Welcome to Engadget's back to school guide! The end of summer vacation isn't nearly as much fun as the weeks that come before, but a chance to update your tech tools likely helps to ease the pain. Today, we're flippin' through the pages on our e-readers -- and you can head to the back to school hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the month. Be sure to keep checking back -- at the end of the month we'll be giving away a ton of the gear featured in our guides -- and hit up the hub page right here!
Most of us are still walking around hunchbacked from years of carrying heavy textbooks in our overstuffed backpacks. Thankfully, an e-reader can significantly lighten the loads for students everywhere. Sure, we've still got a ways to go before electronic devices can replace textbooks altogether, but in the long run, they could significantly impact the postures of backpack wearers all over. Jump past the break for our recommendations, and another opportunity to enter our back to school giveaway. Simply leave a comment at the bottom to be entered to win, and head over to our giveaway page for more details.
On the cheap
Kindle (2011) with Special Offers
A good e-reader at rock-bottom prices? Tell you more, you say? Well, if you don't mind sacrificing your screen-savers and a little bit of your menu real estate to advertisements, boy have we got an e-reader for you. Granted, the subsidized Kindle's "special offers" aren't quite the bonus feature Amazon likes to paint them as, but it's hard to argue with the reader's sub-$80 price tag. At that price, you're also sacrificing some functionality -- namely a touchscreen / keyboard, which can make it a bit tough to input text on the device. Overall, however, you're getting a solid piece of hardware -- and access to Amazon's excellent library of content.
Key specs: 6-inch Pearl E Ink display, 2GB non-expandable storage, 800MHz processor.
Price: $79 on Amazon
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Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch
Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch was our top e-reader pick last year (back when we were still calling it the Nook WiFi). Since then, the device has been the happy recipient of a zippy software upgrade and a $40 price drop. This plucky little device has touchscreen functionality (with physical page turn buttons, to boot), great performance and one of the easiest-to-hold form factors in the biz. Granted, it's doesn't quite hit that sub-$80 price point, but this ad-free reader is the best you can get for less than $100.
Price: $99 on Barnes & Noble.com
Kobo eReader Touch Edition
Still Kobo's newest devoted e-reader, the Kobo Touch has also benefited from a healthy price drop since this time last year, now priced at $99 (or, like the Kindle, $79 for the ad-based version). Kobo's device isn't the most exciting reader on the market, certainly, but this touchscreen device gets the job done and has gotten a bit of a second life, thanks to Rakuten's acquisition of the company and its subsequent launch in Japan.
Price: $79+ on Kobo.com
Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch With GlowLight
Barnes & Noble didn't change much with the latest version of its Nook e-reader -- and really, with the previous version of the device having nabbed the top spot on this list last year, there's not really a heck of a lot that needed changing. You've got a great form factor, smooth page turning and expandable memory to name but a few. Add to that the titular GlowLight functionality, and you've got a great e-reader that you can read in harsh sunlight or long after everyone else has gone to bed. Barnes & Noble also managed to pack that added functionality into a slightly lighter body.
Key specs: 6-inch Pearl E Ink display, 2GB / expandable memory, proprietary GlowLight technology, 800MHz processor.
Price: $139 on Barnes & Noble.com
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Kindle Touch 3G
It ain't cheap, sure, but voracious readers will appreciate not having to live hotspot-to-hotspot. Anywhere AT&T's 3G signal reaches can become a virtual bookstore, offering up access to Amazon's excellent e-book library. At $189, this high-end reader is nearly the same price as the Kindle Fire, but with unlimited bandwidth for content downloads from Amazon, the Touch 3G is an excellent choice for frequent travelers.
Price: $189 on Amazon
Sony Reader WiFi
Looking for the sorts of extras standard e-readers just can't offer? Sony's WiFi reader has features galore, bringing music playback, dual-touch pinch-to-zoom and hand written note-taking. You also get a lending library and built-in access to Google Books. And at $130, it's fairly reasonably priced for such a full-featured reader.
Price: $130 on Sony.com
The Tablet / Reader
Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet
Those looking for an e-reader that's more than just an e-reader needn't look any further than Barnes & Noble's offering. The Nook Tablet is probably more appropriately a low-end tablet with e-reading functionality, but at $200, it's not really a huge premium over many existing readers -- and you get a heck of a lot more, including sharp video, full color and access to Android apps. Of course, reading marathons on this 7-incher can be a lot harsher than on its e-ink counterparts.
Key specs: 7-inch IPS display, 8GB storage (16GB for $50 more), 1GHz processor.
Price: $199 on Barnes & Noble.com
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Amazon Kindle Fire
For $200, you can also get your hands on Amazon's Kindle Fire. Of course, you're going to be losing out on a few key features here compared to e-ink readers, including the marathon battery life and outdoor readability. What you do get, however, is tablet functionality, via Amazon's custom UI, offering up access to one of the biggest content libraries on the planet.
Price: $199 on Amazon
Google Nexus 7
It may not have a major bookstore behind its name, but the Nexus 7 should be taken just as seriously as the competition. Kindle, Nook and even Kobo apps are all available for Android, and the device's stock OS means full access to Google Play, along with tablet settings. Not to mention the bounty of books and magazines available for download directly from Google.
Price: $199 on Google.com
Engadget's Back to School Giveaway
No Purchase Required to Enter or Win
Eligibility: Engadget's Back to School Giveaway (the "Giveaway") is open only to individuals who are legal residents of the fifty (50) United States (including the District of Columbia) and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 years of age or older. Employees of Weblogs Inc. LLC, AOL Inc., their advertising or promotion agencies, those involved in the production, development, implementation or handling of Giveaways, any agents acting for, or on behalf of the above entities, their respective parent companies, officers, directors, subsidiaries, affiliates, licensees, service providers, prize suppliers any other person or entity associated with the Giveaways (collectively "Giveaway Entities") and/or the immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children) and household members (whether related or not) of each such employee, are not eligible. All U.S., federal, state and local and Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal laws and regulations apply. Void in Quebec, Puerto Rico and where prohibited by law.
Sponsor: The Giveaway is sponsored by Weblogs Inc. LLC, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 ("Sponsor").
Agreement to Official Rules: Participation in the Giveaway constitutes entrant's full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor, which are final and binding. Winning a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.
Giveaway Period: The Giveaway begins at 12:00 pm ET on August 6, 2012 and ends at 12:00 pm ET on September 7, 2012 (the "Giveaway Period"). The Giveaway Period shall be divided into fifteen (15) separate Entry Periods:
Entry Period 1 begins at 12PM ET on August 6, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 2 begins at 1PM ET on August 6, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 3 begins at 12PM ET on August 7, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 4 begins at 12PM ET on August 8, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 5 begins at 12PM ET on August 9, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 6 begins at 12PM ET on August 10, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 7 begins at 12PM ET on August 13, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 8 begins at 12PM ET on August 15, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 9 begins at 12PM ET on August 17, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 10 begins at 12PM ET on August 20, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 11 begins at 12PM ET on August 22, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 12 begins at 12PM ET on August 24, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 13 begins at 12PM ET on August 27, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 14 begins at 12PM ET on August 29, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry Period 15 begins at 12PM ET on August 31, 2012 and ends at 12PM ET on September 7, 2012.
Entry: During the Giveaway Period, go to engadget.com/2012/08/06/back-to-school-giveaway and follow the instructions to submit your entry. The use of any agencies or automated software to submit entries will void all entries submitted by that person.
Drawing: At the conclusion of the Giveaway Period, Sponsor will select the name of one (1) Grand Prize Winner from each of the fifteen (15) Entry Periods in a random drawing of all eligible entries received during each Entry Period. The odds of being selected as a potential winner depend on the number of eligible entries received during the applicable Entry Period. Potential Winners will be contacted via email and asked to provide their full name, age and mailing address within a specified time period. If a potential winner does not respond within the timeframe stated in the notification email, the Sponsor may select an alternate potential winner in his/her place at random from all entries received during the Entry Period. Non-winning entries from one Entry Period do not carry over into subsequent Entry Periods.
Requirements of the Potential Winners: Except where prohibited, the potential winners will be required to complete and return an affidavit of eligibility and liability/publicity release (the "Affidavit/Release") and IRS W-9 form within seven (7) days of being notified. If a potential winner fails to sign and return the Affidavit/Release and W-9 form within the required time period, an alternate entrant may be selected in his/her place in a random drawing of all entries received. Acceptance of a prize constitutes consent to use winner's name and likeness for editorial, advertising and publicity purposes without additional compensation, except where prohibited by law. In the event the potential winner of any prize is a Canadian resident, he/she will also be required to correctly answer a time-limited mathematical question to be administered by email, mail or phone to receive the prize. Limit one (1) prize per household.
Prizes: Fifteen (15) Grand Prize Winners will each receive a Back to School Prize Pack containing the following items: HP Envy Ultrabook 4, Sony NEX-F3, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0), Samsung Galaxy S III (AT&T), Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, AiAiAi Capital headphones, Western Digital My Passport (1TB) hard drive, Timbuk2 Commute Messenger laptop bag, Flying Alarm Clock, AOC 16" USB monitor, Spotify Premium subscription (1 year), Satechi Energy Station, Edifier Tick Tock, Satechi 12-port USB hub, NuForce Cube, Withings WiFi Scale, Powermat 24-hour system, Carbonite Backup (1 year), AViiQ Ready Chips, and Targus Defcon 1 lock. Approximate Retail Value of each Prize Pack is $3,203. Subscriptions are subject to issuer's terms and conditions. Activation fees and monthly service fees not included with any smartphone/digital devices. No cash or other substitution may be made, except by the Sponsor, who reserves the right to substitute a prize or portion of a prize with another prize of equal or greater value if the prize is not available for any reason as determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion. Winners are responsible for any taxes and fees associated with receipt or use of a prize.
General Conditions: In the event that the operation, security, or administration of the Giveaway is impaired in any way for any reason, including, but not limited to fraud, virus, or other technical problem, the Sponsor may, in its sole discretion, either: (a) suspend the Giveaway to address the impairment and then resume the Giveaway in a manner that best conforms to the spirit of these Official Rules; or (b) award the prizes at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment. The Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual it finds to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Giveaway or to be acting in violation of these Official Rules or in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner. Any attempt by any person to undermine the legitimate operation of the Giveaway may be a violation of criminal and civil law, and, should such an attempt be made, the Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law. The Sponsor's failure to enforce any term of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of that provision. In case of a dispute as to the owner of an entry, entry will be deemed to have been submitted by the authorized account holder of the screen name from which the entry is made. The authorized account holder is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet access provider, online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address.
Release and Limitations of Liability: By participating in the Giveaway, entrants agree to release, defend indemnify and hold harmless the Giveaway Entities from and against any claim or cause of action, including without limitation, any third party claim, arising out of participation in the Giveaway or receipt, use or misuse of any prize, including, but not limited to: (a) unauthorized human intervention in the Giveaway; (b) technical errors related to computers, servers, providers, or telephone or network lines; (c) printing errors; (d) lost, late, postage-due, misdirected, or undeliverable mail; (e) errors in the administration of the Giveaway or the processing of entries; or (f) injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant's participation in the Giveaway or receipt, use or misuse of any prize. Entrant further agrees that in any cause of action, the Giveaway Entities' liability will be limited to the cost of entering and participating in the Giveaway, and in no event shall the Giveaway Entities be liable for attorney's fees. Entrant waives the right to claim any damages whatsoever, including, but not limited to, punitive, consequential, direct, or indirect damages.
TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, THE PRIZES AND ALL ELEMENTS THEREOF ARE PROVIDED "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF ANY KIND. SPONSOR DISCLAIMS ALL EXPRESS AND IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, TITLE AND/OR NON-INFRINGEMENT. Some jurisdictions do not allow the disclaimer of implied warranties. In such jurisdictions, some of the foregoing disclaimers may not apply to you insofar as they relate to implied warranties.
Disputes: Except where prohibited, entrant agrees that any and all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of, or connected with, the Giveaway or any prize awarded shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, and exclusively by the appropriate court located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, entrant's rights and obligations, or the rights and obligations of the Sponsor in connection with the Giveaway, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules (whether of the Commonwealth of Virginia or any other jurisdiction), which would cause the application of the laws of any jurisdiction other than the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Giveaway Results: To request the names of the winners, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Engadget Back to School Giveaway Winners, 770 Broadway, Attn: J. Turi, New York, NY 10003. Requests must be received by September 30, 2012.