It's that time of year again, where you might find yourself scratching your head trying to come up with good gift ideas. Judging by the number of questions I get asked, eReaders are going to be a big hit again this year. Since there are a wide variety of devices available that are compatible with the library system, a little guidance might be handy for those looking for a gift (or a gift for oneself!)
eReaders can be broken down into two basic types: Tablet-style and E-Ink. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, so continue reading to figure out what kind best matches what you had in mind.
Tablet-style eReaders are actually tablets that also function as eReaders. Beyond reading eBooks on them, you can also listen to audiobooks and music, play videos and movies, connect to the internet, access apps, and play a variety of games. These have color backlit screens, like a computer or smart phone screen. So while color is nice, even necessary for some functions, battery life can be short with long use, requiring frequent charging. These screens may also be difficult to see in sunlight or cause eye fatigue. One of the nicest things about tablet-style eReaders is that you can load library apps on them, so borrowing eBooks and eAudiobooks is easy and doesn't require any other devices. While tablet-style eReaders are a little larger and heaver than E-Ink ones, if you find yourself ferrying a bag full of devices around, these tablets may allow you to leave more of them at home.
Tablet-style Recommendations: Many are quite nice, so I can't point to one particular one as a must-have. However, I recommend ones running either iOS (Apple iPads) or Android (Kindle Fire, Nook HD, and any number of other tablets from electronic manufacturers). Tablets come in multiple sizes, ranging from about 7" tall to 11" tall, so seeing a variety in person can be helpful. Along with a variety of choices, there are a variety of prices, from less than $100 to upwards of $500.
E-Ink eReaders are meant for one purpose: to read eBooks. These have black and white E-Ink screens, which look very similar to a printed page. Battery life can last a very long time between charges, as very little power is needed for turning pages. E-Ink is easy to read in bright sunlight and shouldn't tire eyes any more than reading print books. However, borrowing eBooks from the library requires a few more steps and possibly the use of a computer, depending on your eReader. E-Ink eReaders are generally, small, thin, and lightweight and don't take up much room in a handbag or briefcase, but they don't have all the extra features that Tablet-style ones do. There are even ones that have a built in light so that you can read in the dark without a separate light source.
E-Ink Recommendations: Again, there are many nice ones, so I can't pick one as the best. However, I can make some broad recommendations. If you plan to buy most of the books you read, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have the largest and most established book stores for eBooks. If you want to read in the dark without a light, try the Barnes & Noble Simple Touch with Glowlight, the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, or the KoboGlo. If you want the easiest access to library books, try the Sony Reader Wi-Fi (no computer required to check out). Most E-Ink eReaders have 7" screens and most are under $200, with many less than $100.
Consumer Reports has recently tested many brands of both Tablets and E-Ink eReaders (look for Tablet and eReader reviews). You'll need your library card number and PIN to access reviews through the link. If you'd like to learn how to use any of these devices with the library, look for a Gizmo Garage at a library branch near you.