E-book readers have long relied on technology known as ''digital ink'' to approximate the printed word. Now they're upgrading their screens to mimic the crisp, white page of a book.
The new Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Glo sport near-white screens with backlighting to boost their contrast and readability, even in dimly lit rooms. Although e-book readers don't display colour, which rules out reading digital editions of magazines and newspapers, their simple screen helps keep costs down, their shape skinny (less than one centimetre thick) and their battery life long enough to last for weeks between recharges.
There's almost nothing between the Kindle and Kobo in size, weight and features, from the six-inch touchscreens to 1000-book capacity. We found the Kindle's screen to be sharper and more evenly lit than the Kobo's, which has a slightly blue tinge.
Both devices let you browse and download e-books using wi-fi, and the Kindle offers a more expensive reader with 3G radio so you're not tied to finding a wireless network.
Whereas the Kobo can read standard electronic publication editions, or e-pubs, from a wide range of online bookstores, the Kindle works only with books saved in Amazon's format. In theory, this means more choice and price competition for the Kobo, but Amazon books can still be cheaper. For example, Peter FitzSimons's new book, Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution, sells for $35 as an e-pub through Angus & Robertson but for $28 in Amazon's Kindle edition.
Both devices are offered only through resellers in Australia at this stage.
While the Kobo Glo is good value if you're on a budget, we would prefer to pay more for the Kindle Paperwhite. Before buying either device, check that the type of books you like to read are available and compare their pricing in e-pub and Kindle editions.