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Which Is the Better eReader: Nook or Sony?

written by: Steve McFarlane•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 12/16/2010

Looking for ideas on which eReader comes in as tops? Here is a look at what you should consider when choosing one of these eReaders--Nook or Sony.

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    It’s a good time to be in the market for an ebook reader owing to the fact that there are great options to choose from, including the Nook, Kindle, iPad, and Sony eReader. Moreover, there is also a wider selection of content that can be accessed with eReaders (ebooks, newspapers and web content) and prices are better than when these devices were first introduced. Now consumers have the challenge of choosing what reader is best to spend their money on. Here are some points to consider when deciding on the Nook versus the Sony eReader.

    If the Nook Color had not been available we would be left with a near level playing field on which to compare the Nook and Sony eReaders. This is even more so the case considering that both readers cost $149 and have similar displays, but there are other differences to consider.

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    Display

    The first, and perhaps most obvious are the displays. Both use e-ink technology that makes reading for long hours, even in bright sunlight, Barnes and Noble Nook - Nook vs Sony Reader possible and easy on the eyes. However, the Nook sets itself apart from the Sony reader because of its second 3.5” color display that is placed at the bottom of the main display. This smaller display is great for browsing the bookstore in full color, but is not too large so it draws more than its fair share of battery charge.

    Despite this standout feature on the Nook, it is hard to fault the Sony for not including something similar, especially since its own interface is so well crafted. According to Melissa Perenson from PC World, Sony’s “refreshed lineup of eReaders and new touch-screen technology ups the ante over its competition."

    The Nook Color also raises the bar by including a full 7” LCD color display that really gives life to color rich content that is view on the device. The color display makes the Nook Color better all around (for reading magazines, newspapers etc) than the base Nook and the Sony reader (5” e-ink). The Nook Color has less readability in bright lighting conditions and suffers a battery life penalty (only 8 hours compared to more than 10 days on the standard Nook).

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    Selection of Books

    One of the things that should be on the top of the list of things to consider when buying an eReader--Nook or Sony is how much content Sony Reader Pocket Edition 550 - ereader Nook or Sony (books, magazines, apps) are accessible to the reader. For many years, book sales have been the bread and butter of Barnes and Noble, so it is of no surprise that they offer hundreds of thousands of books in their online store; a number that Sony simply can’t compete against at the moment.

    Both eReaders support popular formats such as EPUB and PDF, so the real question is, what kind of content can be accessed with these readers. In both cases, the devices can be used to checkout books from public libraries and access millions of free public domain books. But the Nook trumps the Sony with its LendMe™ technology. This technology is exclusive to Barnes and Noble and can be used to lend a book to a friend for up to 14 days. Once the book is loaned out it appears on the friends Nook Color, after that period has expired, the book is automatically returned to the lender's library with no charge to either party.

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    Wireless

    So you don’t have to shackle your eReader to your computer each time you need to transfer files, you will need some form of wireless service for the reader you choose. The entry level Nook can be had with both WiFi and 3G, though you will have to pay a little extra for 3G. Fortunately, the $50 extra you will need to spend for 3G service also comes with free data service.

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    Conclusion

    The various versions of the Nook and the Sony are competent eReaders that are small enough to carry around and use on a daily basis for reading books, newspapers and content from the Internet. All the devices have solid interfaces and generally deliver a good user experience. However, the shear volume of content that is available through the Barnes and Noble’s ebook store and their LendMe technology makes the Nook, in whatever version, a better buy than the Sony reader.

    Screenshots by author courtesy Barnes and Noble and Sony