Thinking of buying an ereader for a loved one this Christmas? Then we put the top four on the market through their paces to see which is best for you.
The ereader market is maturing nicely at the moment, with competition keeping prices down but features high, and in 2012 we've seen the rise of the illuminated ereader, just as 2011 saw the advent of touchscreen models across all ranges.
Obviously tablets like the iPad, Nexus 7, and Galaxy Tab range can also be used for reading ebooks, but here we are focusing only on those devices whose sole purpose it is to store and display your entire library of ebooks.
Amazon with its Kindle range is still dominant but entries this year from Kobo and Barnes & Noble have made a significant impact in the ereader market. An outsider, Bookeen, has also launched a frontlit ereader and it will be hoping its sleek and stylish Cybook Odyssey will win over those looking for style as well as substance.
With so many devices vying for your attention, I am here with a guide to the top four contenders in the ereader market to help you make a more informed choice this Christmas:
Bookeen Cybook Odyssey Frontlight HD
Pros: Sleek and Stylish; Supports all file types
Cons: French-focused bookstore; Expensive
Best for: The Style Conscious
Despite the cumbersome name, the Bookeen Cybook Odyssey FrontLight HD is a sleek and stylish ereader, eschewing the rather sedate aesthetic of most of its competition. Not surprising when you consider its French roots.
However it is these French roots which present the biggest problem with the Cybook Odyssey. The in-built bookstore is French-focused and you struggle to find English language titles. Thankfully the ereader supports all the major file types meaning you can buy your ebooks elsewhere online and transfer them. Still, it's a hassle you don't have with the other ereaders on the list.
At £120 the Cybook Odyssey is ten pounds more expensive than the Kindle and Nook, and I'm not sure the styling alone is enough to justify this. Also the interface and page-turn animations are not as smooth as the Kindle, Kobo or Nook, meaning it can be a jarring experience navigating around the interface.
Pros: Lightweight; Customisable covers
Cons: Reading Awards
Best for: The Budget Conscious
Kobo may still be a new name in the ereader market for some, but the Toronto-based company is making a real mark here in the UK, and with the Kobo Mini and regular Kobo ereader also on offer, it really does have something for everyone.
The Glo, at just £99, offers extremely good value for money. A high-resolution screen, good battery life, access to a catalogue of almost three million ebooks (one million of them free) and the ability to customise your rear cover to match your mood, add up to make the Glo an excellent entry to the ereader market.
The design of the Glo won't appeal to all and the white version does seem a little cheap to me. But I'm nit-picking. The Glo would be a welcome gift under anyone's Christmas tree this year.
Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch Glowlight
Pros: Access to big catalogue of books;
Cons: Lower resolution screen; bulky
Best for: The Big Reader
Even if you don't live in North America, you'll likely have heard of Barnes & Noble. The US book seller has been offering its Nook ereaders and tablets across the Atlantic for some years now, and in the past month, they have finally arrived in the UK.
The Nook Simple Touch Glowlight is a great first entry to the market for B&N and although it features a screen with lower resolution than the other three ereaders in this round-up, it's hard to tell, as the company has done a good job of making the text appear clear and sharp.
The Glowlight is also good, and the physical button below the screen lets you turn it on and off with a single press - something you can't do with the Kindle. The Glowlight is a bit wider than the competition making one-handed holding for those with dainty hands a bit of a struggle.
However the curved soft-touch read and great build quality make the Glowlight a very attractive option - and Barnes & Noble's huge catalogue of books means those with voracious reading appetites will want to see this on Christmas morning.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Pros: Great, minimalist design; great screen
Cons: Controlled book eco-system
Best for: Everyone
Amazon has been the leader in ereaders since the platform began to gain popularity a few years ago. Each year's update has seen continued success, and the Kindle brand has become as interchangeable with ereader as iPad has for tablet.
The 2012 range, launched in September, features two models, the regular £69 model and the flagship Kindle Paperwhite. While the regular Kindle is a perfectly good ereader, it's the Paperwhite which is Amazon's crowning glory.
It is minimalist, sleek, premium, and simply works. Black has replaced the traditional grey colour scheme and a combination of metal and soft-touch plastic make it very comfortable to hold in one hand.
Ditching all physical buttons on the front, everything is controlled using the touchscreen - which has seen a resolution boost over last year's models. While this means the ereader looks great, the lack of buttons also means turning up and down the light can be a chore.
The Kindle eco-system is something you will love or hate. It works brilliantly and the on-screen user interface works very well. However, if you want to put your own ebooks bought elsewhere onto your Kindle, you are out of luck as it doesn't support any of the main file formats.
For most people the Kindle library will be more than enough and at £109 the Paperwhite is remarkably good value and the best ereader on the market today in my opinion.