|...Kindle: Amazon's Kindle readers range from a simple U.S. $79 model with a six-inch, grayscale screen to a $379.00 version with a 9.7-inch grayscale screen, built-in physical keyboard, and free 3G communications.|
I own the Kindle Fire — the only Kindle with a color screen — and I use it often. Smaller, lighter, and at $199 roughly one-third the price of an analogous iPad, the Kindle Fire has a gorgeous screen; simple controls based on a bookshelf metaphor; and access to Amazon's huge library of books, other types of media, and an expanding library of games. Currently, the Kindle's application offerings are far fewer than what's offered for the iPad, but there are apps for Facebook and Twitter; Netflix, Hulu and Pandora; and many other popular online activities.
Although its seven-inch touch screen is significantly smaller than the iPad's, it's better-looking — making it ideal for reading books, playing videos up-close, and sneaking in an occasional game of Angry Birds. It just doesn't match the iPad for tasks that need larger screens and on-screen keyboards, such as managing e-mail and — with my vision — browsing the Internet. That said, my brother likes his Kindle Fire because its e-mail app automatically syncs with Microsoft's Exchange Server. He says it works like a champ.
My toddler son likes the Kindle Fire every bit as much as the iPad because it's easy to use and he doesn't mind watching videos and playing with interactive books on the smaller screen — those short arms naturally keep the Kindle up close. Although the iPad has a larger kids' library, Amazon offers enough Kindle media to keep any kid going for years.
? Bottom line: If you're willing to live with fewer features and capabilities, the Kindle is a bargain compared to the iPad — and it gives you a better screen for reading books.
Nook: I'll confess I don't own a Nook, but I know people who do and they love it — primarily for its simplicity. Models range from the basic $99 e-reader with a six-inch, grayscale touch-screen to the $249 tablet that comes with a seven-inch, color touch-screen.
The Nook's forte is as an e-reader. After playing with the color version for a while, I liked it better than the Kindle Fire when reading digital books and magazines: the scrolling works more naturally and more quickly, and in bright light the screen is a bit easier to read. I also preferred Nook's microphone, home key, and hardware volume control. The Nook also has a microSD card slot, a feature missing on the Kindle Fire.
On the other hand, browsing around the Web is easier on the Kindle; the built-in Web browser simply works better. The Kindle Fire is also cheaper, it has more cloud services, you can download videos to the Fire for later playback — and I just plain prefer the Kindle's interface.
There are rumors that Barnes&Noble might spin off its Nook division, possibly selling it to some company that can afford to keep the format competitive. But given the number of Nooks in the hands of avid e-book readers, the Nook should be around for years to come.
? Bottom line: Although the color Nook has tablet-like capabilities, it's best as a light, compact, inexpensive device for reading digital books and magazines. If in doubt, try both the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color, and decide which interface you prefer...