We know you’re thinking, ”Isn’t this called the ‘Top Five eReaders for Students’”?
Here’s the point: Not all ereaders are created equal, and more importantly, not all ebook stores are created equal either. The Amazon Kindle bookstore offers up 30,000 academic texts in its textbook section; Barnes & Noble’s digital store , not so much.
On top of that, some devices allow students to take notes as they power through required reading, others support reading texts on multiple devices, i.e. reading on an eReader before class and then squeezing in a chapter with your notebook before bed.
If you’ve already committed fully to buying an eReader for the student in your life, check out our five recommendations below.
If not, there’s more buying advice in our guide “eReaders for Back-to-School: Should You Buy?” There we explain which reading devices offer the best selection of textbooks, the most versatile functionality, the lowest prices, and the highest ease of use. Once you’ve decided whether you’re enrolled in eReaders 101 or not, come back here and check out the Top Five eReaders for Students.
What We Like: More than 620,000 titles (plus 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright ones), including a dedicated textbook section on Amazon.com. Unparalleled ergonomics. The easy-to-read eInk screen presents text in 16 shades of gray. Full QWERTY keyboard. Sprint-powered Whispernet connection remains one of the fastest on eReader. Built-in speakers and 3.5mm headphone jack. Text-to-speech feature reads books aloud, albeit in a monotone voice prone to mispronunciations. Built in dictionary comes in handy. Excellent battery life.
What We Don’t: Limited built-in browser. Battery not user-replaceable.
Bottom Line: Amazon is missing some popular books, but its overall content selection is quite good, and there’s certainly plenty of space for storing a massive library on this sleek device. The Kindle 2 looks great and works well.
What We Like: 9.7-inch display boasts 50 percent better contrast than the previous generation. Fast, free 3G, courtesy of Sprint Whispernet. Now costs $110 less, making it more accessible. Promises one week of battery life (two if you turn off the wireless). Like the Kindle 2, it has a QWERTY keyboard beneath the screen, a 3.5mm headphone jack, speaker, and (robotic) text-to-speech feature.
What We Don’t: Like the Kindle 2, it has a frustrating built-in browser and a non-user replaceable battery.
Bottom Line: The Kindle DX is ideal for people who need to read textbooks and periodicals as much as they want to consume novels. Just make sure Amazon has the textbooks you want.
What We Like: Responsive high-resolution 9.7-inch multitouch LCD display. Supports music and video files, in addition to eBooks. Engaging reading experience through the free iBooks app. Vast collection of apps available through the App Store.
What We Don’t: Although textbook companies have inked deals with Apple, textbooks aren’t yet available in the store. The 10-hour battery life is long, but not as long as the week touted by the Kindle. At 1.6 pounds, it’s heavier than competing eReaders. Screen difficult to read in sunlight.
Bottom Line: Multitaskers will like the iPad, but students should hold off until the textbook selection beefs up.
What We Like: Inexpensive Wi-Fi only version. Easy-to-read eInk screen presents with 3.5-inch color touchscreen at the bottom. Built-in speakers and 3.5mm headphone jack. Large content selection. You can lend eBooks, as you would paper ones.
What We Don’t: Interface can be confusing. Bottom screen does not browse web pages. No dedicated textbook section in the store (although many are still for sale in other sections). Slower page turns than competitors.
Bottom Line: Barnes & Noble’s able challenger to the Kindle has the basics down: a good display and a wealth of available content—not to mention the low price of $149 for the Wi-Fi only version. We just wish the Nook were easier to use.
What We Like: Responsive 6-inch touchscreen is ideal for taking notes. Users can sign into their local libraries’ sites to download EPUB and PDF books on loan (Kindle, for one, can’t do this). Supports PDFs and Word documents. Can play back MP3s.
What We Don’t: The screen appears muted and reflective compared to other eReaders’. Sluggish performance. Dedicated page turning buttons inconveniently located.
Bottom Line: Sony’s touch-enabled reader isn’t perfect, but with a slashed price (it used to cost $299), its reflective display and sluggish performance are easier to forgive in favor of its compatibility with libraries’ digital lending programs.