If you are in the market for a media tablet or e-reader this holiday season, you will find a cornucopia of models in practically every store that sells electronic devices as well as on the Web.
However, despite the infusion of new models by competing companies in the past 12 months, none has even come close to displacing last year’s market-defining favorites — the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle.
With the introduction of the iPad 2 in March, Apple significantly raised the bar for competitors in the media tablet domain. It’s sleek design that is lighter and thinner than the original iPad and new features, such as front- and rear-facing cameras, are the most obvious changes, but the real enhancements are in the faster processor and new functions that make the iPad 2 even easier to use and more versatile.
The best value and most practical version in my view is the Wi-Fi only model with 32 gigabytes of memory. The $599 price tag may seem high, but it is well worth the investment.
For newspaper and magazine readers, you’ll find a large selection of dedicated periodical apps for the iPad as well as the recently added newsstand app, similar to the iBooks bookstore app.
This year Amazon launched an array of new models and dramatically reduced prices for its e-reader with gray-scale electronic-paper displays. It also introduced its first media tablet with a full-color backlit display.
If you just want a low-cost device that will provide a relaxed, print-like reading experience, the entry-level Kindle e-reader priced at $79 can’t be beat. This model includes special-offer advertising on the screensaver page and at the bottom of the home page.
For $20 more you can get a Kindle with a touchscreen model (without advertising) or you can pay $139 for a third generation Kindle with a keyboard.
Amazon offers a much larger selection of e-books and e-periodicals than Apple, but the presentations are limited to one column of generic text with a minimal use of photos and graphics.
Amazon’s media tablet, called the Kindle Fire, is generally seen as a potential competitor to the Apple iPad. However, this first model with a modified Android operating system only has a 7-inch screen and is not nearly as versatile as the iPad with its 9.7-inch screen and large array of apps. But at $199, the Kindle Fire definitely is a formidable competitor to the Barnes & Noble Nook Color tablet that currently sells for $249.
Amazon is rumored to be developing a larger media tablet with a screen comparable in size and resolution to the iPad, but it’s unlikely to be on the market before the end of this year.
I’m willing to bet that next holiday season, Apple and Amazon will still dominate the media tablet and e-reader domains.