Step #1: eBook Stores' Digital Media Selection
The most important thing to do before buying a new dedicated reading device is to research ebook availability and pricing among ebook stores, along with all the other digital media that you intend to use on your ereader—ebooks, newspapers, magazines, blogs, webpages, audiobooks, etc.
This can take a little time upfront, but you'll be glad you did it; after all, you don't want to pay for a new device and then find out that you can't purchase the types of content that you like for daily reading.
This is especially important for international buyers because many ebook stores have regional restrictions when it comes to selling ebooks. Book rights vary by country as determined by publishers, not the ebook stores themselves (they often receive the criticism for this unfairly—ebook stores would love to be able to sell content to anyone anywhere).
Research Selection and Prices
A good place to start your own research is on our ebook stores page. Open the links to the stores that support the formats for the ereaders that you're considering in new windows and run some searches for the books and authors that you like.
If you are unsure which formats are supported by a device that you are curious about, they are listed on each device's review page on this site, and all of these are listed at the bottom of the previous page. As a general rule, almost all ebook readers support Adobe EPUB and PDF, with the exception of the Kindle.
After checking prices and selection, make sure that the particular company sells ebooks to your country (more on this below). The restrictions don't seem to follow any rule of order with some websites; certain countries can download and others cannot, so make sure to check. Some websites are straightforward and others you'll probably have to email to find out, or try to download a free ebook or sample.
If you want to download some ebooks to try out, go to the free ebook reader software page to get a program that supports the ebook you want to get, such as Kindle for PC, Sony's eBook Library, Barnes and Noble's eReader Software, or Adobe Digital Editions. This is a good way to sample ebooks before shelling out the dough for a new device.
The Big Three eBook Stores - Things To Consider
Amazon is currently on top of the ebook and ebook reader market with their Kindle and ebooks now available in over 175 countries. Disregarding the millions of free public domain ebooks that most ebook stores tout as part of their selection, Amazon most likely has the widest section of ebooks on the planet.
But there's a catch. They cost more outside the US (which really isn't as bad as it sounds once you consider the weak US dollar) and some titles and authors still aren't available in certain countries yet because of issues with book rights.
Amazon can detect your ISP address, so it's easy to check your country's content selection before buying a Kindle. Keep in mind that the number of ebooks and authors is steadily increasing all the time, as more deals are reached with publishers.
Sony's Reader Store has okay prices and a decent selection, but it is currently only available to residents of the United States and Canada. This is especially beneficial to Canadians, though, since Sony's ebooks are priced in US dollars and are generally $9.99 for bestsellers.
The downside is that Sony's ebook store isn't as big as some of the others, and it doesn't offer as many options for newspaper and magazine subscriptions. And wireless downloads are only for US customers who own a Daily Edition.
Barnes and Noble, a large chain store in the US, opened their own online ebook store and released their innovative ebook readers, the Nook and Nook Color. However, their ebook store and Nook are currently only available to US residents.
Content Conclusion - Choose a Format
What all comes down to is this: In one hand you have Amazon with their proprietary format that isn't transferable to other ebook readers, but Amazon has more content and lower prices generally, and their products are available to more than 175 countries.
In the other hand you have a number of major online ebook retailers that sell Adobe DRM'd EPUBs and PDFs that are compatible with the majority of current ebook readers, except the iPad. You have more freedom with this option hardware-wise and store-wise, but it may cost you more money and time in the long run. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.