But it also comes with big drawbacks. It can’t show color and can’t be backlit for legibility in low light, and it takes time to switch between pages. The slow screen can also make the eReader annoying to control, but the Nook makes the best of it by making the screen touch-sensitive.
The Nook also suppresses the “black flash” phenomenon seen on the Kindle. Whenever you turn a page on the Kindle, the screen first goes black. This is how the e-ink resets itself so it can show the new page cleanly, and some people find it jarring. The Nook only flashes this way every sixth page.
• Kobo eReader Touch Edition ($130) is quite similar to the Nook, but takes the touch interface one step further by eliminating page-turn buttons. That leaves only two buttons, for the home screen and for power. Style-wise, this makes it the iPhone of eReaders. It, too, is a pleasant experience, and it suppresses the “black flash” in the same way the Nook does.
However, the reviewer found it slightly inferior to the Nook in that a page often shows a ghost image of the previous page. It looks like someone wrote the last page in pencil and used a bad eraser on it before putting up the new page.
The Kobo eReader also provides fewer options for text presentation. For instance, it won’t let readers adjust margins or line spacing.
• Aluratek Libre Air ($130) is an odd duck in that it isn’t sold by a major bookstore (Kobo is affiliated with Borders) and it doesn’t use an e-ink screen. Instead, it has a reflective LCD screen, somewhat smaller, darker, and greener than e-ink but more nimble and without ghosting problems. When the reviewer reviewed the Libre Pro a year and a half ago, the reviewer preferred its LCD screen over the e-ink readers available at the time. But e-ink screens have improved and the LCD has not, so the reviewer’s preference has shifted.
The screen is still passable, though. It uses more power than e-ink, so the Libre Air is only rated for two weeks of use.
The really big problem with the Libre Air is that it has a horrible bookstore interface. It’s supposed to be able to download books from the Kobo store through Wi-Fi, but this was so difficult that I just gave up.
Readers can load books on the Libre Air through a USB cable, but then they might as well get the Wi-Fi-less Libre Pro, which costs $90.
The AP reviewer names the Nook and the Kobo eReader the winners of this test. The reviewer still thinks the iPad is better as an all-around eReader because of its color screen, its backlighting and its size, which makes it ideal for PDF files. But the iPad starts at $499. At $130 or so, the reviewer can’t fault anyone for getting a dedicated eReader instead.