With all apologies to Sony and their long line of e-readers, I can now confidently point to some real competition to Amazon's Kindle.
Barnes & Noble's Nook is a beauty. It offers most of the amenities of my Kindle -- the easy-on-the-eyes e-ink screen, nearly instantaneous downloads of your favorite books and newspapers, in-text highlighting and plenty of space for scores of books -- with a few awesome additions, including a color touch screen menu, and the ability to lend books out to your friends for two weeks at a time.
(Sorry, but I couldn't include Kindle's text-to-speech function or Nook's screensaver as fantastic features. The talking Kindle has become nearly useless thanks to copyright issues, and the completely unappealling computer voice. Meanwhile, I really enjoy Kindle's screensavers of classic authors and printing presses! If I wanted to bother with creating screensavers, I'd be on my iPhone or laptop, thanks.)
I'm not convinced that Nook's Wi-Fi is all that exciting. Sure, you can browse books with their free Wi-Fi while in a Barnes & Noble, but ... can't you just pick up the physical book while you're in the store, as well? Of course, I'm willing to be proven wrong.
I'm also worried about those long buttons along the edges of the Nook that "turn" the pages for you. The original Kindle had similar keys, and they constantly made me lose my place in the book. I hope the Nook designers kept that in mind, and that these buttons aren't quite as easy to push.
But looking ahead, these new features (did I mention the lending aspect?!?) will only push Amazon to provide the same (and better!) services to their customers, or they'll lose out on the business. Let the innovating continue!
But there is one caveat: I am becoming concerned that the increasing number of devices out there -- and the nature of control the competing companies thus have over the digital rights to our ebooks -- will mean that people who back the wrong device will someday lose their ability to read the books they've bought.