5 Best E-Readers to Buy for the 2013 Holidays

What is the best e-reader? It depends what you want

While e-reader sales may be slowing as tablets become more popular, there are still plenty of reasons to choose one. And if there’s a reader on your list, picking up one of the best e-readers on the market is bound to make them very happy. You’ll save trees too.

Best-e-readers-2013-e-reader-buying-guideWhere tablets are multi-purpose devices with backlit, LCD displays and beefy processors needed to play games, the best e-readers are designed with a single purpose in mind: reading. They typically use a grayscale E Ink display from E Ink Holdings (PVWIF) and their processor needs are much more modest.

As a result, an e-reader is more lightweight, using it causes less eye fatigue than a tablet, instead of suffering from faded display and glare an e-reader actually looks even better outdoors in the sun. Oh, and battery life is measured in months instead of hours. And an e-reader also costs less than a tablet — an important consideration for gift givers.

Amazon (AMZN) kicked off the e-reader craze with its Kindle line and it still makes the most popular e-readers out there, but there are other compelling choices to consider. Our e-reader buying guide includes five of the best e-readers being offered for the 2013 holidays including models from Kobo and Barnes & Noble (BKS) and just for good measure, a tablet alternative (for those tablet die-hards) from Apple (AAPL).

Best E-Readers 2013, on a Budget: B&N NOOK Simple Touch

It wasn’t that long ago that the best e-readers were going for $399. Today they’re almost affordable enough to be impulse purchases. All the major e-book manufacturers now have a budget model priced below $100, but Barnes & Noble has been running a sweet NOOK sale (still live at time of publication). It offers a NOOK Simple Touch e-reader for just $59 with free shipping.

Best-e-readers-2013-e-reader-buying-guide-nookI spent a few weeks with a B&N NOOK Simple Touch last summer and there’s really nothing low rent about this e-reader. It has a unique form factor with wide bezels that makes it look a little chunky compared to others, but I find this makes it easy to hold (it still weighs just 7.48 oz). Text isn’t as crisp as the best e-readers at 600 x 800 or 167 ppi (pixels per inch) but it is a high quality E Ink Pearl display.

Other B&N NOOK e-reader features: There are 7 fonts to choose from, 2GB of built-in memory for 1,000 books or so, it offers microSD card expandability, 2 months of battery life and includes Wi-Fi for online shopping (just like any of the best e-readers in the current crop do).

The NOOK Simple Touch can take advantage of free Wi-Fi in B&N stores and 24,000 AT&T (T) hotspots. Because it supports the ePub format, e-books can be read on many other devices — just not Kindles.

Best E-Readers 2013, for the Amazon Fan: Kindle Paperwhite

There’s no doubt that Amazon got e-readers into the mainstream. And Amazon continues make some of the best e-readers and dominate e-reader sales. In fact, the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is easily one of the best e-readers you can buy.

Best-e-readers-2013-e-reader-buying-guideThe Amazon Kindle Paperwhite e-reader includes built-in lighting for reading in the dark without needing a clip-on accessory or turning on a light, yet it doesn’t cause eye strain the way a backlit LCD display can. Amazon claims page turns are 25% faster than the previous generation, and it weighs just 7.3 ounces.

And Kindle Paperwhite review also notes that this e-reader includes Wi-Fi, 2GB of storage, the latest Carta 16-level grayscale E Ink display at 212 ppi, 2 months battery life (that will go down with Wi-Fi and light use) and options such as 3G connectivity or a Special Offers (advertising) screen saver for cost savings.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite prices start at $139, with the ability to cut that to $119 if you opt for special offers.

For someone who is invested in the Amazon ecosystem, the Kindle Paperwhite tops the list of best e-readers to buy for the 2013 holidays. That’s especially true considering there are so many great free books for the Kindle.

However, if you’re buying this for someone who’s new to e-books, it’s important to note that the device is locked in to Amazon and is optimized for e-books using its proprietary AZW format — that means most e-books from Google Play, iBookStore, Kobo and Sony (SNE) will be incompatible.

Best E-Readers 2013, to Avoid Amazon Lock-in: B&N NOOK GlowLight

If you’re looking for an experience similar to the Amazn Kindle Paperwhite, but without the Amazon lock-in, we are back to another NOOK tablet. Look no further than new NOOK GlowLight — one of the best e-readers this long-time bookseller has ever produced.

Best-e-readers-2013-e-reader-buying-guideThe new NOOK GlowLight has the same 212 ppi display resolution, same Wi-Fi and battery life and same ability to read at night as the Kindle Paperwhite. But the B&N NOOK GlowLight is more svelte at 6.2 ounces and has twice as muc