My ereader is a tablet computing device that's 9 3/4" x 8 3/8", with a full-color touchscreen that measures 6 3/4" x 5 1/8". It's 3/4" thick and weighs about 2 pounds. It carries an on-board, removable stylus, like a Nintendo DS.
It came standard with 2 USB ports, a built-in microphone, jacks for an external microphone and headphones, built-in compact flash card reader, 9-pin connector (for connecting to printers, external hard drives and other devices), internal wireless adapter, built-in network card reader, onboard speaker and A/C adapter/charger. It can surf the web, play games and music, run a mobile edition of MS Office and other programs.
With μBook (a freeware ereader program) installed it reads ebooks in multiple formats, and allows the user to customize all of the following when reading an ebook: page orientation, page background color/texture, font, font size, font color, font style (e.g., bold/italic), character and line spacing, bookmarks, indent spacing and more. It also has search, touch page-turning and 'jump to page' functionality. Other freeware ereader programs I could install include dictionary and markup/notes capability, but since those aren't functions I feel I need, I'm content with μBook.
None of this would seem particularly impressive, were it not for the fact that MY EREADER IS TEN FREAKIN' YEARS OLD!!
It's not as sexy as the iPad or the Kindle, and it doesn't have an e-ink display---neither does the iPad. But considering that it's TEN FREAKIN' YEARS OLD I'm more than a little disappointed that when the wizards at Apple finally decided to come out with an ereader, they couldn't beat my dinosaur device (ten years may as well be an epoch in terms of advances in technology) in either functionality or price.
My device is about the same size, and just slightly heavier than, an iPad. While the iPad's processor speed is faster than my device's, and its screen is larger and higher-resolution than that on my device, I'd have thought that with ten years to build on what I've had since 2000 it would've been no problem for a bunch of hardware and software engineers to improve my device's processing speed and screen to match the iPad's specs. Also, while my Ereader-saurus Rex's (largely useless today) wireless infrared adapter would be replaced with a wireless bluetooth adapter in a device built more recently, my device can still connect to the internet or a wireless network via a wireless network card.
Where are the iPad's USB ports? There's just one, on the available-for-separate-purchase docking device. Where is the iPad's microphone jack, where's its flash card reader, where's its input/output connector port? My ereader has had all of these for a decade, yet Apple couldn't find a way to get them into the iPad.
My device is an ePods: a tablet computing device that was originally intended to be used as a portable computer for email, simple productivity applications (e.g., stripped-down word processor and spreadsheet), playing music files and simple games, and for surfing the web via connection to a dedicated Internet Service Provider (ISP). When the ISP folded, there were suddenly a bunch of these ePods devices out in the world with no network to support them. It wasn't long before someone took a look at the device's form factor and available functionality and thought to himself, "Hey, this thing would make a terrific ereader!"
Soon, that someone figured out how to bypass the device's automatic attempt to connect to its now-defunct network every time it was turned on, and how to get the device to load a simple desktop like any other computer. With the simple desktop in place and USB connection to another computer, getting programs like μBook loaded onto the ePods is easy. With the ePods connected to a computer via USB, transferring files in either direction is a simple, drag-and-drop operation.
The ePods' compact flash card reader (which would be an SD card reader on a device built more recently) makes concerns about storage limitations moot: need more storage? Get more memory cards. The iPad, on the other hand, is like an iPod: you're limited to the on-board storage that comes pre-loaded on the device. Need more storage? Buy a better iPad.
I can buy books for my ereader from many different vendors, I'm not locked into a specific vendor's store. I can comparison-shop. I can read ebooks offered in various formats. I'm not chained to a specific vendor for my ebook purchases, nor am I married to a 'preferred' vendor which will allow me to buy ebooks from other sources but will make it a royal pain to get them loaded on the device.
I pay no monthly fees to use my device, and I actually own my copies of the books I've bought (or downloaded from public-domain repositories like Project Gutenberg). I will never turn on my device to find that this or that book's licensing term has "expired", or that some of my content has disappeared because the vendor who sold it to me had to pull it back due to questionable content licensing.
I paid about $60 for my ePods when I bought it on eBay. As of this writing, the lowest-capacity iPad costs $499 and the Kindle DX costs $489. After comparing the feature sets, it's clear to me that buying either device would be an expensive step backward for me in terms of ereader functionality. Sure, I'd like to have an e-ink display, but with my preferred font style, color and size selections made, my ereader isn't particularly hard on the eyes. And since ebook files are small (in terms of file size) and comprised primarily of text, I don't need any more processing power than my ePods has for reading ebooks. I don't use my ePods to run programs, access email, surf the 'net or subscribe to newspapers, magazines or RSS feeds. I just use it to read ebooks. And in terms of that functionality, it easily holds its own against the Kindle, Kindle DX, and the iPad.
I look forward to the day when a device with all the functionality and connectivity of my ePods comes along, with an added full-color e-ink display, enough processing power and screen resolution to run enhanced ebook "apps" that have full-motion video and interactive features, high-quality audio for text-to-speech and audiobooks, all at a reasonable price. But that day hasn't come yet, and I have no idea why. And it's kind of annoying.
In the meantime, if you want an ereader with all the functionality and connectivity of my ePods and a Kindle (minus the e-ink display) and a Sony Reader, but with a speedier processor, full-color display and more power to run programs and surf the web, here's what you need to do. Get yourself a netbook and load it up with the free Kindle reader software for Kindle books (and Kindle Store connectivity), free Sony Reader software for Sony Reader books (and Sony Reader Store connectivity), and one of the many freeware ereader programs for all other ebook formats. Voila! You've got a small, light, portable ereader with all the functionality of a Kindle, a Sony Reader and my ePods rolled into one device, with more computing power than any of those devices, more connectivity and storage flexibility than an iPad, and all at a pricetag of around $300.
On the other hand, if you'd rather just have $500 worth of cool, sexy and impress-your-friends, get an iPad.