If you've been tempted to switch to electronic books, this may be the right time. Consumer Reports says e-book readers have improved and prices are dropping. The Kindle that cost $259 last year now sells for as low as $139.
Consumer Reports tested the Kindle along with more than a dozen e-readers, including the Nook from Barnes & Noble. Testers evaluated the ease of reading and downloading books, and how fast the pages turn.
Most of the readers, including the Kindle and the Nook, use e-ink technology, which is only black and white. Others use a backlit LCD screen as a laptop does. They can display color and, unlike e-ink, you won't need a light to read them in the dark. They are almost impossible to read outdoors, however. On the other hand, the e-ink screens are almost like reading a real book.
Consumer Reports gave top ratings to the $189 3G Kindle. It's the best reader that Consumer Reports has ever tested. The type is crisp and easy to read. The battery life is outstanding, as is the speed of the page turns.
You can save money buying the $139 Kindle, which is identical to the 3G Kindle, except you can only download content via Wi-Fi.
Consumer Reports also recommends the Barnes & Noble Nook. It doesn't score quite as high as the Kindle, but you can use it to download free library books. The Kindle doesn't accept library books.
It turns out that people who use e-book readers are reading more books, according to a recent Harris poll. You should be careful, however. When it takes just a couple of keystrokes to buy a book, it's easy to go over your budget.