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Ereader Ease of Use

Although using an ebook reader is mostly a passive experience, the device should be user-friendly. That is, users should have no trouble downloading and storing extensive libraries of ebooks (Wi-Fi ereaders make this easy), the interface should be simple to navigate, and the battery should last several weeks.

Ereader Connectivity.

When you buy a new ebook or borrow one from a library, you'll need to transfer the material to your ebook reader.
All the ebook readers we researched can connect to a PC or Mac via USB cable. With the exception of the Ectaco JetBook Mini, they all are Wi-Fi ereaders that can easily download books over the air, as well. 3G versions are more expensive.

Ebook Storage.

The more storage in an ebook reader, the more ebooks you can carry around. The ebook readers we researched have 2GB of internal memory. These devices reserve about 1GB of that space for the software necessary to run the ereader, leaving 1GB for the user. That may not sound like a lot, but 1GB is enough room to store several hundred books.

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Several of our top picks also include a microSD or SD card slot that lets you store several more gigabytes of data. The Nook Simple Touch models and Sony Reader PRS-T2 feature microSD card slots that support up to 32GB and the JetBook Mini has an SD card slot that stores up to 16GB of content.

Neither Kindle model we researched nor the Kobo Mini has a memory card slot. However, Amazon lets users store content bought from the company in the Amazon Cloud, online storage that can be accessed through an ereader with Wi-Fi.

Ereader Navigation.

An ebook reader should have a straightforward interface and navigation tools that don't disrupt the reading experience. Manufacturers keep trying to simplify these devices, and with the introduction of touchscreens, ease of use has improved.

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Experts and consumers are enthusiastic about touchscreens, which appear on both versions of the Nook Simple Touch and on the Kindle Paperwhite, Sony Reader PRS-T2, and Kobo Mini. (The Nooks and Sony Reader also come with the usual array of navigation buttons.) The Nook, Kindle, and Reader PRS-T2 touchscreens make for easy navigation and speedy page turns, reviewers say, although one expert detects an occasional hint of lag with the entry-level Nook. Navigation on Kobo's Mini seems less peppy, but its interface measures up, according to experts. One at Techhive noticed some ghosting when turning pages but is more concerned about navigating Kobo's online library, which she says suffers from slow page loads and categories too broad for browsing.

The basic Kindle lacks a touchscreen, as does the Ectaco JetBook Mini. Rapid page turns on the Kindle compensate for the missing touchscreen, in the opinion of PC Mag, and users say navigation is a cinch. The JetBook Mini, on the other hand, is undone by the need to convert common ebook formats to another format, a chore that doesn't sit well with users, some of whom also gripe about comparatively slow page turns.

Ereader Battery Life.

Except for the Ectaco JetBook Mini, which runs on four AAA batteries, the ereaders we researched use built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The E Ink Pearl technology is easier on batteries than the LCD display technology in the JetBook Mini, and these days most ebook readers are quite energy efficient.

One charge should last up to two months on the newest crop of E Ink Pearl ereaders (i.e., the two Nooks, the Sony Reader PRS-T2, and the Kindle Paperwhite). The entry-level Kindle and the Kobo Mini, both slightly older models, run for about a month before needing a recharge, and the Ectacto JetBook Mini should last a good 80 hours with its replaceable batteries. Experts caution that batteries drain significantly faster in Wi-Fi ereaders when the signal is on but not in use, so be sure to switch it off to extend the time between charges.

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