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3/24/2010
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E-Reader Buyer's Guide

We round up an early crop of electronic readers including Amazon's Kindle, Sony's Reader, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and Apple's forthcoming iPad, and see how they stack up.




Apple iPad
(click for image gallery)
In case you hadn't noticed, there's a new "next big thing": the e-reader. We know, you're barely over Netbooks and technology is now stuffing some new, shiny bauble in front of your eyes, hoping to hook you by the wallet. Well, that's the way it works.

We first saw e-readers on Star Trek, the original series. Whenever Yeoman Janice Rand handed Captain Kirk something that needed his attention or approval, it wasn't a piece of paper or a clipboard. It was an electronic "slate" with a touchscreen. Kirk read the manifest, communiqué, or top secret correspondence sent by Starfleet, and signed off on it. No muss, no fuss, no paper.

That was 1966, on a television show, and 44 years later we've just (in the last year or so) made e-readers prominent devices, while we're still creeping toward touchscreen models that are as functional as those on the Enterprise.

The hope is that e-Readers will, at some point, supplant books, magazines, and even printed advertising. After all, depending upon the memory or other general storage contained in the device, you can tote around an armful of books at a fraction of their actual weight; you can read a newspaper the size of the New York Times on a subway or bus without resting it on the person sitting next to you; and, if equipped with Wi-Fi or 3G, you won't have to remember to follow up on those intriguing ads -- you can just tap on the ad and be whisked to the vendor's site.

Today's e-Readers are not much more than electronics mimicking paper without the tearing and folding. (And please don't use them to swat at flies.) Still, if you think ahead, the possibilities are immense.

We've gathered together a few of the current -- and almost current -- models to give you a look at where things are.

Don't expect to get your mind changed or fixed on a particular e-Reader. A choice among the available models right now is more of a gut decision than a logical selection based on criteria. Then again, there's nothing wrong with that either.

As well, take the prices with a grain of salt. Several e-Reader manufacturers have delayed announcing the prices of their units pending the appearance of Apple's iPad. That may also mean that current pricing -- especially on the high-end devices -- may drop.

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