Cheapism: Best budget e-readers

The Amazon Kindle starts at $69 with so-called "special offers." Ad-free Kindles start at $89.
The Amazon Kindle starts at $69 with so-called "special offers." Ad-free Kindles start at $89. Amazon

The e-reader has always had the makings of an ideal travel companion. This single, slim device promises access to suitcases worth of books from anywhere in the world. Until recently, though, there was one inconvenient exception: the space between an airport gate and an altitude of 10,000 feet. Now the Federal Aviation Administration is liberating portable electronic devices from bags and seat-back pockets on takeoff and landing. Flights operated by Delta and JetBlue promptly earned FAA approval and other carriers have since joined the below-10K club. has highlighted four e-readers under $100 with weeks of battery life, extensive libraries, and easy-on-the-eyes E Ink technology. They can provide nonstop entertainment for frugal travelers — no SkyMall intermissions necessary.

The Amazon Kindle starts at $69 with so-called “special offers.” If you don’t mind seeing sponsored screensavers or Amazon deals at the bottom of your home screen, you’d be hard-pressed to find a cheaper option of this caliber. (Ad-free Kindles start at $89.) Thousands of users have awarded this e-reader five stars on the strength of its light weight, crisp display and overall value. Free access to Amazon Cloud storage makes the absence of a microSD card slot easy to overlook. (Where to buy

The Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch GlowLight (starting at $99) may cost $30 more, but it incorporates some attractive features. Chief among them is the built-in GlowLight, a big selling point for users who enjoy reading at night. A touchscreen supplements traditional navigation buttons, and a microSD card slot supplements 2GB of internal storage. (Where to buy)

The Nook Simple Touch (starting at $79) lacks a light and weighs a bit more than its Barnes & Noble sibling but otherwise shares the same features and costs $20 less. It’s also cheaper than an ad-free Kindle and includes a touchscreen to boot. The microSD slot adds up to 32GB of storage, and reviewers laud the simple, nimble navigation. (Where to buy)

The Sony Reader PRS-T2 (starting at $70) has been discontinued as the company shifts its focus to tablets and smartphones, which means consumers can snap up this e-reader at a discount while supplies last. Although the Sony e-book catalog can’t match the selection of Amazon or Barnes & Noble, experts declare this e-reader a lightweight, praiseworthy alternative to a Kindle or Nook. (Where to buy)

The Sony Reader store will still live to serve the company’s existing e-readers and other devices with the Reader app. All the e-readers listed here can connect to their respective e-book stores and download titles via Wi-Fi (3G models command a premium). With the exception of the Kindle, they display e-books in the popular EPUB format. The Kindle favors Amazon’s proprietary AZW format and also accommodates files such as Word documents. All four models support PDFs and several image file formats, as well.

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