How to choose? The most basic distinction between models today is black-and-white or color. With this in mind, here are eight questions to ask when considering a purchase.
1. Are you planning to read outdoors?
The black-and-white screen models are far less susceptible to glare than color e-readers. They look fine under modest lighting (such as the overhead light on a plane) but remain entirely readable while sitting on a beach or a park bench, where the overhead sun will turn a color screen into a solar reflector — that's great for getting a tan, but not much use for reading.
2. Are you planning to read in bed?
Most monochrome e-book readers don't have a built-in light, and while some include accessory lights, a color model that uses a standard color LCD screen could be a better choice if your plan is to do a lot of bedtime reading. There is one intriguing new exception among monochrome readers, though: the new Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight.
3. How often will you recharge the battery?
Battery life is a key advantage for black-and-white e-book readers, which can run a full month or more without recharging. The e-ink display used in these devices uses some power to change pages, but not to keep them visible. Color e-book readers, on the other hand, with their LCD screens, will last just a day or two with heavy use before needing a recharge.
4. Will you be reading magazines or children's books?
Magazines and children's books look drab at best on a black-and-white screen, while the vivid colors of a color LCD capture all the graphic goodness of the original publication. Most magazine pages don't fit comfortably on a small e-book reader screen, though, so expect to do some scrolling around to see everything.
5. Do you want to watch videos or play games on your e-book reader?
The color e-book readers from Amazon and Barnes & Noble double as limited-purpose, seven-inch tablets. They're certainly not as flexible as an iPad or full-on Android tablet — no cameras, no GPS, a comparatively limited selection of apps — but they do a very nice job playing video and MP3 music files, and offer a selection of games and other diversions.