There is, and always has been, some confusion for people regarding the nature of eReaders and their place in the market today. While there are, undoubtedly, quite a few people yet who will refuse to consider them valuable devices for being single purpose or still developing to their full potential, I have come to believe that most now accept the fact that the eReader is here to stay. New price points for these devices in recent months have made them more accessible than ever, efforts to bring them into classrooms are gaining more steam every day, and the available selection of literature is truly impressive and continues to expand. Some may yet be unconvinced, and that is of course their prerogative, but for those who find themselves genuinely interested there remains just the one real question: “Which one is the best for me?”
There have always been reviews to read. We here have done our best to give some head-to-head comparisons of the most popular devices, be they Kindle, nook, or Sony Reader, but let’s be honest and admit that when you’re thinking about something like this, it is often most helpful to have the thing in your hand and be able to play with it for a moment. To that end, it’s useful to know where to look for these devices and what you can expect to see what you get there.
Local eReader Stores
The first major retailer to carry multiple eReader devices, to the best of my knowledge. There you can find the Kindle side-by-side with one or more of the most recent Sony offerings. At least in theory. What I, and many others, have found is not quite as useful. Target does not push their eReader section, so unless you’re lucky and find yourself helped by an enthusiast employee you are likely to be comparing two units that nobody has bothered to charge this month, an outdated model(my local Target still displays the impressive but obsolete Sony PRS-505), or, in many stores, not be able to compare at all since they only made room on the sales floor for a single device. If you get lucky this can be a goldmine, since many people overlook the Sony brand, but it really is a matter of luck.
This is the really exciting one, especially with recent developments. Starting at the end of September, Best Buy claims they will be carrying the newest generation of the Kindle(And soon after, the Kindle DX) alongside their already displayed stock of nooks and Sony Readers. Some users will also find the ability to look at smartphones and Tablet PCs such as the iPad to be of value in their decision. I might not personally think they hold a candle to an eReader but that doesn’t mean you won’t! This one brings things close to home and adds a convenience that many people will welcome and value greatly. You can’t say they push the eReaders actively, but in my experience there is almost always a moderately knowledgeable employee nearby when you have a question about them or need some help getting things working. That cannot but help new users; especially those who might find themselves slightly out of their element when they find reading to be ever so slightly less intuitive than opening the cover and turning the page.
Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS)
Obviously, this is pretty much a place to check out the nook. This isn’t nearly as good for an active comparison, but they do a good job of making sure you know what accessories are available and what the device can do. B&N actively pushed their product, so you WILL walk away knowing everything you can think to ask about. This is also the only store I could recommend purchasing an eReader at on the spot. In most cases, especially when talking about the Kindle, it just has a chance to complicate things immensely as far as returns or servicing when your original receipts don’t come from the manufacturer. Better safe than sorry.
Borders is a latecomer to the eBook game, but like anybody else they are trying to get their devices to as many people as possible in hopes of locking a percentage of the market into their store and its DRM. I don’t say this to be critical, it’s simply what everybody is trying to do here. You won’t find the Kindle or the nook at Borders. Instead they present their customers with an increasingly wide variety of slightly less well known brands in hopes that the one you’ve not heard much about will happen to surprise you. This is where you’ll find the Kobo, the Libre, some of the Sony Readers, and more, depending on how well handled your local store is. Supposedly, by the end of this year we’ll be seeing an area set aside dealing with nothing BUT eReaders in pretty much every one of their locations.
There are more places to check out your potential new toy. These are just the ones that stand out because they allow you to compare directly or, in the case of Barnes & Noble, do such a good job helping people understand their device that it’s worth the trip. I would still recommend buying your Kindle online for ease of support. The same might be best of the others as well. It’s never a good idea to jump into something like this uninformed, however, and the ability to run in and look at eReaders for yourself might end up being your deciding factor. I certainly recommend it.