Nook? Kindle? Something else? Holiday gift for my Sister!
September 23, 2010 8:01 AM   Subscribe

My sister loves to read. My mother and I have decided to chip in and buy her an e-reader for the holidays . At first I thought to buy her a Nook, since she lives within walking distance of a Barnes and Noble.. but after doing some preliminary research of pros and cons.. I am a little confused.

A lot of the websites out there that compare the different e-readers are out of date or talk about older models. I was hoping the mefi community could help me find the best e-reader to give my sister if I give you some details about her.

She has average computer skills. She can do email, surf the web, etc. The computer in her house is almost always suffering from malware of some sort. This brings up concerns about buying books only online. She does have a wireless router and would spend a majority of her time reading these books at home.. so having cellphone-style connectivity isn't really important. She's big on sci-fi and fantasy books.

Our budget is around $150.

Should we also consider a protective case for it?

Any suggestions or personal experiences with e-readers are welcome!

A second related question: When should we buy this? What's the chances of barnes and noble/amazon/sony running out of e-readers before the end of November?

It is possible she won't like it and will want to return it. Or someone else had this brilliant idea and got her one too.
posted by royalsong to Technology (35 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I just received my new Kindle and I (personally) find it much easier to use than my stepfather's Nook, but YMMV.

The fact that she lives close to a Barnes and Noble doesn't really change anything. If she has a wireless router at home, she can buy books from the device without even touching her computer.

Some people love e-readers, some don't. I wasn't sure until I started using mine a few days ago, and now I'm hooked. I use it for school readings, novels, storing PDFs...
posted by OLechat at 8:10 AM on September 23, 2010

I've been researching eBooks for myself lately, and Kindles really seem to be topping the charts.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:12 AM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, if you buy a Kindle it is my understanding that you will be beholden to Amazon for all purchases. (They may have changed this) With the Nook and the Sony Ereader you can load up any .pdf's that you may fancy.
posted by Jaymzifer at 8:19 AM on September 23, 2010

The fact that she lives close to a Barnes and Noble doesn't really change anything.

Not really. She'd be able to take advantage of nook's free in-store reading functionality.
posted by litnerd at 8:20 AM on September 23, 2010

I love the Kindle, but I *hate* the fact you can only get books from Amazon for it. I had planned on getting library books.

I had a nook for 2 weeks, but had problems with it, and the customer support is DISMAL and totally unhelpful.

I have a Sony Daily Reader 900 now, and I'm mostly happy with it. I can't figure out how to adjust the font size, but it's a minor problem. I had problems downloading a book that I bought from their store, and they were pretty responsive with helping me get that taken care of. The Sony's are definitely not as refined design wise, though.

I did a lot of research before getting mine, and I'm pretty happy overall.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:22 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend bought me a nook last Christmas. I love it, but I haven't had any Kindle experience, so I can't really say one's better than the other.

My boyfriend's parents gave me a B&N giftcard at the same time I got the nook and I used it for a cover and a clip-on reading light (they're luxuries - I used my nook for 6 months before I bought them, and they're nice, but not 100% necessary)

If you do get her one, make sure you tell her that her library card probably gets her access to free ebooks that can be checked out online! I just discovered this and I am in love.
posted by coupdefoudre at 8:22 AM on September 23, 2010

I love my Kindle. It will display pdfs and other documents (word documents for example). You can upload them from your computer for free, email them directly to the device for free, or in some cases email them for a (very small) conversion cost.

I have a protective case that I almost never use, but what I do use, quite often, is a little clip on reading light.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:25 AM on September 23, 2010

Don't let anyone tell you the Kindle can't read PDF's. It can. It can read any format the Nook can except for borrowed library ebooks.

You want to buy her the Kindle 3. Best current screen in your price range. The nook screen is no longer the leading edge. Barnes and Noble are filing for bankruptcy. The Amazon store will be perfevt for her.
posted by lakerk at 8:26 AM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

It can read any format the Nook can except for borrowed library ebooks.

Not quite. It can't read epub, which is pretty much the standard format for ebooks for everyone except the Kindle. There are tools to convert DRMless epubs to kindle friendly formats, but that would probably be beyond your sister's technical abilities.
posted by zabuni at 8:32 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Barnes and Noble are filing for bankruptcy

Not to derail, but it's important to know that this isn't a "real" bankruptcy. That is, it has nothing to do with the business collapsing; it's part of a strategy by one group of investors to gain power over another group. B&N is healthy, and is not on the verge of dying and taking the Nook with it.

That said, I'd still suggest the Kindle instead, on the strength of its current hardware. However, if you're worried about flaky Internet, the extra $40 for the 3G-capable version will get your book-purchasing off your unreliable Internet connection.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:34 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having a physical store nearby is a convenience. If she doesn't like the nook, she can return it really easily. Same with getting help for any issues; she can go in in person. And, as mentioned above, you can read books for an hour in the store before you buy.

If she travels abroad, the nook is a problem; you can read but you can't buy new books. Otherwise I think Kindle and nook are pretty similar at the under $150 level. I have a nook; my father has a Kindle (but a DX) and we are both happy. When to buy? I doubt whether either company will run out of devices any time soon. I'd wait until right before the holidays in case of upgrades or price reductions, and in case she wants to return it.
posted by BibiRose at 8:37 AM on September 23, 2010

Absolutely buy a protective case. Even with one, my husband's Kindle already has suffered a hairline crack in its corner. Doesn't affect usage at all (and he loves the thing) but it made me sad.

Seconding dpx.mfx's suggestion of the clip-on reading light.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:47 AM on September 23, 2010

I have a Sony DRS 300 and it's perfect for my primary requirements: it's small enough that I can hold it in one hand and turn the page with the same hand (and I have tiny hands), and it has no bells and whistles that I don't need. No wifi, so no browsing/buying books with it, which doesn't bother me in the least. It reads epub as well as other readers' file formats and pdfs. It's about the same size as a trade paperback book. It came with a neoprene case.

The one downside for me is that the Sony Reader Store application is less elegantly designed than I would hope for, but I get paid to design sites, so I care more about these things than most. I find with this app that you're better off knowing what title you're looking for rather than needing to dive down in a deep browse. But my Kindle owning friends tell me it's the same for them.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 8:49 AM on September 23, 2010

I've owned every version of the Kindle so far, and my Kindle3 is far and away the best yet. The contrast on the screen really IS better than previous models, and the refresh rate of turning the page is now faster than I could physically turn a page on a 'real' book.

Downside of the Nook... battery life. That little LED screen limits your battery to about a week to 10 days, while the Kindle can now go a month between charges (with wi-fi turned off).
posted by matty at 8:59 AM on September 23, 2010

My kindle's proved to be pretty damn indestructible, which is a major point in it's favour. I've dropped it onto hard surfaces multiple times and once in a fit of extreme clumsiness smashed it into a locker, and aside from having to glue one corner back together for aesthetics it's kept ticking along fine.

Also, the battery life is insane - 2 weeks of charge, and that's if there's heavy use; when I don't use it that much I can go months without plugging it in. And that's last year's version without the improved battery life of the current gadget!
posted by Silentgoldfish at 9:05 AM on September 23, 2010

I have the Kindle 2 and like it quite a bit. It can certainly read PDFs and a variety of different formats. (I have no problems converting them when they don't play nice, but it is a little bit complicated and may challenge a non-technical person).

Regardless, I would very much recommend a cover of some kind. The one I use is just a leather book cover style of thing, that folds over the screen to protect it. It makes it feel much more like an actual book too, which is nice.
posted by quin at 9:05 AM on September 23, 2010

I'm closer and closer to buying a Kindle 3, even though it is incompatible with most library ebooks. The price is right.

The Kindle can display any non-DRM PDF, and there are free applications that can convert just about any format to PDF. So I'll be dragging and dropping all kinds of Project Gutenberg and Google Books ranging from 75 to 3000 years old.

Plus, the new Kindle has lots of little-known features that may affect your decision. Like a web browser, GPS, and Minesweeper.
posted by General Tonic at 9:15 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does she have a good library system? Many library systems purchase ebooks that patrons can check out and transfer to e-readers such as Nook, the Sony e-reader and the Kobo from Borders. These ebooks will not work on a Kindle.

I have a nook and I like it quite a bit. The one complaint I have is that there is some lag in "turning the page" but it seems to get better with each firmware update. Plus, I don't have the newest version so I don't know if it has improved or not.

Also, as to the case...yes...get a case. If nothing else, for transporting the device. If she puts it in her purse or a backpack or something, she won't want anything like keys to scratch the device. I have a simple "pocket" style holder that zips on one side. I also bought one of those screen protectors for the touch screen at the bottom to avoid scratches there. I think it was like $1 on ebay.
posted by morganannie at 9:53 AM on September 23, 2010

I really love my kindle 3. I was sold on it from day one, and almost immediately purchased another as a gift. I've never done that before with any piece of technology.

The kindle will work with .mobi & PDF files, so you can download lots of free books onto it.
The price on the kindle 3 is great. Stock is currently low though, so may not be the best "need it right now" option.

I think the whole nook/kindle/sony reader thing is quite subjective. They'll probably all do what you want, so it's an emotional choice. Saying that, if you don't get a kindle 3, you're a fool. It's fantastic.
posted by seanyboy at 9:54 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love my Kindle, and I just saw some chatter on Twitter that Amazon might allow .epub files on the Kindle soon. If that happens, the Nook is in trouble.

Poke around on Dear Author. Jane from that site is an e-reader advocate and often publishes posts about pros and cons for different devices.

Oh, and one other thing: Amazon's customer service is pretty great. I got my kindle on a Friday and on Monday they announced a price drop. One quick call and I had a $60 refund, no questions asked. I've heard horror stories about B&N's ebook customer service.
posted by sugarfish at 9:57 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just got my Kindle 3 a week ago. I adore it with every fiber of my being. With the wifi only version, you can email books to your kindle for free and if you type "convert" in the subject line it will convert the word doc/text/pdf for you and send it to your kindle. I've got over 60 books and articles on my kindle now and I think I've only bought two from amazon. There are a number of resources you get that provide you with books online that are free or not through Amazon if you're afraid of being tied to Amazon.
I did a lot of reseach at to be honest, I was a big doubter about the whole ebook thing. I have converted now, I try and convert all my readings for class to kindle friendly formats, I can take all my notes on the kindle, then save them to the computer and manipulate them into an awesome "notecard" format with the citations and everything.
Heck, this week, my kindle has been almost permanently attached to me.
You might want to check out this site if you do get the kindle. They also have good forums on other ebook readers as well.
posted by teleri025 at 9:57 AM on September 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oh, I completely forgot: apparently Best Buy is going to carry Kindles and Sony e-readers this fall. It might be worth seeing how each feels in your (sister's) hand. I like the kindle because it's very light and I have wrist problems. Some people like the Nook because it's a bit heavier and feels more substantial.
posted by sugarfish at 10:00 AM on September 23, 2010

I got my Kindle 3 this week and I'm very happy with it so far.

I had a brief but not thorough look around at a few competing products such as the sony reader and the bebook and it seemed to win on both page turn time and ease of use, both of which are important for me.

I've bought a few evil DRM'd books from amazon but I like the fact I can easily import my own files if I feel so inclined, use project gutenberg, etc.
posted by curious_yellow at 10:03 AM on September 23, 2010

Im having an extramarital affair with my Kindle2. Its the greatest thing since sliced bread, I havent read bonafide book close to 5 years before picking up a kindle, and Ive read 4-5 books in the first two months.

One of the coolest features that I cant get past is the capability for the 3g Kindle's ability to access the Internet, for free, forever?

This has got to be the first consumer device that has internet access for free, for life. Sure, the browser is really pokey and limited, but you can traverse the mobile sites fairly easily. Checking gmail and reading rss feeds via google reader is tolerable.

Games are fairly limited, like the Internet, but its primary feature is an fantastic e-reader.

Shameless plug: with the keyboard, the kindle browser is optimal for adventure games: (beta)
posted by edman at 10:28 AM on September 23, 2010

The fact that she lives close to a Barnes and Noble doesn't really change anything.

Actually there are a few perks to bringing your Nook into the store. You have full access to any eBook in the B&N store for an hour a day (that's an hour per book, per day). There are often in-store coupons, like a free coffee or snack at the in-store coffee shop. And free content that can only be downloaded if you are inside the store. If you are walking distance to a B&N, all of this can be really beneficial.

I own a Nook, and I love it. I would probably be just as happy with a Kindle, except for the above perks. I haven't explored the library ebook option yet, but that is also a nice bonus of the Nook. Yes, the Nook battery life is shorter than the Kindle's, but I can still get a week and change out of a charge, and I have no problems plugging it in once a week.
posted by Roommate at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2010

As many have suggested, I'm for the Kindle 3. I got mine a few weeks ago and absolutely love it.

I've tried out the Nook at a B&N store several times but the touch screen really turned me off it. While it looks nice, it feels counterintuitive with the e-ink display. There's a little lag with the e-ink screen--which is fine if you're using the e-reader as an e-reader--but the touch screen zips along, and it's strange to have the bottom half be super responsive while the top half is a few seconds behind.

For that reason, and for better screen contrast and faster page turns, I went with the Kindle. Good thing, too--the B&N near me recently announced they're closing down!

I also tried out two of the SONY readers at Best Buy--can't remember the model names. They were decent but I was unimpressed by the screen contrast and was generally underwhelmed.

A few other notes: the Kindle 3 most definitely handles PDFs. It handles them pretty well, too. You can also get a lot of books for free through other websites, and Kindle reads Mobi format as well as the standard Kindle format.

For the extra $40, I sprung for the one with 3G + Wifi. It's come in handy a couple of times but if your sister isn't living a fast-paced life, it won't be too important.

I definitely recommend a case for the Kindle. While it will put you over your budget, I highly recommend the Leather Lighted Cover from Amazon--it's decent protection and will make it easier on your sister's eyes because there's always a reading light at her disposal! That's come in handy more times than I realized.

My kindle is a big part of my life now! I have textbooks, classics, modern fiction, pdfs, documents, sci-fi, children's books and everything in between on my kindle. It helped me get through several chapters of a history book I think I would've struggled through had I tried to read it the traditional way (text-to-speech was enabled so I let it read me the chapter as I followed along, helping me focus). I keep backups of my homework on my Kindle just in case. And I've zipped through several amazing fiction books already. Plus, when I was unhappy with my first Amazon lighted case I got a new one within two days of filing my complaint, free of charge.
posted by melancholyplay at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2010

I don't own a Kindle, but I do use the Kindle Reader on my iPhone a lot. I never thought I would enjoy reading books on my phone, but having them always with me is great and I love Kindle's ability to autosync across platforms. That I can move seamlessly from my phone to my desktop and back to my phone, never worrying about bookmarks, still seems kinda magical to me.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:00 AM on September 23, 2010

There are legitimate concerns about proprietary format, but for someone who loves reading and is going to read for long stretches of time, I don't think you can beat the Kindle. It's stunningly easy on the eyes, particularly the v3.

I just gave my old v2 to my partner, who thought he'd never like an e-reader, and now he's hooked too.

My kindle is hands-down my favorite piece of technology, I can't recommend them enough.
posted by Stacey at 1:10 PM on September 23, 2010

Bought a Nook. A bit of a learning curve, but they all have that. The initial charge cycle is a bit confusing, because it says the yellow light will come on, but it doesn't right away the first time (for some folks.) After a few days, it became clear that a protective cover of some sort is a *must-have* for any of these readers if you want to be able to place it/drop it on a table the way you would with a book, or if you want to prop it up like a book when you're eating. My total outlay was $190 (including a $40 leather cover, and that's one of the cheaper ones), and I have read one and a half books on it so far.

AND YOU WILL HAVE TO PRY IT OUT OF MY COLD DEAD HANDS. They should have called it the Crack.
posted by davejay at 3:15 PM on September 23, 2010

This is about 10 months old but it may have some things worth considering for you.
posted by O Blitiri at 6:28 PM on September 23, 2010

I love the Nook but have barely glanced at Kindle (especially the new version). Having a keyboard on the e-reader was about the last thing I wanted - I am connected to some form of computer or smart phone at least 12+ hours a day - when I am reading, I want to read. The Nook's epub support is great. I have no problem with battery life. I really am pleased with my purchase.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:29 AM on September 24, 2010

Very happy nook owner here. I heavily researched the available options several months ago and decided on the nook primarily because I didn't like the idea of being chained to Amazon - not just in terms of what formats you can read on the kindle, but what other hardware you can use to read your ebook purchases.
posted by bluejayway at 10:04 AM on September 24, 2010

Probably much too belated, but I thought I'd chime in. My husband got me a nook for our anniversary (paper anniversary, heh) a few weeks ago. So far, I've had zero technical problems with it. I find the touchscreen fairly intuitive and not that confusing at all. It's really easy to find epubs to load it up with, both free and for-purchase ones. I've been super happy with it and have read about six books on it already.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:42 AM on October 12, 2010

I recently purchased a kindle. I went with the 3g model since I have an iPhone that keeps me connected, and in the rare case that I have to have a book right NOW while away from home a Starbucks or similar free wifi is normally right around the corner. Yes, the 3g model gives you free internet access (for the life of the device) but surfing on the Kindle is painful.

But I didn't buy it to surf the web. I bought it to read, and I absolutely love it. I'm completely hooked. I looked at the nook, and I'm sure it would do the job if there were no Kindle, but it wasn't for me. I'd rather have the month of reading time than the touch screen. The Kindle doesn't try to impress, it just gives a great reading experience.

The benefits of a barnes and noble store depend on if you visit the store often. And hour a day reading any book you want is great if you go often. I use amazon so I don't HAVE to go to barnes and noble. I probably go a couple times a year. Their coffee is terrible, so coupons are worthless for me, and the customer service is much better at amazon.

Anyway, just my 2cents, but I don't think you can go wrong with Kindle unless you want to make use of your library (hopefully amazon will change this) or you love barnes and noble.

(during recent trips to b/n employees have been really pushing the nook, going as far to visit each table in the cafe to give a presentation. Luckily, they don't bother me. I guess it's the Kindle :)
posted by justgary at 10:36 PM on October 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I ended up going with a Kindle Wi-fi.
posted by royalsong at 9:58 AM on November 4, 2010

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