Light reading

Which e-reader performs best under the sun's intense rays? We slather on some SPF and take four devices to a rooftop deck for some heated competition.

Kindle

5/5 stars
2GB, $259 at amazon.com
The device Like most e-readers, the Kindle uses electronic ink, which doesn’t need a backlight and reads like an old-school printed page, in black-and-white only. At 10.2 ounces, the Kindle is the lightest e-reader I tried—holding it in one hand and drinking a beer with the other is a snap! Navigate via a simple five-way toggle and tiny QWERTY keyboard; download books wirelessly via Kindle Store.
What I read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Sun test Perfectly readable, and its simple design makes it a breeze to control. Were I to buy an e-reader to use exclusively for books, this is the one I’d spend my cash on.

Nook

3/5 stars
2GB, $259 at barnesandnoble.com
The device A few things distinguish the Nook from other e-readers: You navigate via an LCD color touch screen, you can lend certain books you’ve purchased to friends for 14 days, and you can read some e-books and magazines free for an hour per day while in Barnes & Noble brick-and-mortars. Download wirelessly via Barnes & Noble store.
What I read The New Yorker
Sun test Fantastic contrast and supereasy to read. The color touch screen, however, is tough to see in the sun’s glare. Another niggling point about the touch screen: It often goes to sleep to save battery life, and it sometimes takes several annoyed finger jabs to wake it back up.

Sony Reader

2/5 stars
Daily Edition, 2GB, $349 at sonystyle.com
The device The Daily’s seven-inch display is about the same size as a paperback and has a touch screen (use your fingers or the attached stylus, handy when your hands are coated in sunscreen). Download books wirelessly via the Sony Reader store, or borrow e-books from your library for 21 days for free (you’ll need a library card) by downloading onto your computer and transferring onto the Daily.
What I read I Am America (and So Can You!), by Stephen Colbert via the library (e-book selection is slim; the very few others not checked out included Dewey: A Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World)
Sun test Of all the electronic ink e-readers I tested, the Daily is most difficult to read in bright light (but still pretty readable): The contrast between background and ink isn’t so sharp and the screen is a bit too shiny. I find it’s slow to respond or sometimes unresponsive to commands, such as turning a page or going to the Reader Store, but only in the sun. Perhaps this Daily has heatstroke.

iPad

1/5 stars
16GB, starting at $499 at apple.com
The device What can I say that you haven’t heard from breathless Mac freaks already? The color resolution is insane, the touch screen (which you can use to turn “pages”) is very responsive, and everyone stares at you when you’re using it. Go to the iBookstore or download the Kindle app to buy books wirelessly, plus surf the Web, watch movies, store photos, play music and cure cancer. Reading magazines on the iPad in full color…wow—possibly even better than print.
What I read Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin, by Kathy Griffin
Sun test The iPad’s screen is shinier than the Louisiana coastline, which makes for some crazy sun glare. It’s a little easier to read when you tilt the iPad vertically (it’s big enough that you have to hold it with two hands), but the drawback is you can also see your face so clearly it’s like looking in a mirror. Stare at your mug or read a novel? It’s like Sophie’s Choice for the vain book lover.

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