost $50 less than the Nook Tablet, at only $199.

Not many people are aware, probably because itís not all that impressive, but Kindle eReaders can actually turn just about any book into an audio book - sort of. Kindles are equipped with text to speech technology, that reads aloud the text of your books, magazines, etc., much like an audio book. The main difference between your average audio book and the Kindle dictation, is that it comes out sounding like a robot, while real audio books are read by real people. Although a cool feature, it leaves a lot to be desired, and I certainly wouldnít make any decisions based on it.

Nook Book Store vs. Amazon Book Store

Amazon definitely had a head start over Barnes and Noble in the race for the largest collection of eBooks and other media. However, Barnes & Noble is putting their connections with major publishers to good use, and are quickly catching up.

In fact, a close analysis of the two different ebook markets shows that they arenít actually that different at all. They actually stack up pretty evenly when compared on availability and pricing. In addition, given that the Kindle Fire, Nook Color, and Nook Tablet all have access to apps like Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming services, they also stack up pretty evenly on this front as well.

Download Free eBooks for Your eReader

One of the best things about eReaders is that regardless of which eReader device you choose to use, they can read all the same files, for the most part. This makes it pretty easy to gain access to a large collection of eBooks, newspapers, magazines, comics for your consumption. Websites like BooksPlex offer a service to eReader users that allows you unlimited, safe, and legal access to Thousands of eBooks and other reading material for a low one-time fee.

If you can find it in the the Nook or Kindle Book Stores, then thereís a 99% chance you can find the ebook at BooksPlex, and the audio book version too! There are other places where you can download free ebooks for your Nook or Kindle too. Check out our picks for the best places to download free ebooks for Nook.