David? Goliath? Who’s Who??

June was a busy month for e-reader coverage, as the unveiling of the All-New Nook from Barnes & Noble at the end of May inspired a changing of the tide for the Little E-reader That Could, propelling a once-clumsy model into the lead with reviewers in the e-reader arms race thanks to its affordable price point, touch screen, and economical size and simplified features. Not to be counted out, the Kobo eReader Touch is also getting nice reviews, especially when it comes to its price, which undercuts All-New Nook by $10. With both devices offering touch screens over a clunky keyboard, the Nook and Kobo are making the most out of this lull between Kindle models. In fact, all-New Nook signifies the first time a Nook device actually scored higher than the Kindle in Consumer Reports, though this victory is only by 1 point in the 6-to-7-inch category.

While all this spells out good news for consumers looking for e-reading-only devices, many critics still contend that tablets are the real future of hand-held reading devices, and pricing and lack of book-friendly features seem to be the only things keeping Apple’s iPad from being declared the ideal machine. All this speculation comes amidst swirling rumors of an Amazon tablet that will allegedly be available in time for the holidays, an idea that is only further purported by Digitimes’ leak of an August-September release date after a tip from Taiwan-based component makers.

So who’s ahead? Who’s still in the game? Here are some clippings so you can draw your own conclusion:

“Sales of the Kindle and of e-books are so good, and growing so fast, that they are now becoming a driver of Amazon’s overall growth… there’s no doubt that the Kindle is a juggernaut…  So far this year, [analyst Mark] Mahaney estimates, sales of the Kindle are running three times ahead of the same period last year.”

—  Dan Mitchell, Fortune (6/8/2011)

“It’s rare to find an inexpensive product that also introduces innovation into its category. And yet that’s exactly what Kobo Books’ Kobo eReader Touch Edition does… this model is the smallest and lightest 6-inch E Ink e-reader currently available… The Kobo eReader Touch Edition lacks the finesse of the Nook and the Amazon Kindle Wi-Fi, but it still has much to offer value-conscious book lovers.”

—  Melissa J. Perenson, PCWorld (6/13/2011)

“I name the Nook and the Kobo eReader the winners of this test [amongst the Nook, Kobo, Kindle, Aluratek Libre Air]. I still think the iPad is better as an all-around e-reader because of its color screen, its backlighting and its size, which makes it ideal for PDF files. But the iPad starts at $499. At $130 or so, I can’t fault anyone for getting a dedicated e-reader instead.”

Peter Svensson, Associated Press (6/15/2011)

“The Kindle may have the first-mover advantage and a better-known name. But with this new version, the Nook is poised to break away — at least until the tablet makers build an e-reading experience good enough to render e-ink devices like these obsolete.”

John C. Abell, Wired (6/15/2011)

“The growing success of tablets is leaving many to question the viability of the e-reader market’s sustainability… As a result, In-Stat (www.in-stat.com) is forecasting that tablet shipments will outpace e-reader shipments by the end of this year. “

Marketwire via Comtex, (6/20/2011)

Amazon has enough parts to make its tablet competitive with Apple’s iPad. The other key thread here is price. The problem with Android tablets…is price. To effectively compete with Apple, rival tablets have to be cheaper.”

Larry Dignan, ZDNet (6/22/2011)

“If you’re loyal to Amazon, you’ll probably want to hold out a few months for a new Kindle. If you’re looking for an e-reader now, Barnes & Noble’s new Nook has great social networking and a touch screen that makes it a cinch to use.”

Katherine Boehret, The Wall Street Journal (6/29/2011)