So, you want to buy a stand alone ebook reader device.
Welcome to a minefield!
There are several choices and my best advise is to RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! The 4 main devices available today are the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, the KOBO from Borders and the Sony ebook readers. There are several others, but these are the main ones found online and in retail stores. Here is a website with specifications of each of these and a few other stand alone ebook readers: http://ebook-reader-review.toptenreviews.com/ . There are many other websites with comparisons and typing "compare ebook reading devices" in any websearch site should yield other tables of comparison. YouTube is a fount of infomation about the unboxing and use of each ebook reader and you should use it as a resource in your research.
The two main ebook readers that I have been looking at are the Amazon Kindle WiFi and the Barnes and Noble NOOK WiFi. Why WiFi only? Well, they are cheaper. But if you want to spend an extra 50.00 or so you can get the WiFi /3G ones. There is no cost for the 3G as its included in the price - in other words - no monthly subscription fees.
Each of the 2 ebook readers have their own sources for ebooks. The Kindle is from Amazon.com and the Nook is from the Barnes and Noble website as well as support and downloads available in the Barnes and Noble stores.
Now if you have a smartphone, an iPad , iTouch or iPhone or a desktop computer, a laptop computer or a Tablet then there are ebook programs available to download and use. You have the greatest amount of freedom with one or more of these devices because if you buy a stand alone ebook reader you are limited to that devices' creator. You cannot read Kindle books on a Nook or Nook books on a Kindle without going through some kind of translation program (like Calibre on a computer). But there is DRM as well to consider and it is illegal to strip the DRM from a book bought either from Amazon or Barnes and Noble to make the book available on either device. The DRM makes it somewhat like DRM protected music and movies. On my Motorola Droid I have the Kindle app and Barnes and Noble Nook and KOBO and Aldiko ebook readers. Same on my desktop computer with the addition of Calibre.
Here is a comparision of the 2 top stand alone ebook readers. The Kindle has the BEST DISPLAY. It has an awesome display. Crisp, clear, clean. I am talking about the Kindle 3. Price is 139.00 for the WiFi version. The Kindle is very thin - about the thickness of a pencil. The Kindle has real honest to god buttons. All navigation and interaction is preformed through the buttons and d-pad. No touch screen here. Personally I like to browse and buy my ebooks from Barnes and Noble. I just feel more comfortable with it than the Amazon Kindle store, but that is just my personal preference. Only the Kindle has a Text-to- speech option where you can have the book read to you in either male of female voices. The voices are like the the animated insurance commercials on TV. Very robotic sounding.
The drawbacks of the Kindle are these. There is no way to change the battery. To replace the battery entails sending the unit back to Amazon as the unit is sealed. Also there is no memory expansion via SD cards. 4 Gig of ram with 3 Gig available is all you get. When MP3 music and games and other things are added that memory gets eaten up pretty fast from what I understand. ebooks themselves don't take up that much memory, but magazines, newspapers and games and other additions do. So, memory and battery are the 2 main problems on the Kindle WiFi. Games are available on Amazon Kindle store for the Kindle.
Next, the Barnes and Noble Nook or just Nook. The display is not as sharp and crisp as the Kindle. It is slower in turning pages and booting up than the Kindle. Other than the page up and page down buttons and power, everything on the Nook is Touch Screen. The Nook has a color bar at the bottom with book covers and menu items in color, but the main screen is BW and shades of gray. However, the Nook has a compartment in the back to replace the battery and can take up to a 32 Gig SD card. The Nook is much thicker than the Kindle and weighs more. Of course it weighs less than a hardback book and is somewhat thinner.
The Nook includes 2 games - Chess and Sudoku.
Nooks are on display at Wal Mart stores so you can pick one up and try it out. Same with all Barnes and Noble stores and I've even seen them at Books A Million. Target is selling the Kindle. Best Buy has both Nook and Kindle.
A newer Nook just came out for 249.00. The Nook Color has a full color screen. Nice for looking at Magazines and Newspapers and there are some interactive children's books available as well.
If you are very adventurous and want to experiment you can root the Nook Color and make it into an Android Tablet that will run apps and access the Android Market. However there is the possiblity of bricking the Nook Color. Bricking means you have a 250.00 paperweight. So beware.
So, before settling on which you want to spend your hard earned money for, I suggest you go and check them out by holding them in your hand and operating one before you decide to buy.
I am no expert on these devices and within a year I'm sure the present crop will be obsolete as newer and better models are introduced. But, who wants to wait a year. You want an ebook reader now, you want to take it with you on trips.
The thing that bothers me about ebooks and music downloads and all things digital is the there is no PERMANENCE ! A book I can hold in my hand. Put on a shelf and barring flood or fire it exists. But an ebook or downloaded music only exists in a device and when that device malfunctions there is a sense of loss. (I see it with pictures on computers that the hard drive crashes and all the pictures that were so dear are lost and gone for good. It's heartbreaking! Please back up your digital pictures. Put them on something other than your computer because it will CRASH on you. hard drives die and take everything on them with them when they do. I plead with people all the time to back up important data before its too late!).
I mourn the loss of permanence in digital things today. Some people think that when Jesus returns to the earth all electricity will be cut off. Try to imagine a world without electricity. There was no electricity or devices that ran on electricity in Jesus' day. Imagine the world plunged back into darkness without all the motors and wires and all things today that run on electricity. Something to think about.