Most of us are still walking around hunchbacked from years of carrying heavy textbooks in our overstuffed backpacks. Thankfully, an e-reader can significantly lighten the loads for students everywhere. Sure, we've still got a ways to go before electronic devices can replace textbooks altogether, but in the long run, they could significantly impact the postures of backpack wearers all over. Jump past the break for our recommendations, and another opportunity to enter our back to school giveaway. Simply leave a comment at the bottom to be entered to win, and head over to our giveaway page for more details.
On the cheap
Kindle (2011) with Special Offers
A good e-reader at rock-bottom prices? Tell you more, you say? Well, if you don't mind sacrificing your screen-savers and a little bit of your menu real estate to advertisements, boy have we got an e-reader for you. Granted, the subsidized Kindle's "special offers" aren't quite the bonus feature Amazon likes to paint them as, but it's hard to argue with the reader's sub-$80 price tag. At that price, you're also sacrificing some functionality -- namely a touchscreen / keyboard, which can make it a bit tough to input text on the device. Overall, however, you're getting a solid piece of hardware -- and access to Amazon's excellent library of content.
Key specs: 6-inch Pearl E Ink display, 2GB non-expandable storage, 800MHz processor.
Price: $79 at Amazon
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Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch
Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch was our top e-reader pick last year (back when we were still calling it the Nook WiFi). Since then, the device has been the happy recipient of a zippy software upgrade and a $40 price drop. This plucky little device has touchscreen functionality (with physical page turn buttons, to boot), great performance and one of the easiest-to-hold form factors in the biz. Granted, it's doesn't quite hit that sub-$80 price point, but this ad-free reader is the best you can get for less than $100.
$99 at Barnes & Noble
Kobo eReader Touch Edition
Still Kobo's newest devoted e-reader, the Kobo Touch has also benefited from a healthy price drop since this time last year, now priced at $99 (or, like the Kindle, $79 for the ad-based version). Kobo's device isn't the most exciting reader on the market, certainly, but this touchscreen device gets the job done and has gotten a bit of a second life, thanks to Rakuten's acquisition of the company and its subsequent launch in Japan.
$79+ at Kobo
Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch With GlowLight
Barnes & Noble didn't change much with the latest version of its Nook e-reader -- and really, with the previous version of the device having nabbed the top spot on this list last year, there's not really a heck of a lot that needed changing. You've got a great form factor, smooth page turning and expandable memory to name but a few. Add to that the titular GlowLight functionality, and you've got a great e-reader that you can read in harsh sunlight or long after everyone else has gone to bed. Barnes & Noble also managed to pack that added functionality into a slightly lighter body.
Key specs: 6-inch Pearl E Ink display, 2GB / expandable memory, proprietary GlowLight technology, 800MHz processor.
Price: $139 on Barnes & Noble
You might also like... Kindle Touch 3G
It ain't cheap, sure, but voracious readers will appreciate not having to live hotspot-to-hotspot. Anywhere AT&T's 3G signal reaches can become a virtual bookstore, offering up access to Amazon's excellent e-book library. At $189, this high-end reader is nearly the same price as the Kindle Fire, but with unlimited bandwidth for content downloads from Amazon, the Touch 3G is an excellent choice for frequent travelers.
$189 on Amazon
Sony Reader WiFi
Looking for the sorts of extras standard e-readers just can't offer? Sony's WiFi reader has features galore, bringing music playback, dual-touch pinch-to-zoom and hand written note-taking. You also get a lending library and built-in access to Google Books. And at $130, it's fairly reasonably priced for such a full-featured reader.
$130 at Sony
The Tablet / Reader
Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet
Those looking for an e-reader that's more than just an e-reader needn't look any further than Barnes & Noble's offering. The Nook Tablet is probably more appropriately a low-end tablet with e-reading functionality, but at $200, it's not really a huge premium over many existing readers -- and you get a heck of a lot more, including sharp video, full color and access to Android apps. Of course, reading marathons on this 7-incher can be a lot harsher than on its e-ink counterparts.
Key specs: 7-inch IPS display, 8GB storage (16GB for $50 more), 1GHz processor.
Price: $199 at Barnes & Noble
You might also like... Amazon Kindle Fire
For $200, you can also get your hands on Amazon's Kindle Fire. Of course, you're going to be losing out on a few key features here compared to e-ink readers, including the marathon battery life and outdoor readability. What you do get, however, is tablet functionality, via Amazon's custom UI, offering up access to one of the biggest content libraries on the planet.
$199 from Amazon
Google Nexus 7
It may not have a major bookstore behind its name, but the Nexus 7 should be taken just as seriously as the competition. Kindle, Nook and even Kobo apps are all available for Android, and the device's stock OS means full access to Google Play, along with tablet settings. Not to mention the bounty of books and magazines available for download directly from Google.
$199 from Google
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