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Apple's iPad vs. e-readers

Apple's iPad tablet may rival e-book readers, but these six e-readers have life in them yet

  • Sony Reader Sony offers the Reader Pocket Edition for $200, the Reader Touch Edition for $300, and the 7-inch screen Reader Daily Edition for $400 (shown below), which comes with a touchscreen. The Daily Edition allows to access newspapers and other subscriptions wirelessly for free, and the Reader Store offers access to 1 million books. Books can be read in landscape mode. It weighs 12.75 ounces and provides an E Ink touchscreen display that is 7 inches diagonally. Sony's Web site currently says it has received high demand for orders of the device, but orders were shipping on or about Jan. 29.

  • Kindle for PC Despite the introduction this week of the iPad and the harsh words of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, netbooks will continue to thrive, say analysts and commentators, who cite the tablet's missing features and relatively high price. Amazon offers its Kindle for PC software, and for the iPhone. [For a look at other rivals to Apple's iPad, see this image gallery of the latest netbooks and smartbooks, fresh from CES.]

  • Apple's iPad tablet: Also an e-reader Apple's iPad is a multi-function device that focuses on multimedia and some productivity apps, but also functions as an e-reader with a new iBook store of EPub format books. Five major book publishers, plus The New York Times, have all signed on to give users views of their content from the iPad's 9.7-inch color, multi-touch screen. It might seem inappropriate to compare this 1.5-pound device with some much lighter-weight e-readers that have far superior battery life than the 10 hours Apple claims for iPad (and probably only when not connected to Wi-Fi or 3G wireless). A big question is whether iPad's LCD screen, with its LED backlight, will only work for casual readers who also browse, play music and videos and write documents, and not for heavy readers. Those who like to read several hours at a time might find they need one of many reflective screen e-readers devices that are easier on the eyes and use E Ink or similar technology that is now just in grayscale. Apple's iPad goes on sale in March and April, and will be available in six versions ranging from $499 to $829.

  • The Barnes & Noble Nook The Nook is also an E Ink grayscale display that is 6 inches diagonally, above a color touchscreen display that is 3.5 inches diagonally. The lower screen is used for browsing Barnes & Noble content on 3G and Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi is free inside Barnes & Noble stores. It weights 12.1 ounces and boasts up to 10 days of use without a charge without wireless turned on. The bookseller sells it for $259, with an expected ship date currently of Feb. 12. While it is the first Android OS e-reader, some reviewers have complained the response times are slow although potential buyers can test it out in the store before buying.

  • Kindle DX Amazon's Kindle DX has the 9.7 screen size of the iPad, but in a lighter body, at 18.9 ounces (iPad weighs 24 ounces, or 1.5 pounds). It includes a keyboard and displays pages from books and publications in 16-gray-scale E Ink. Like the smaller Kindle 2, it has text-to-reading capabilities. The DX includes a PDF reader, but a 10 MB document you email yourself will cost you $1.50 under Amazon's 15 cent per megabyte data cost. It is selling for $489, slightly less than the cheapest iPad, but Amazon has been known to adjust pricing without notice. The E Ink display means the device is not backlit, which requires a user to have some kind of light when reading in the dark. But that display also reduces power demands, and some reviewers have said the DX will get up to two weeks on a charge, although Amazon only says you can "read for days" without recharging.

  • Kindle 2 The 6-inch E Ink display of the second-generation Kindle will not be the best for reading magazines and newspapers, but it is perfect for many paperback book readers who like its convenient size. It has become the bestseller in the industry, and has caught on for its ability to allow quick wireless downloads of books, including bestsellers often for $10. The latest generation sells for $259, weighs 10.2 ounces and is supposed to allow reading for up to one week on a single charge with the wireless connection turned on, an increase from the 4 days in the previous version. Kindle also allows Web browsing in the U.S., but the navigation is challenging for some users.

  • Plastic Logic's Que The Que proReader was announced at the CES show in early January as the largest display for an e-reader at 10.7 inches (10.5 inches are viewable). It weighs 17 ounces. The plastic display relies on E Ink grayscale technology for reading newspapers and books but also includes touchscreen capabilities for editing documents. It ships in mid-April in two versions, one for $649 for a 4GB version with Wi-Fi and $799 for an 8GB version with Wi-Fi and 3G. Plastic Logic has boasted its association with professional and business journals as well as the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers.

  • Skiff Reader Skiff LLC showed the Skiff Reader at CES and outdid the Que with an 11.5 inch grayscale touchcreen display and weighing 17.5 ounces.It will run on Wi-Fi and 3G, and boasts one week of battery life but that is probably without wireless. No shipping date or price was announced. Skiff is also working on a color version that could be ready by the end of the year. Skiff LLC is a Hearst Corp. incubator and is working on creating an e-publishing platform that works with a variety of devices and a number of publishers. The Skiff display relies on a metal foil e-paper technology from LG Display.

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