How Amazon's latest e-readers measure up

Amazon had many devices to dangle in front of the press’s eyes at Thursday’s special press event, but first off the line was the next generation of the company’s popular Kindle e-reader.

The Kindle Paperwhite won’t be out until October 1, so we’ll have to wait until then to see how the device’s speed and functionality match up with its competition; if you’re looking for a new e-reader, however, here’s how the new Kindles stack up—specs-wise—against others in their class.

One thing to note before going forward: The Kindle only supports the .AZW and .MOBI formats (the Kindle Paperwhite also supports Kindle Format 8), which are proprietary to Amazon. This means that you can’t buy a book on the iBookstore or from the Nook store and read it on your Kindle—at least, not without some fancy conversion on your computer first.

The $69 Kindle

It’s rather telling when you introduce a device on price alone, but that’s just what Amazon decided to do with the $69 Kindle. The new device is, by all outward appearances, nearly identical to last year’s $79 Kindle, save for that $10 drop in price. That price makes it the cheapest e-reader currently on the market, though it’s worth noting that $69 gets you an ad-supported Kindle—you’ll have to pay another $20 if you want your device ad-free. It’ll be out on September 14, though you can pre-order now.

The low price comes at a minor cost to Amazon: Unlike its brethren, this Kindle has no touchscreen and can only download books over Wi-Fi.

Barnes and Noble’s $99 Nook Simple Touch, currently shipping, has the most parity in features to the $69/$89 Kindle, as it also sports a black-and-white 6-inch e-ink screen and Wi-Fi-only downloads. The Simple Touch, however, provides both hardware page-turn buttons and full touchscreen sensitivity, along with a longer battery life (over two months opposed to the Kindle’s one month). Unfortunately, it’s also slightly heavier—7.48 ounces to the Kindle’s 5.98.

Though it did so with much less fanfare than Amazon, Canadian company Kobo also announced a sub-$100 e-reader on Thursday, the Kobo Mini, which launches in October. Coming in at $80, the Mini is a full inch smaller than either the Kindle or the Nook Simple Touch—Kobo claims you can stick it in a jeans pocket—and weighs a measly 4.73 ounces. Like the Nook, it too has a touchscreen, but far less battery life—only two weeks with Wi-Fi off. The Kobo supports more file types than the Nook or the Kindle, however, including popular CBZ and CBR comic book archive formats. The company’s $100 Kobo Touch is more comparable to the Nook Simple Touch: It features a 6-inch display, has one month of battery life, and weighs just 6.5 ounces.

Verdict: The low price certainly gives last year's Kindle an advantage—though if you want increased portability and more options for content, the Kobo Mini offers an intriguing option.

The Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon’s real Kindle star of the day was its new lit e-ink device, the Paperwhite. Starting at $119 (with special offers, $139 without), the Paperwhite boasts a much-improved touchscreen over its predecessor: 25 percent higher contrast, 212 pixels per inch, and a built-in light guide for nighttime reading. Amazon also boasts a two-month battery life—with the light on—for the 7.5-ounce Paperwhite. It ships October 1.

This puts Amazon head to head with Barnes and Noble’s currently-shipping $139 Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. Though the GlowLight has a much poorer screen than the Paperwhite—only 800 x 600 to the Kindle’s 1024 x 768—and only one month of battery life with the light on, it’s lighter: just 6.95 ounces. The GlowLight also offers hardware page-turn buttons in addition to its touchscreen, a feature the Paperwhite sadly lacks.

Kobo, too, will have a lit e-reader come October: the $130 Kobo Glo. Its screen rivals the Paperwhite’s 1024 x 768 resolution, though its battery life with its light on is merely 55 hours. It also comes in several colors: black, pink, blue, and silver.

Neither Barnes and Noble nor Kobo have 3G-equipped readers, which leaves the high-end Paperwhite ($179 with ads, $199 without) on its own, competing only with an older version of Amazon’s Kindle—the $139 Kindle Keyboard 3G.

Verdict: Between the screen and Amazon’s battery life claims, the Paperwhite looks hard to beat.

Daniel Ionescu contributed the comparative chart to this article.

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