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Get a Sony Reader Pocket Edition for $159.99

It's a refurbished unit with a 90-day warranty, but it's also one of the smallest and cutest e-book readers around. It is definitely an intriguing alternative to the Amazon Kindle.

During a recent visit to a Borders bookstore, I got my first hands-on look at the Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300--and I was impressed.

It's less expensive and much more compact than the Amazon Kindle 2, and it supports the increasingly popular EPUB file format--meaning you may be able to "check out" books from your local library.

If you don't mind buying a refurbished unit, the SonyStyle store has the Reader Pocket PRS-300 for just $159.99 shipped (plus sales tax in some states). That's $40 less than the original price on a new unit. (Note: new Reader Pockets are on sale for $179.99 until January 23.)

Don't let the name fool you: This e-book reader won't fit in most pockets. However, it's quite a bit smaller (and much cuter, in my opinion) than a Kindle. Also, it's definitely lighter at 7.7 ounces. Thus, it's easier to tote around.

Of course, you don't get any kind of wireless capabilities, so you'll need to use a PC to load the reader with e-books.

Other than that, how does it compare with other e-book gizmos? You can find out by watching CNET's video review of the PRS-300 and reading the accompanying write-up. CNET liked it overall, but the reviewer had a few notable complaints.

Personally, I think if you're looking for the ideal e-book reader, you should get a refurbished iPod Touch (like this 8GB model for $159). It offers e-book apps galore (including the killer Kindle app). Of course, the iPod Touch does way more than just display e-books.

That's just my two cents. If you want to read more of my thoughts on e-book readers, I wrote an iPods versus Kindles article last July. Some of the pricing has changed, but my opinion has not.