This post has been updated. Read the latest version instead: UPDATED: Christmas 2010 eBook Buying Guide
Recommended, in order of best value:
1) Apple iPad: Via available free apps, it can be any eBook device now: a Kindle, a Barnes & Noble Nook, a Kobo Reader, a Sony Reader; plus there’s Apple’s own iBookstore (which I do not recommend due to lock-in DRM). Plus it can do Google Books PDFs right out of the box. And with Bluefire Reader it can now do public library eBook loans too. Due to size and weight, this is more of an at-home device.
2) Apple iPod Touch: As above, but bring-everywhere portability, although Google Books PDF viewing does not work properly, so don’t get it if you want that bit. Some people claim reading off an LCD is tiring. Just turn down the damn backlight. I read eBooks on my LCD-based LifeDrive all the time.
3) Amazon Kindle: The hardware can be frustrating, but it has the most books to buy and the most new books for free. It cannot do public library eBook borrowing, however.
4) Sony Reader Pocket Touch PRS-350: It’s small and light and fast and can do “classic” Adobe DRM ePub, which is required for public library eBook borrowing. It lacks wireless capability, which is sad.
5) Kobo Reader WiFi: A device with WiFi for just $129 is a steal. Mind you, the WiFi is just for shopping at Kobo/Borders, there’s no browsing the web, and having to use one button for the on-screen keyboard to buy books is slow, but it can do “classic” Adobe DRM for public library borrowing. It’s an inexpensive entry into eBooks with a reputable device.
6) Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-650: It’s a larger version of the Pocket with two storage slots and audio-playing ability added in. It too lacks wireless capability.
7) Sony Reader Daily Touch PRS-950: Even larger than the other two models, but it has WiFi and 3G for buying books through Sony’s eBookstore. WiFi — but not 3G — lets you view the web with its included browser.
8) Samung Galaxy Tab: It’s not an iPad, it’s a giant Android phone. Using free apps, it can be a Kindle, a Nook, a Kobo Reader, a Sony Reader, and it can use the Aldiko eBook reading software too. This is very expensive off-contract and not worth it at that price but it’s the first generally-available Android tablet out there right now that works well.
1) Barnes & Noble Nook eInk and Color: The hardware is great but the DRM is lock-in to Barnes & Noble, which I think is a huge, huge mistake. The NookColor might be worth getting down the road as an inexpensive Android tablet if hackers can jailbreak it and replace its ROM, but that might be illusory.
If you can’t do any better:
1) Sony Pocket Edition PRS-300
2) Sony Touch Edition PRS-600
Both of those are on sale at low-low prices. The first is too slow, the second has a screen that can be problematic. But they are a low-cost entry into eBooks — and well-built devices — and can do public library loans.
Unknown at this time:
1) Archos 70 Tablet
2) Archos 101 Tablet
3) ViewSonic 7 Tablet
4) ViewSonic 10 Tablet
I have not yet been able to try any of these for myself and none of the reviews out there answer any of the questions I have, so I can’t say anything about them right now other than they might be worth buying.
Absolutely avoid, in no order:
1) Pandigital Novel
2) Cruz Reader
3) Cruz Tablet
4) Augen The Book
5) Augen Gentouch tablet
6) The Literati
7) Aluratek Libre
8) ECTACO jetBook
9) ViewSonic Open Book
— and anything else on sale in a drugstore, discount store, or a big-box department store that isn’t listed under Recommended. There are many, many devices flooding the market and they are very cheaply made and are buggy. None of them are any bargains and they will give you grief and probably break within a year or less of use. They make you think you’re getting into eBooks, but all they’re doing is taking you for a sucker and ruining eBooks for you.