Which? Christmas gift guide: Kindle vs Sony ReaderWhich? tests the best ebook readers for Christmas

11 December 2010

Amazon Kindle

Slimmer and lighter than traditional books and brilliant for saving shelf space at home or luggage space on your travels, ebook readers have quickly become one of the must-have gadgets of 2010. But which brand is the ideal gift for book lovers this Christmas?

Which? experts take a closer look at the top-selling Kindle and Sony Readers, as well as some of the best free apps for smartphones and the iPad.

Kindle versus Sony

For many people the decision over which ebook reader to buy boils down to a simple choice: Amazon's latest best-selling Kindle or Sony's slick Touch and Pocket Edition readers? 

On one hand the low price and wireless capabilities of the Kindle are hard to beat, but Sony's compact Pocket Edition and larger touchscreen model are both brilliantly designed, solidly built and, unlike the Kindle, are not tied to just the one bookstore.

Read full reviews of over 20 ebook readers or check out first looks of the latest models. 

Amazon Kindle - best for downloading books on the move

The new Kindle's combination of low price, usability and compact size has already made it Amazon's most successful ebook reader, and it's certainly a tough device to beat. The screen is brilliant, it features a basic web browser and you can download books from the Kindle store wirelessly.

This gives you the freedom to download ebooks without having to connect to a PC, a crucial advantage over the Sony. It's available as a £109 wi-fi version or £149 with 3G (which synchronises your ebook library via Amazon's own subscription-free Whispernet service). 

The Kindle doesn't support the ePub format used by many online book stores, but as Amazon's own selection covers such a wide range of new bestsellers, cheap and free classics, newspapers and magazines, this isn't a deal-breaker.

Read our full Amazon Kindle 3G review

Sony PRS-350 Pocket edition - small, light and compact

The super 'Pocket Edition' of Sony's ebook reader lives up to its name. It's smaller and slimmer than the average paperback, and at 153g, light enough to carry with you everywhere (the Kindle weighs in at 233g). However, it costs about £50 more than the Kindle (wi-fi version) and you don't have the freedom to download books on the move.

It uses the popular ePub format, so you're not tied to one book store. You can buy ebooks from high street names like WH Smith and Waterstone's, or even borrow ebooks from some libraries. However, the choice isn't as good as the Kindle store.

Read our full Sony Reader PRS-350 Pocket Edition review

Sony PRS-650 Touch edition - excellent performance at a price

The bigger brother of the compact PRS-350, the Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-650 swaps the pocket size for a larger six-inch display and a few additional features. It's a stylish, well-built and easy-to-use reader, and worth considering if you're happier using Waterstone's and WHSmiths than Amazon. 

Like the smaller 350, it features a responsive touchscreen and though you need to connect to a computer to download ebooks the process is simple enough.

It is, however, it's £200 pricier than the competition, and if you don't need the larger screen or audio features, the smaller, cheaper PRS-350 could be a smarter buy.

Read our full Sony Reader PRS-650 Touch Edition review

iPad, iPod and Android apps

iBooks on Apple iPad

iBooks on the Apple iPad - a truly accessible gadget

Fully-fledged ebook readers are not your only option. Owners of smartphones or Apple's slick iPad can download free reading apps.

The iPad is bigger and heavier than any dedicated reader, so doesn't quite have the same 'take it anywhere' appeal, but its sublime colour touchscreen is brilliant for reading magazines or comics. The accessibility software for the visually impaired is excellent too. Best app? Apple's own iBooks app, complete with a wonderful virtual bookshelf interface, is hard to beat.

Not to be outdone Kindle has produced free apps for the iPad, iPhone and and Android phones. The small screen of a smartphone won't be big enough for everyone, but a free app is a great way to try out ebooks for the first time. For instance, the Kindle for Android app is a cinch to use and allows you to sync with other Kindle devices.

Looking for gift ideas? Read the Which? technology Christmas gift guide for all the best cameras, laptops, gaming gadgets, and much more.

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