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E-Readers: Which One Is Best for Your Bookworm?

Does your gift recipient have a special focus on the written word or a broader interest that extends to downloading movies and music? We have a range of e-reader options to consider.

E-Readers: Which is Best for Your Bookworm?

Tablets such as the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 may be the most popular mobile devices for gadget buyers this holiday season, but e-readers remain a great choice for many people on your list. A recent report from market research firm Juniper Research predicts that e-reader shipments will reach 67 million per year by 2016, far above the 25 million e-readers expected to ship by the end of 2011.

If you are considering buying an e-reader for yourself or as a gift this holiday season, you'll find an extensive range of available devices--from basic e-readers that simply deliver the next page of your book, to souped-up e-readers with 3G connectivity built in, for bookworms who are always on the go. You can also find full color e-readers for magazine lovers, and "almost-but-not-quite" tablet e-readers that let you watch movies and television episodes as well as read text.

Here's a breakdown of seven e-readers for six types of bookworms, discussing what each of these devices can do for you or for someone on your gift list this holiday season.

Amazon Kindle: For the Basic Bookworm

Price: $79 (with ads); $109 (without ads)

Display: 6-inch E-Ink grayscale display with 800 by 600 resolution

Weight: 0.37 pound

Storage: 2GB (up to 1400 books)

Claimed battery life: 30 days

Looking for a no-fuss e-reader that delivers nothing beyond lines of text and integration with an expansive online retail bookstore? If so, the latest version of the original Kindle is your best bet. You can choose between a $79 version that includes advertising on the home screen and screensaver, and a $109 version that doesn't show advertising.

The basic Kindle can also read PDFs and other document types, and you can use it to borrow ebooks from 11,000 libraries across the United States. Members of Amazon Prime (which costs $79 per year) can borrow one ebook each month from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library at no additional charge.

Kobo eReader Touch Edition: For the Social Bookworm

Price: $100 (with ads); $130 (without ads)

Display: 6-inch E-Ink grayscale touch display with 800 by 600 resolution

Weight: 0.41 pound

Storage: 1GB (ad version) or 2GB (ad-free version); also has an SD Card slot for up to 32GB of additional storage.

Claimed battery life: 30 days

The Kobo eReader Touch Edition is similar to the basic Kindle in many respects, but the Kobo eReader includes a tie-in with Kobo's Reading Life social networking platform. Reading Life can track how long you took to read a book, how many pages you've turned, the average length of your reading sessions, and how many books you've read.

Another feature is the ability to find other Reading Life users who are reading the same book that you are. Reading Life supplies user comments about specific pages or chapters in the book you're reading, and it lets you add your own comments. Another option is to share book passages on Facebook. Check out Kobo's explanatory video for more information about Reading Life.

Kobo's bookstore encompasses more than 2.2 million books, newspapers, and magazines. But check out the store's selection online, and compare it with Barnes & Noble's and Amazon's to see whether the Kobo catalog suits your needs or the needs of your gift recipient.

The Kobo eReader Touch with offers (that is, ads) costs $100 and is slated to start shipping on November 21. The company says that the ads and sponsored screens "are always outside of the reading experience" on the Touch's screen. The ad-free version of the Kobo Touch sells for $130.

Sony Reader Wi-Fi PRS-T1: For the Lending Library Bookworm

Price: $130

Display: 6-inch grayscale E-Ink display with 800 by 600 resolution

Weight: 0.37 pound

Storage: 2GB (up to 1200 books); microSD card slot supports up to 32GB of additional storage.

Claimed battery life: More than 30 days

If an Amazon Kindle device doesn't fit your bookworm's lifestyle, try this Sony e-reader. Like the Kindle, the Sony Reader can borrow ebooks from public libraries across the United States--in Sony's case, libraries that are part of the OverDrive media distribution network. The New York and Boston Public Libraries, among many others, participate. You can also purchase books from Sony's Reader Store.

Amazon Kindle Touch 3G: For the Traveling Bookworm

Price: $149 (with ads); $189 (without ads)

Display: 6-inch E-Ink grayscale multitouch display with 800 by 600 resolution

Weight: 0.48 pound

Storage: 4GB (up to 3000 books)

Claimed battery life: Up to 21 days

You can't find a better traveling e-reader than Amazon's Kindle Touch 3G. The device's free 3G wireless connection lets you download ebooks from Amazon no matter where you are. The Touch 3G uses AT&T's U.S. data network, and it also works in a number of countries overseas using AT&T partner networks.

Here's where you can find a complete list of AT&T international partner networks. Amazon says that it normally doesn't charge for 3G connectivity overseas as long as you use your Kindle's 3G connection to download Amazon content (as opposed to personal data and documents).

Barnes & Noble Nook Color: For the Magazine Bookworm

Price: $200

Display: 7-inch LCD display with 1024 by 600 resolution

Weight: 0.98 pound

Storage: 8GB (up to 5000 books); microSD card slot supports up to 32GB of additional storage

Claimed battery life: Up to 8 hours with Wi-Fi turned off

The Nook Color earns high marks for its reading-optimized color display. Its features include a high pixel density and a wide viewing angle. Barnes & Noble used special manufacturing techniques to reduce the Nook Color screen's glare and to improve readability in direct sunlight.

All of these techniques come in handy for reproducing a magazine on a 7-inch screen. Color lovers will also appreciate the e-reader's access to music services such as Pandora and Grooveshark, games such as Angry Birds and Scrabble, and (soon) video streaming from Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Amazon Kindle Fire or Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet: For the Multipurpose Bookworm

Price: $199 (Amazon Kindle Fire, at right in photo); $250 (Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet, at left in photo)

Display: Each has a 7-inch display with 1024 by 600 resolution

Weight: Each weighs around 0.90 pound

Storage: 8GB, 6.54GB user-accessible (Fire); 16GB, 1GB user-accessible (Nook)

Claimed battery life: Up to 7.5 hours of video playback with Wi-Fi off (Fire); up to 9 hours of video playback with Wi-Fi off (Nook)

Both readers offer similar tech specs, and both will fill the needs of bookworms seeking an e-reading device that can do a lot more than display ebooks. Both offer video content from Netflix and Hulu, and the Fire also gives you access to Amazon's extensive catalog of movie and television shows for streaming. Both devices let you play music, use third-party mobile apps, view documents, read digital magazines, and browse the Web.

As an e-reader, the Nook Tablet is the better choice of the two; it has a less glarey display, sharper text rendering, and provides better presentation of books and magazines. Kids' books have fun extras, too, like animations.

Looking for more e-readers? Check out PCWorld's E-Readers section along with our Top E-Readers chart, which includes other devices from Sony, as well as e-readers from Aluratek, Bookeen, and iRiver.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.