The book has been Christmas stocking staple throughout all our lives, predating the electronic gadgets and toys that now dominate most of our seasonal wish lists.
But despite the popularity of these high-tech gifts, the traditional pastime of reading has been spared an unceremonious demotion to the history books thanks to the advent of eBooks.
Showing that tech can marry old and new, eBook readers have won over sceptics to become the default literary consumption vehicle for millions of people worldwide. So rather than buy someone just one book or two this Christmas, why not push the boat out further and get a device that can store thousands of books? Here's our guide to the top eBook readers you should be considering for your festive shopping this year.
It would be churlish to begin an eBook reader guide without first acknowledging the offerings from Amazon and its ubiquitous Kindle line. Although there are now plenty of challengers to its eBook hegemony, Kindle remains the go-to brand for so many and will undoubtedly feature on Christmas lists penned by the old and young alike this year. If you’re discounting the fully-fledged tablets (Kindle Fires) – which I am – then it's the newly-launched Paperwhite that tops the Kindle pile.
Unlike its predecessors, the Paperwhite features a built-in light so you can read in the dark, and it enhances all other areas of the Kindle armoury too. The letters are unbelievable crisp thanks to the 758 x 1024-pixel 6in touchscreen, which also has a claimed 25 per cent better contrast. You also get faster page refreshes, and an eight week battery life - even with the light on.
You have over a million eBooks to choose from in the Kindle book store (including 200,000 Kindle exclusives, helping to make it the strongest eBook store in the market) while the Paperwhite itself can hold up to 1,100 titles at a given time. The Paperwhite pulled in an impressive 8/10 in our review - and as we’re talking top of the eBook reader market here, we’ve gone the whole hog and popped the full 3G version of the device in our stocking of recommendations, at £169.
Accept our apologies for pandering to the eBook behemoths with a double Kindle salvo, but at £69, the latest version of the entry-level Kindle simply has to feature on our list. Not distracted by launching the Paperwhite and the new Kindle Fire tablets back in September, Amazon refreshed the old E Ink favourite too - and at just 8.7mm thick and 170g, it is sure to slip into your pocket easier than any paperback book.
This is what the Kindle is all about. The out-and-out practicality that lets it slot into you daily life with the minimum of fuss. Of all the expensive, dazzling gadgets that arrive at ITProPortal HQ, it is still the Kindle that remains one of the most popular and respected devices in the office. Even die-hard material-book loyalists have been converted by the Kindle, with its 6in non-glare screen (with 167ppi pixel density) and crystal-clear text that is actually more comfortable to read than your average ink on a page.
Accessing the same library as the Paperwhite, as many as 650,000 titles are available for £3.99 or less, with the device’s built-in Wi-Fi downloading books in just 60 seconds. It’s also super-simple to use, meaning you can buy it for the oldest and youngest members of your family, at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
The Kindles no longer have things all their own way, however. Probably their biggest rival is the Nook line from Barnes & Noble, of which the Nook Simple Touch GlowLight is its strongest proposition right now. With a built-in light for in-the-dark reading, this device goes head-to-head with the aforementioned Paperwhite, and matches the £109 price point of the non-3G version of Amazon's device. Its digital library boasts 2.5 million books, newspapers and magazines, showing Barnes & Noble means business with its UK arrival earlier this year.
Unlike some its rivals, the Nook Touch GlowLight sports a rubberised bezel which may make you feel a little more confident leaving it in the hands of children. It also offers seven different font sizes on its 6in 600 x 800-pixel touchscreen, has battery life of over a month, and is 12mm thick, with a weight of 197g. Its overall performance warranted a 9/10 score in our recent review, so if you’re comfortable straying outside the Amazon ecosystem, the Nook Simple Touch GlowLight could be the ideal eBook reader for your Christmas list.
Another eBook reader you shouldn’t be ignoring is the Kobo Glo. It joins the burgeoning lit-screen club which sets it apart from earlier devices, and its ComfortLight technology promises to bring readability in a wider range of lighting conditions. With the user able to open a brightness slider and choose between around 12 levels of illumination, it’s not a simple case of light and dark with the Kobo Glo, enabling you to set its impressive 1,024 x 768-pixel screen to optimum levels, whatever your surroundings.
The books available in the Kobo collection and affiliated WHSmith store may not quite boast the Kindle library’s repertoire, but including all publications the company can still tout over three million eBooks, with one million free titles up for grabs. Plenty to get you started. The Kobo Glo also comes with its Reading Life feature, which lets friends know what you’re reading and allows you to share passages through Facebook – making the reading experience that bit more social.
At £99.99, the Kobo Glo undercuts both the Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Simple Touch GlowLight by a tenner, yet still matches its rivals in performance - as demonstrated in our Kobo Glow review. Choose between black, silver, blue and pink to add the personal touch to your model.
Heading back to work after the Christmas period, some may be worried about pulling out their shiny new eBook reader on the Tube and realising everyone else has the same one. Opting for the Sony Reader ahead of the competition outlined above should lower the chances of such a disastrous scenario, but the smaller reputation doesn't equate to a less worthy device.
The Sony Reader is a touch taller than your average model but is the lightest on our list at 164g, so you should be free of the dreaded mid-read arm ache. E Ink Pearl technology is splashed across its 6in, 800 x 600-pixel, anti-glare touchscreen .
Sony’s roomy model has 1.3GB of storage which can handle up to 1,300 books at a time, allowing the user to carry a sizeable library wherever they go. For those with really expansive collections, the Reader also includes a handy microSD card slot which pushes the boundaries to an additional 32GB of storage. Annotations are enabled and Evernote compatibility further enhances the note taking capabilities.
Priced £119, yes the Sony Reader is a little pricey for a non-lit model, but we think it’s one of the most attractive designs on the market.