A friend of mine recently asked what he should look for in an e-reader, and since I wrote him a very long and unnecessarily involved response, I thought I'd share it with Underground readers as well. I won't recommend one e-reader over another, because I really think it depends on what a person wants from the device, but here are a few things worth considering when shopping for an e-reader:
Probably the biggest question to answer is whether you want an e-reader or a tablet?
If you want a tablet, the cold hard truth is that the I-Pad is the way to go. If you want to have music and social media and the ability to watch television on your e-reader, go with an I-Pad. If you just want something to carry your books around with you on, then it's just a matter of deciding which e-reader design you want.
Do you want buttons or a touch screen?
The trend right now is fewer and fewer buttons and a touch screen, which I personally hate because it makes taking notes so much more difficult and you have to goober up your screen. And one of the things I love best about digital books is taking all sorts of crazy notes all over them, and never feeling like I've completely ruined the book. But I'm a also sort of a nerd, so this might not be a deal breaker for all readers.
Do you want color or e-ink?
E-ink is just a typical black/white display that looks essentially like paper. Color is obviously in color, but a lot of times color screens also include touch screens, and if you really don't want a touch screen, e-ink is pretty much your only option. Also color screens tend to have a much much shorter battery life. E-ink can last for 30 hours of continuous use, color screens last for about 10 hours.
Do you want to have to read with a lamp or booklight (like normal books) or do you want your e-reader to light up for you so you can read it in the dark?
I don't personally mind having to turn on a lamp or get a book-light, so I think this is kind of a dumb feature, particularly because e-readers with light-up displays are harder to read in actual daylight. But other people seem to like it, so it's worth thinking about.
Do you want 3G wireless connection, Wifi or no wireless at all?
3G means you can buy books anywhere. Wifi limits you to buying books in a wifi hot-spot, and no wireless means you have to buy books on your computer and download them manually. I like the wifi option, because the 3G option tends to cost more (though there isn't always a monthly fee, like smart phones have, so at least there's that.) I would go for some wireless connection because manually downloading stuff gets to be a pain, especially if you're a compulsive book-buyer.
Lastly, you'll want to ask yourself about what format you want your books in.
There's a gazillion different formats and if you want to read about all of them go here, otherwise it's worth it to know that Barnes and Noble has the most widely supported format, Kindle doesn't support BN formats and vice versa, and I-pads don't support anyone else's formats, though there's always the possibility of apps that give readers a little more freedom. Just about every e-reader has it's own e-book format (though a lot of them use ePub), so it's worth it to look into which marketplace you like the best. There are ways to convert between formats that are free and not terribly difficult, but the formatting doesn't always directly translate in the conversion. I've read that book prices can vary between market-places, but you'd have to look into which one is the best for what you read.
In the end, it's about priorities. If you're most concerned with book format, look for that first, and then decide what design works best for you. If you're more concerned about e-reader design, look for what features you want first, and go with whatever format that e-reader supports.
For more stuff on how to decide on an e-reader, you can check out sites like this one that provide pretty thorough comparisons.