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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011: e-readers

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011: e-readers
Brian Heater
Brian Heater|November 21, 2011 12:00 PM
Welcome to the Engadget Holiday Gift Guide! We're well aware of the heartbreaking difficulties surrounding the seasonal shopping experience, so we're here to help you sort out this year's tech treasures. Below is today's bevy of curated picks, and you can head back to the Gift Guide hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season.

The e-reader space is really -- if you'll pardon the expression -- heating up just in time for the holiday season. Industry leader Amazon dropped the gauntlet yet again, with the introduction of three new devices, including the entry-level fourth generation Kindle (which starts at an enticing $79 for the ad-supported version) and the Kindle Fire, which is helping to further blur the lines between the e-reader and tablet worlds. Not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Sony are also offering up impressive new devices for the holiday season. All in all, there's never been a more exciting time to give the gift of reading.

Stocking stuffer

Amazon Kindle (2011)

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 ereaders

At $79 for the ad-supported version, this is the device that will finally get plenty of holdouts to bite the e-reader bullet. It's also a great price for those looking for an affordable gadget gift. The fourth generation Kindle carries on Amazon's tradition of delivering solid hardware, with a six-inch Pearl E Ink display, a zippy processor and a slim body -- though there are certain sacrifices here, namely the lack of a touchscreen and keyboard. If you're in the market for either of those, Amazon has you covered with the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Keyboard (the re-branded third-generation model). For most, however, typing is secondary functionality on a reader and the physical page buttons on either side of the display will likely suffice. For those looking for a truly inexpensive option, however, the latest Kindle can't be beat.

Key specs: Six-inch Pearl E Ink display, 2GB of storage, 800MHz.

Price: $79 (ad-supported), $119 at Amazon

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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 ereaders

Barnes & Noble Simple Touch

When it first hit the market earlier this year, Barnes & Noble's touchscreen reader quickly became one of our favorite devices, featuring a great form factor and some excellent social networking features. The company made the package even sweeter earlier this week, dropping the price by $40 and rolling out a software upgrade that increased battery life, page turn rate and made the display a bit crisper. And, as Barnes & Noble put it, "best of all, no ads."

Price: $99 at Barnes & Noble


Sony Reader WiFi

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 ereaders

Sony's been in the e-reader game for some time now, but has failed to make much of a splash against the likes of Amazon and Barnes & Noble -- at least here in the States. The consumer electronics giant has a real winner on its hands this time out, however. The lightweight Reader WiFi packs in all manner of cool features, including pinch-to-zoom, built-in access to public library rentals and free Google Books content, touchscreen note-taking and multimedia features like music. Also, as the name suggests, this thing has WiFi built-in -- unlike the previously lowest priced Sony reader. This is a full-featured dedicated e-reader -- and then some.

Key specs: Six-inch Pearl E Ink display, 2GB / expandable storage.

Price: $149 on Amazon

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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 ereaders

Kobo eReader Touch

Kobo's touchscreen reader is a solid device -- albeit one almost entirely lacking in bells and whistles. It offers up 2GB of built-in storage, microSD expandability, the company's competitive Reading Life and some decent PDF viewing options. At $129, the reader is moderately priced -- though it has since been undercut by the likes of Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Price: $129 from Kobo

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 ereaders

Amazon Kindle Touch

Amazon shed the physical keyboard this time around, making for a reader that slips nicely into a pocket that also offers the page turn swipes that we've grown accustom to on the Nook and Kobo. Also, unlike those readers, Amazon has equipped the Touch with a 3G option for downloading content on the go. Oh, and like the fourth generation Kindle, you can subsidize the cost a bit with ad-enabled options.

Price: $99 (ad-supported), $139 WiFi; $149 (ad-supported), $189 3G at Amazon

"You shouldn't have..."

Nook Tablet

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 ereaders

On the outside, Barnes & Noble's latest entry sure looks an awful lot like the Nook Color. There are a few aesthetic differences here -- it's a little bit lighter in the color and weight departments, shedding an ounce from its predecessor. The key differences are a souped-up IPS screen with reduced glare that can handle video up to 1080p video, and some improved innards like a 1GHz dual-core processor. The latest Nook is all about multimedia, offering up apps like Hulu Plus, Netflix and Rhapsody, but the tablet hasn't fully abandoned its bookish roots, giving users a great full-color reading experience for magazines, comics and kids books. It'll cost you though -- at $249, this is easily the priciest selection on our list.

Key specs: Seven-inch IPS display, 1GHz dual-core processor, 16GB built-in / expandable storage.

Price: $249 from Barnes & Noble.

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Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 ereaders

Kindle Fire

Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire may most appropriately be described as a tablet, with a slew of multimedia features, a multi-touch color display and downloadable apps. But given Amazon's background in books, you better believe that this Android-based device is an excellent reader, too. It's a bit on the pricey side for the e-reader world, sure, but as far as tablets go, it's a downright steal.

Price: $199 from Amazon

Engadget's holiday gift guide 2011 ereaders

Kobo Vox

Kobo joined the tablet bandwagon with this nicely priced Gingerbread tablet. The seven-inch slate offers up some reader-centric features like Reading Life and the Social Reading Pulse, plus access to some 15,000 Android apps for those times when you're on the search for another distraction.

Price: $199 from Kobo