Buying an e-reader might seem strange with the powerful tablets on the market today but e-readers continue to hold their own thanks to their highly specialized features.
The best option for you depends on your needs.
Essentially, if you want a way to enjoy your favorite books without the hassle of toting them around or looking for a light when the sun goes down -- but not much more -- an e-reader offers the superior reading experience.
But if you’re looking for a larger version of your smartphone to make the most of magazines, play mobile games, stream video, or check your email, a tablet will offer you far more than an e-reader ever could.
Pros and Cons of e-Readers
Ultra portable: Lighter and smaller than many tablets
Long battery life: Most will last days or weeks between charging
No glare: eInk displays don’t glare in the sun
Easier on the eyes: eInk displays reduce eye strain
Fewer distractions: Built for reading and little else
Tons of storage (relatively): Since ebooks are small, 4 to 32GB of storage goes a long way
No color: Monochrome displays won’t make images pop
Less flexibility: Heavily formatted content may pose issues
No video support: Static text only -- even web browsers tend to be clunky
Limited audio support: A few e-readers will support MP3s/audiobooks but most don’t
Typically limited to one on-device bookstore: Can usually convert or load books using PC, but that requires extra steps
Pros and Cons of Tablets
Full-featured experience: A full mobile experience but larger
Extra accessories: Add flexibility to how you use your tablet with styluses, keyboards, docking connectors, and more
Larger screens: Most mainstream tablets are larger than mainstream e-readers
Prices: Budget tablets cost far less than budget e-readers
Better for heavily-formatted documents: Easier reading of magazines, PDFs and other complex documents due to pinch zooming, fluid scrolling, and other advanced features
Multiple user profiles: Most Android tablets allow you to easily switch between multiple users.
Multiple book stores and reading apps: Use any Android/iOS reading app or book store app to find your favorite reads.
Reflective screen: Not ideal for reading in bright sunlight
Brighter backlight: In dim or dark environments -- such as reading in bed -- tablet displays can cause eyestrain
Battery life: Will likely need daily charging if you use your tablet often
Weight: While most tablets are still portable, they might be hard to hold for hours of reading
5 Questions to Help Determine the Right Device for You
Do you want to do more with your device than read?
If so, then you want a tablet. While e-readers are great at what they do, they’re specialized devices. While some might offer a few bonus features -- such as a browser or basic word games -- these are nothing like what you’ll find on an Android tablet or iPad.
If not, then an e-reader is likely a good choice. It does exactly what you want it to do with no distractions, offers a crisp reading experience, and will stay charged for weeks at a time so your book is always available.
Do you plan to read for hours?
If so, you probably want an e-reader. They’re easier on the eyes, have longer battery life, and their lightweight design makes it easier to hold for extended periods.
If not, a tablet will allow you to not only read but check email, play games, surf the web, or stream your favorite movies and TV shows. Not to mention, a budget-friendly tablet is cheaper than an entry-level e-reader.
Do you need a color display?
If you love to read comics, magazines, or textbooks with lots of color images, tables, and other complex formatting, the performance and color display of a tablet are likely worth the added weight and reduced battery life.
If not, an e-reader probably has your reading needs covered.
Do you want to have easy access to books from multiple sources?
If so, a tablet is often more flexible. You can load up an app from your favorite bookstore or find a reading app capable of reading additional formats so it’s always easy to find the best deals and enjoy a massive selection of books.
While you can do much of this on an e-reader, it often requires converting ebook files to a format compatible with your reader. And, since some formats are protected by DRM, you might not be able to use files from other popular stores -- such as Amazon -- so an e-reader is less than ideal.
Do you want to share your device with others?
If you want to share your device with others and keep your apps, books, or other information private you have two choices -- a Kindle e-reader or an Android tablet. Both offer various levels of multiple profile support.
Most other e-readers and Apple’s popular iPad tablets do not offer multiple user profiles.
When it comes to choosing between an e-reader and a tablet, it’s mostly about what you intend to do with your device.
If you’re only planning to read books with simple formatting, an e-reader offers the most book-like experience. Its lightweight design makes it both easy to hold and ultra portable while its long-lasting battery will keep you reading long into the night.
Tablets are more like larger smartphones. So if you’re looking for a multitasking mobile device, they’re a solid option. But the screens aren’t ideal for reading at night or outdoors and battery life is much lower.
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