The Kindle doesn’t come off very well in this test, chiefly because the screen isn’t touch-sensitive, forcing you to navigate with the aid of buttons. It also devotes a lot of space to a keyboard the user won’t use much. It’s also larger and heavier than its closest competitors.

There’s another difference between the Kindle and other eReaders that few appreciate. The No. 1 sleeper issue with eBooks is that the biggest eBook stores tie their books to their own software. For instance, Kindle books can only be read on the Kindle or Kindle software. If a reader wants to trade his or her Kindle for a Nook in the future, the readers will be leaving all his/her Kindle books behind.

The solution is to not buy books from the big stores and to not use a Kindle. All the other eReaders the AP reviewer tried will accept books from Google Books and smaller online stores. These books can be read on smartphones, PCs and tablets as well.

Buying books this way is more of a hassle—the reader will have to download them to a computer, then transfer through a cable–but it’s more likely the reader will be able to read his/her books on the device of his/her choice in the future.

The reviewer also looked at the Kindle with Special Offers 3G, which costs $50 more. It can download books through AT&T’s cellular network. This is a feature none of the other devices in the test have. If you’re giving an eReader to someone who doesn’t have internet access, this is the one to get.

• The Barnes & Noble Nook ($139) is another small triumph from a bookseller whose first eReader, the original Nook, was shockingly bad. Less than a year later, it redeemed itself with the release of the Nook Color. The reviewer still considers that the best dedicated eReading device, but its $249 price tag places it out of the entry-level category.

The new monochrome Nook has a touch-sensitive screen, making for an easy, intuitive interface. It’s also small and light. In short, it’s a pleasure to use.

Like the Kindle, the Nook uses a screen with “electronic ink” technology. It makes for long battery life and very good legibility in bright light, where color screens look dim.

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