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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

The 800-pound gorilla that hasn't quite entered the room yet is Apple's iPad. Expected to be released starting April 3, Apple floored the marketplace by announcing a $499 price for the base-level iPad.

That was in the face of remarks Steve Jobs made on a teleconference with financial analysts in late 2008. "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk, and our DNA won't let us do that," he said.

Either he doesn't consider the iPad to be a computer, or Apple's DNA has been altered. Or the company has learned how to make something that isn't junk for $500. In any case, it's only if you head for the uber upscale 64-GB model with Wi-Fi and 3G that you hit the $829 price tag.

The argument against the iPad is that it's just a giant version (9.56"x7.47"x0.5" and weighing in at either 1.5 pounds for the Wi-Fi model or 1.6 pounds for the Wi-Fi + 3G model) of the iPod Touch. We concede that to be the case. So what? That gives it prowess with the Web, e-mail, music, video, and photos on a color screen.

There's a free iBook app available from the App Store that adds e-Reader functionality and Amazon claims it will have a version of the Kindle software available for the iPad as well. The "experts" claim that 3-4 million iPads will fly off the shelves in the first 12 weeks of its official availability.

If you didn't glean it from the overall dimensions, the iPad features a 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy wide screen. It has a 1024-by-768 resolution at 132 pixels per inch and, because it's a touchscreen, it also has a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating. (Note the word "resistant.") While Apple claims the iPad gets up to 10 hours of surfing the Web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music, it makes no note of how long you can sit there reading a book.

Specs:

  iPad
Display 9.7" ISP technology; 1024x768 resolution
Size 9.56"x7.47"x0.5"
Storage 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi + 3G
Wireless Coverage Global
Rotating Display Auto with lock-out switch
Price Wi-Fi: 16GB: $499 / 32GB: $599 / 64GB: $699 (avail. Apr 3);
Wi-Fi + 3G: 16GB: $629 / 32GB: $729 / 64GB: $829 (available late April)

For Further Reading: