Dedicated e-readers still trump tablets for digital books. They’re easier on the eyes, they slip into a pocket, and thanks to advancements in e-ink screen technology, they’re more capable than ever before.
Do I need a light?
If you read in low-light conditions at all, you should upgrade to an e-reader with a light-up screen. These devices aren’t backlit like tablets. E-readers use front- lighting, a technique that carries LED light from the bottom of the screen upwards by use of a “light guide,” a thin, clear film that covers the screen. The result is a gentle, diffuse glow. It’s especially nice if you read in bed — the soft, natural illumination won’t irritate your partner. In addition to a glowing screen, all three major e-readers have improved their text display and contrast.
Should I switch from one e-reader to another?
If you’re heavily invested in one bookstore (you’ve bought 20 or more books), there’s very little incentive to switch. All the e-readers have their faults and benefit, but none are a run-away leader that makes defection worth it. Amazon has the best ecosystem, hands down. But unless you plan on becoming an Amazon Prime member, or if you really want those Kindle Singles, you can stick with your current book seller.
Wi-fi or 3G?
You won’t be using your e-reader for Instagrams, buying movie tickets, or playing any of those word-nerd superiority games. Maybe the occasional tweet, but that’s it. Constant internet access is nice if you’re a ravenous reader who does a lot of traveling. Otherwise, Wi-Fi is perfectly adequate — the multi-gigabyte storage on most e-readers lets you pile up on books before you head for the beach.
What about those pesky ads?
Some of the e-readers come with ads, which are included to subsidize the price (Most famously, all of Amazon’s Kindles). You can pay an extra $20 or so to remove them, but there isn’t much of a point. The ads appear on the lock screen and at the bottom of the home screen and never intrude on the actual reading experience. They’re easy to ignore. Your irritation my vary.
If you read in low light, you should upgrade to a glowing screen. Your eyes will thank you for it. Beyond that, the best e-reader is the one that’s aligned with your favorite e-book ecosystem. If you’re an Amazon person, the Kindle is your best bet. Are you BFFs with Barnes & Noble? You want the Nook. None of the current offerings are so incredible that we’d recommend jumping ship from one to another. Don’t spend extra on 3G unless you travel a lot. Also, the ads aren’t intrusive, so there’s no reason to spend extra to get rid of them unless they offend you deeply.
Photo illustration by Simon Lutrin/get-gadget