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Dueling E-Book Readers

One of this year's hot gift items is the e-book reader -- portable digital devices used to read books and magazines.

They started taking off in 2001, but were very basic. Today, they're sophisticated, interactive and can perform more functions than just holding text -- and they're experiencing explosive growth.

On "The Early Show" Monday, Natali Del Conte, a senior editor of CBSNews.com cousin CNET, explained that the biggest hurdle up to now has been DRM, or Digital Rights Management -- in layman's language, different formats for different books. As with VHS and Beta, it used to be that you were pretty much stuck with the titles available to the unit you bought.

See our big Holiday Gift Guide

But now, that's changing, with Barnes and Noble's new Nook -- it was just released and reads every format.

But which e-book reader is right for you?

Del Conte went over the pros and cons of five of the leading ones:

Barnes and Noble Nook
Price: $259
Where to buy: Barnes and Noble
- 2 screens, one 6-inch e-ink screen and 1 color touch screen
- Runs Google's Android operating system
- Has Wi-fi
- Wirelessly downloads books over AT&T's 3G network
- Barnes and Noble will offer special downloads if you go into the store
- Lending feature lets you lend e-books to your friends for 14 days for free
- Comes with 2 gigabytes of memory which lets you download about 1500 books but you can also expand it with a memory slot
- Reads any e-pub or e-book format so there is no one format of books that you need to buy for this device and if you buy books through Nook, you can port them to other devices

Kindle 2
Price: $259
Where to buy: Amazon.com
- Holds 1500 books
- 6 inch display
- Downloads books over AT&T 3G and now works internationally
- On-board dictionary
- Syncs bookmarks and highlights to the Web on kindle.amazon.com
- Can also read books on your Windows machine using Kindle software
- New PDF reader
- Books are DRM'd meaning the books you buy on Kindle will only work on Kindle
Product Review:
Amazon's new Kindle 2 is sleek and comes out just in time for the Holidays. It's a great improvement over the original Kindle, which was bulky

With The Kindle 2's built in wireless function, you can download items anywhere in the U.S, as well as hear them read aloud. It's really more like a mini-computer, since you can browse the Web and transfer PDFs. The only con we could find is that Kindle books can't be read on most other devices. But if you have the Kindle, why would this matter?

Kindle DX
Price: $489
Where to buy: Amazon.com
- Holds 3500 books
- 9 inch screen
- Built-in PDF reader
- Heavily geared towards students to read textbooks
- Downloads books over Sprint's 3G network
- On-board dictionary
- Syncs bookmarks and highlights to the Web on kindle.amazon.com
- Can also read books on your Windows machine using Kindle software
- Books are DRM'd meaning the books you buy on Kindle will only work on Kindle

Sony Reader Pocket Edition
Price: $199
Where to buy: sonystyle.com
- Portable 5-inch display
- Very basic. No built-in wireless or expansion slot for more memory
- 512 megabits of memory means you can store about 350 e-books
- 3 fot sizes
- Comes in pink, blue, or silver
- Reads any e-pub or e-book format so there is no one format of books that you need to buy for this device and if you buy books through Sony, you can port them to other devices
- Access up to 1 million free books on Google Books and support for free check out from libraries that support the e-pub book format. That means you check out the book, read it for 21 days, and it is completely free

Sony Reader Touch
Price: $299
Where to buy: sonystyle.com
- 6-inch display
- Touchscreen and on-board keyboard
- No built-in wireless
- Stores up to 350 books with an expandable card slot so you can store more
- Reads any e-pub or e-book format so there is no one format of books that you need to buy for this device and if you buy books through Sony, you can port them to other devices
- Access up to 1 million free books on Google Books and support for free check out from libraries that support the e-pub book format. That means you check out the book, read it for 21 days, and it is completely free

CNET Product Review:
The Sony Reader Touch Edition e-Book Reader comes in second place mainly due to its reliance on a computer. While it could have more titles than the Amazon Kindle 2 with the memory upgrade (extra cost), it is not a free-standing wireless unit, which could be a problem if you don't want to pack your laptop along with you when you run out of reading, or if you find a great new title that you would like to start on immediately.

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