So you've decided to buy an e-book reader. If you aren't sure which one to plunk your discretionary money down for, here's a little help. Consumer Reports, a non-profit, independent, subscription-supported, rating organization, comes to the rescue. It ranks items from paint to peanut butter to MP3 players to portable GPS, and yes, even cars and computers

Consumer Reports, that venerable advice source, finally came out with ratings on the "gotta have" device for literature buffs: e-book readers. Only a few contenders were considered for the July issue. Nine readers were tested in its labs. Several had unfamiliar names, such as the Alaratek Libre eBook Reader Pro, the BeBook Neo, and the iRex DR800SG, with prices of $170, $300, and $400, respectively. The lesser-knowns probably earned that status, since the Consumer Reports testing uncovered nothing that set them apart from the pack. 

A different review of the Libre product with photos can be found at Gadgeteer. You can buy it at Staples, where it is advertised for $149. The iRex product is sold by Best Buy. The BeBook Neo is out of the Netherlands. Contrary to Consumer Reports' unimpressed reviewers, the BeBook and its Neo version placed second and first among eight e-readers tested by the Dutch PC magazine Computer TotaalTopTenReviews placed the BeBook third, before fourth-place Nook and fifth-place Sony Touch Edition PRS600. 
Sony (NYSE: SNE), the better-known brand in the Consumer Reports list, gave a good performance with its Daily Edition PRS900BC and the Touch Edition PRS600SC, selling for $400 and $280, respectively. Despite good scores, Consumer Reports dinged the Touch Edition because the reader did not come with free, unlimited, 3G wireless data network access. The Daily Edition, besides being considered expensive, was heavy.

The Sony products earned points for their digital notepad's text and drawings feature. On the other hand, the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad was not included in the e-book rating category because it is too versatile. Consumer Reports did not consider it to be a dedicated e-book reader. Yet it thought the iPad's e-book reader features were pretty good. It liked its page-turning speed and the virtual appearance of the page, which curled as it turned. Of course, its  color screen outclassed the usual monochrome displays typical of e-books. Its cost, at $500 plus, and weight, at 24 ounces, were negative aspects. Consumer Reports gave the iPad a passing grade only if the user's intention was to buy a multifunction device and the e-book feature was only an afterthought.

The popular Nook from Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) was also given low marks for weight, type, and a non-intuitive user interface. However, it scored high for page- turning speed, one of the important indicators in the testing. 

So who came out the winner? Consumer Reports pinned the blue ribbon on Amazon's (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle and its more expensive DX model, priced at $260 and $490. Both ranked high for page turning, and the DX won for best crisp, readable type. Of the two, the original Kindle was recommended over the DX because of price, size and its 19-ounce weight. TopTenReviews agreed, giving its first- and second-place spots to the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX.

Amazon is touting the new Kindle as being "thin as most magazines, lighter than a typical paperback, with 3G wireless in 100 countries for downloading books with no contracts or monthly fees." The Kindle Store claims 540,000 titles. How many of them are worth reading is another issue. 

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This article was originally published by and modified by The Motley Fool. 

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