Five E-book Reader Gift Ideas for Book Lovers in 2012

What do you give someone who loves to read, but doesn’t have one of the latest e-book readers out there? There are so many options available to the consumer ranging from tablet computers with bright LCD screens to standard e-book readers with E Ink displays. A new wave of illuminated E Ink readers also hit the market this year, so which one is best?

Best and better are always relative. In this article, we’ll go over a few of the most popular options out there and explain why each one may be a good gift idea for that special someone in your life.

Kindle Paperwhite — $120

With a unique side-lit E Ink display, the Kindle Paperwhite has managed to pull off incredible battery life while illuminating a screen in a way that doesn’t cause eye strain or fatigue. Using specially designed fiber optics, the Paperwhite boasts stunning contrast in a reader that costs about $120.

You won’t be able to do much more than read books on it, though. It’s pretty much just an e-book reader.

The Amazon library of e-books is perhaps the largest in the world. You can often find titles for less than you would in paperback, and a purchase on Amazon syncs with your smartphone, tablet computer, and desktop.

One of the downsides found by users of the Kindle Paperwhite is that the very bottom line of the display isn’t lit as brightly as the rest of the screen.

Image: Amazon

NOOK Simple Touch with Glowlight — $120

NOOK Simple Touch with GlowlightIf you’re not terribly fond of the Amazon ecosystem, there is a great alternative to the Paperwhite out there made by Barnes & Noble called the NOOK Simple Touch with Glowlight. While lit slightly differently, the same basic concept applies.

The NOOK product line is well supported by retail outlets extending well beyond Barnes & Noble. Accessories can also be picked up locally, which is an advantage to anyone that really doesn’t want to deal with online shopping.

Like the Kindle Paperwhite, the NOOK Simple Touch adds touchscreen features to the world of E Ink displays.

Image: Barnes & Noble

Kindle Fire HD — Starting at $200

It’s hard to argue the success of the Kindle Fire. The latest revision, Kindle Fire HD, brought a much welcome update to the budget tablet. Higher-resolution display, two screen sizes to choose from, and Dolby quality stereo speakers makes the Kindle Fire HD much more than an e-book reader. It’s an all-around content consumption device.

Its heart is still in the book world, however. The Amazon-enhanced user interface makes it easy to find and purchase media for the device. 16-32 GB of onboard storage means you’ll have plenty of space to store your entire e-book collection.

A downside with the Kindle Fire HD is that the screen itself isn’t as easy on your eyes as the E Ink displays found in the Kindle Paperwhite, $69 Kindle, or the NOOK Simple Touch.

Image: Amazon

$69 Kindle

Perhaps the least advanced and yet most recognizable addition to this list is the $69 Kindle. I would consider it the best budget e-book reader currently available, and its simple controls allow you to concentrate on reading rather than finger placement on the screen or worrying about accidentally turning the page.

You don’t get all the benefits of owning a more advanced Kindle device such as text-to-speech, but you do get exactly what you need for reading a book. The screen looks stunning in direct sunlight, and can be read in a variety of lighting conditions indoors. Just make sure there’s a light on around you, because the reading screen doesn’t provide its own.

Image: Amazon

NOOK Tablet — $200

Like the Amazon Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble has its own Android-based tablet. This one has a higher-resolution screen on its 7″ model (1440 x 900 at 243 pixels per inch) than the Kindle Fire HD.

Like the Kindle Fire HD, the Nook Tablet is running its own offshoot of Android 2.3 (2.3.3 for Kindle) complete with a unique UI that makes shopping on its proprietary content store easier for the user. You can still enjoy the majority of the Android games out there and even root the device to perform some of your own upgrades.

At $200, the NOOK Tablet is an excellent choice, though again you do gain graphics and color in exchange for eye strain over an E Ink-based reader.

What about you? Is there an e-reader not listed here that you would recommend to a book lover?