If there’s one thing that a lot of people love to do with their free time, both over the holidays where too much togetherness and family time get in the way of the peace and quiet so many search for, it’s reading. And reading gets harder and harder with less time to partake in the age-old journey into another world or another life.

But what’s the best way to read? Books are bulky and, well, really low tech. Reading on a computer just isn’t comfortable (who wants to read at a desk? This isn’t college), and smartphones and tablets are convenient but they aren’t really great reading devices. Whether it’s emails popping up or someone calling or whatever can distract or stop you from reading, eReaders are excellent devices that are limited in form and function, yet are more comfortable, more convenient, and healthier to use than tablets or smartphones. Instead of utilizing a screen that emits light, which tires the eyes and can damage them over extended use, eReaders use e-ink displays that looks and feels just like printed text.

Better yet, the top devices today feature what’s referred to as front-lights, similar to backlights except that they face towards the screen to illuminate the text on the screen, instead of illuminating the whole screen like computer monitors and TVs do. This allows for reading in the dark without adding additional strain on the eyes.

Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight

Barnes & Noble doesn’t have the best lighting technology of the latest eReaders, but the design of the Nook Simple Touch is the best we have ever seen. It features four page-turn buttons, two on each side of the device, which are very easy to grip and press. The 7″ touchscreen is easy to navigate with, and competing devices like the Kindle Paperwhite have removed physical buttons for page turning entirely, but for the best ease-of-use mechanical buttons are still the most comfortable to use. Barnes & Noble has built an excellent eReader, developed for tactile touch and grip.

The device itself isn’t particularly pleasing to the eye, but it is small enough to fit in purse, bag, or large pocket. The light isn’t completely even though it is comfortable to read on in complete darkness and low-light settings. The Nook Touch is very responsive and turns pages particularly fast; this generation of eReaders is the first that is fast enough to truly mimic the speed of reading a real book. Reading on the Nook Touch with Glowlight is a pleasure both with and without the light. Turning the light on and off is easy, just hold the home button for five seconds or activate it through the on-screen menus.

The Nook Touch is a very simple eReader to use, and is great for reading. It’s the most impressive eReader you can buy today, though the ecosystem of available books and the screen resolution isn’t quite on par with Amazon’s Kindle. However, for most reading needs the Nook Touch with Glowlight is the best choice thanks to the more accessible buttons for page turning.

Kindle Paperwhite

For general reading, the Kindle Paperwhite offers a higher resolution display and a better light than the B&N Nook Touch with Glowlight. Text is crisper on the screen and therefore slightly more comfortable to read on, but the difference in resolution is almost moot between the two. In a strange way, the Nook – at least when it comes to reading newspapers — feels more like proper text than the Paperwhite, which looks almost too clean. This is specific to newspapers however, not books.

While the Kindle is a more powerful and more prominent device than the Nook, it lacks physical buttons for page turning and has a larger display that can accommodate more text, but a smaller bezel that limits user grip on the sides and edges. This in turn makes the Paperwhite less comfortable for both long-term and short-term reading. There simply isn’t the space to grip on the sides, which forces users to hold the Kindle from the bottom, which is not where the weight is distributed to.

Both the Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Touch with Glowlight sell for the same low price of $120, though the Nook is the only device that you can find in stores and available. The Kindle is sold out until December 24th, though it can be preordered for shipping on that day. While it is a recommendable device, it isn’t quite as user friendly as the Nook Touch with Glowlight. However, the Paperwhite is available in a more expensive 3G model for $180, which will download and sync books over cellular data networks, something the Nook doesn’t offer.

Kobo Glo

I very much liked the original Kobo Touch, but like the Kindle Paperwhite it doesn’t have physical buttons for page turning. The design is simpler and geared perfectly for reading. though unlike the other two eReaders the Kobo Glo uses a more traditional backlight which makes reading in the dark more stressful on the eyes. It gets extremely bright; even at the lowest setting in pitch darkness the screen is easy to read, which is strange considering such a device requires no light for normal use.

At $130, it’s more expensive than both the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight and Kindle Paperwhite, but it offers an equally wide selection of available books on a display that has better contrast and resolution than the Nook.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.