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Differences Between E-Readers And Tablet Computers


Amazon Kindle Voyage E-ReaderAs a keen reader, I’m a big fan of e-readers – although I do know that they may not be everybody’s cup of tea. Some people – bibliophiles in the strictest sense of the word – still prefer to use paper books. Each to his/her own.

For myself, the convenience of carrying huge numbers of books with me wherever I go on a device that is small, lightweight and has a battery life measured in weeks, far outweighs any nostalgic notions I may have for “real” books.

The fact that the e-ink display is great to read on is the most important thing of course. I find it very natural and when I’m enjoying a good book, I’m not even aware that I’m using an electronic gadget rather than reading a traditional book. To be honest, I find traditional books heavy and cumbersome these days, I definitely prefer an e-reader.

E-Readers And Tablet Computers

Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet computerI like tablet computers as well as e-readers, but I really only use them for playing games, surfing the net, sending e-mails etc. I would never sit down to read an e-book on a tablet.

The back-lit colour screen of a tablet computer is great for videos, gaming and general internet stuff, but I find that reading a book is much less pleasant on an LCD screen. I saw someone describe this as “like trying to read when someone is shining a light in your eyes”, and I would concur.

It’s certainly possible to read on a tablet, but, for me at least, it’s something that I would only do for a few minutes at a time. If I want to settle down and lose myself in a good book for an hour or so, then I’m going to get my e-reader rather than my tablet.

With that being said, my son has both an e-reader and a tablet and he reads on his tablet all the time. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all – so maybe it’s just my old eyes.

Whether the reaction to the display is age dependant or not, there are some further distinctions between e-readers and tablets.

E-Readers Tablet Computers
  • E-ink technology display.
  • Monochrome display.
  • Read in bright sunlight or in a darkened room (readers with lights only).
  • Battery life measured in weeks.
  • Great for reading for lengthy periods. No eye strain.
  • “Experimental” web browsing at best.
  • No video playback.
  • Light and portable (8 ounces or less is typical).
  • Relatively cheap (plenty available for less than $ 100)
  • Back-lit LCD display.
  • Color display.
  • Read in a dark room, but may have glare in bright sunlight.
  • Battery life measured in hours.
  • Not well suited for lengthy reading sessions – back-lit screen might cause eye strain.
  • Brilliant for browsing.
  • Great video playback.
  • Still portable but heavier (e.g. iPad Air 1 lb).
  • Currently a little pricey.

E-readers are specialised devices. They excel at one thing and one thing only – letting you read books. They are a much better choice if you want to read.

Tablet computers are great, super versatile all round devices. They are much more powerful (and more expensive) than e-readers, but while they can do a lot of things that e-readers can’t, reading on them for more than a few minutes at a time isn’t anywhere near as enjoyable as it is when using an e-reader.

Thankfully, it’s not an either/or choice. Prices of both e-readers and tablets have fallen to the point where you can very easily get one of each. Both devices are also small enough and light enough that you could carry one of each without putting too much strain on either your back or your hand luggage allowance.

The short video below summarises the benefits of e-readers very well:


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