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Back in late 2007, Amazon's Kindle eBook reader (eReader for short) kick-started a change to the way we read books forever. The days of buying print books are slowly fading as electronic renditions of leisure books, magazines and even textbooks become increasingly popular. Instead of carrying a bag of clunky books, you can carry one lightweight, rechargeable device that contains the exact same information (sometimes more) in a fraction of the space.

Shortly after the introduction of the Kindle and other various eReaders came tablets. The Apple iPad was the first high-end tablet on scene and baffled us with a relatively steep price tag. Now tablets are flooding the market and quickly turning into common household items … even essential business tools. Not only that, they are slowly becoming more affordable and more functional, too. More importantly, however, tablets have made many question the practicality of dedicated eReaders. I have talked to several eReader owners who wish they had bought a tablet instead. Likewise, I have spoken to tablet owners who still prefer (or would prefer) using a dedicated eReader for reading books. Covering some of the same ground, the two have been neck and neck, fighting for a foothold in the mobile electronics market. When it comes down to it, which should you buy? Are eReaders still worth buying?

Here are a few facts about tablets and eReaders that may help you in your decision:

Functionality

Generally, a person would buy an eReader for, well ... reading. (Right?) I cannot tell you how many eReader owners I have talked with that wish their eReader could do more. It is worth noting that eReaders are capable of more than just presenting eBooks in an easy to read fashion. Both Kindles and Nooks allow users to download and play games, browse the Internet (sort of) and more. But in my experience, it's more trouble than its worth. There are also eReaders that kind of fall into both categories like the Nook Color. It's an over-powered eReader that runs Android. As per usual, developers have taken it under their wing and it even has official support for CyanogenMod. I've tried this as well. I'm not a fan.

Tablets, on the other hand, straddle the line between keyboard-less computers and smartphones. They are great for consuming all sorts of media, playing games, browsing the Internet and they are even useful in the workplace. They can also be used for reading, albeit the display is not ideal for such.

Display

When you spend hours on end staring at a display reading, one of the biggest deciding factors can be the actual technology used in the display. Unlike the display on your PC or larger, more capable tablets, eReaders are typically equipped with a display composed of E Ink technology. The idea behind this is to make the display appear more like print than an actual display. An E Ink display does not show color, but instead provides a high contrast, grayscale image that strongly resembles that of a page from an actual book. An eReader's display can easily be viewed in bright sunlight and is great for reading outdoors or inside. That said, the display is not backlit, meaning a lamp or book light is required when reading in low lighting.

On the other end of the spectrum, a tablet's display greatly favors that of a laptop. It sports a backlit, colorful display that is great for a multitude of uses. But reading for an extended period of time is much more taxing on the eyes with such a bright display. Within some dedicated reader applications on tablets, there is the option to invert colors (black background with white or gray text), which makes reading in the dark without a lamp possible. But even with this inverted colors feature, my eyes still begin to burn after some time.

Portability

Size and weight on both technologies varies quite a bit. For a rough comparison, the Kindle (Wi-Fi) weighs in at a mere 8 ounces while the iPad and most other tablets weigh over 20 ounces. The Kindle itself comes in both 6-inch and 9.7-inch model, and the newest Nook sits comfortably between the two. Most tablets are between 7-inches and 10.1-inches. Thickness on the two also varies, but they're all generally under half an inch thick.

Battery life

Much like display technology, battery tech is worlds apart between eReaders and tablets. In short, an eReader's battery life is usually rated in weeks and months, whereas a tablet's is rated in hours (thanks to the display). Amazon rates the Kindle's battery at three weeks with the wireless radio on and up to three months with the radio off. The iPad, which is known for some of the best battery life in a tablet, is rated at 10 hours of browsing the Internet. The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is a tablet that is also known for its incredible battery life – with the aid of a keyboard dock. In my use with the Transformer, I consistently hit the 17 hour mark before having to plug it up.

Playing games, watching videos and streaming data on a tablet can easily alter the battery life on a day to day basis. With eReaders, however, battery life will still last nearly a month with or without being used.

Price range

Price is easily one of the most difficult deciding factors in the tablet's favor. You can get a high-end reader for just north of $100 while a decent tablet usually starts around $400. With such a large difference in price, it can be a rather tough decision to pull the trigger on a tablet over an eReader.

Which should you buy?

Considering every case is different, there is no cut and dry answer. Both are great devices and perform well within their own boundaries. That said, deciding between the two really shouldn't be a hard decision as the two devices are worlds apart in functionality. Tablets have definitely created a rather large hurdle for eReaders as they, too, offer a decent method of reading books and syncing your progress on the go. But eReaders are not dead just yet. Tablets may come with mountains of added functionality for a little over double the price, but reading for an extended time on a tablet can be taxing on the eyes. E Ink technology and price are the only two (albeit strong) arguments in the eReader's favor. If PixelQi's displays go mainstream, however, eReaders will face a daunting battle.

So what's the verdict? If you are looking for a device to strictly focus on reading, an eReader will suit your needs and your wallet better. A tablet is likely to create many distractions with addictive games and thousands of applications at your disposal. If you are looking for an all-around entertainment device, the low price tag of an eReader and "extra functionality" may be enticing, but an eReader should never be considered a tablet substitute. Shell out the extra cash for a tablet and reap the benefits.


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71 Reactions to this post

"Should you buy a tablet instead of an eReader?"


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RockinRose Wolf Donnell I have the 10.1 Archos and I have Kindle on it.
Lee-Ann Kerster the nook color is cool
Jason King An astounding, YES !!!! No matter what brand i think anyone in the market for a E-reader should consider a tablet, the E-readers ive seen are so locked down. when they updated the color nook what was the first thing my girl did ... download angry birds ...LOL you can do so more in addition to reading books on tablets plus there are so many book apps out there if one company doesn't have a book you want you can get it from another, so a tablet is the best move .... I can go on and on ... Personally i have NO use for a tablet i don't see the point i have a great laptop .. Apple basically invented this tablet market and made people want something they don't need, but hey to each his or her own and oh, I like real books ...
Dave McLellan As long as it's iPad!!! ;D
Jean Pacrim Windows 8 tab....wait!!!!!!
Facebook user Sorry. I meant e-reader is the best for reading not "dreaded". Darn that iPad auto correct!
Facebook user Both! I am writing this on an iPad and love it. We also buy used iPads so we see slot of them. But, reading a book on an dreaded with e-ink (not the color versions) is a much better experience. They weigh nothing and there is no glare. It is really tough to read an iPad outside if the sun hits it at all.
Samuel Pusateri Ereader (Kindle) for reading and tablet for consuming. Your eyes will thank you.
Zelda Richey I have a nook color and LOVE it. I read then when I'm tired of reading I get on facebook...I have wifi at home so its my "livingroom laptop". Can check email..ect.
David McNeill Nope tablets are absolutely no good as e-readers due to the backlight. Obviously tablets are far better and more flexible BUT for the highly specific purpose of book reader a Kindle (or whatever brand) and its e-ink destroy all tablets. No migraines, strained vision just a natural looking page.
Samie Ahmed Get a iOS devise
Ellie Bevan I got an ereader for xmas, which i adore, BUT it would handy if i could just nip online on it and check facebook, email etc etc. I have already requested an upgrade from santa, to a tablet, even if its just a 7", and then the ereader will be passed to my daughter!
Kuba Rdzak Yeap. With NVIDIA Kal-El :D
Angel Miguel Peguero well depends what u want ereader for readung obvious and a tablet when u don't want to use ur pc
Erman Guido Neither.
Ayoub Hage I take a tablet if ny head hurts
Fan OfDreaming I think that if u want more features then get the tablet,, but honestly there is no point with smartphones n laptops n the likes
Jason Vargas If you just like reading. Get a Kindle. If you like a little more. A NOOK is not worth it. Save a little more money or get a tablet on contract. Tablets are WAY better than eReaders but cost more. In my opinion. Well worth it
D.j. Eze Sorry for the typo
D.j. Eze Yeah but I went tablet crazy I and the Motorola xoom Acer a500 and the Samsung 10.1 tab
Nic Gruwell Tablet.. eReaders will be extinct in 2 years
Eric Kroh an eReader CAN be a tablet...just sideload android and you're done..Ereaders are becoming more of a cheaper version of an actual tablet
Jesus James Alvarez Toshiba Thrive all day
Alex Ochoa Yes.. Tablet all the way
Daniel Sasala Nook color all the way
Wil Kemp YES YES YES
Josh Billingsley @rilo. please explain to me how a tablet doesn't do full web browsing? I have the 10.1. It doesn't get any fuller. I play my facebook games right on it. Might want to know your facts before you post a stupid comment like that. And tablet all the way. Netflix, nook,ereader, games, music, TABBED BROWSING. DID I MENTION ADOBE FLASH.
Anh-Tuan Le Got a Kindle and a Gtab. Kindle great for reading. Grab great for gaming, email, and browsing. Both for about $430.
Jonathan Tsegaye If all you care about is reading then get a kindle. Its cheaper than a tablet and does the job better than a tablet. I personally think an e-reader is better for boom worms like me
Scott Squillante yes..definite
Franco Moje Thanks phone dog for your Galaxy Tab reviews :-)
Nicholas Getz iPad's are the Description of Horrible,crappy,plastic Apple Products.
Suzanne Shanks Depends on your budget. The Nook Color makes an awesome affordable Android tablet, as mentioned by someone above.
Stefan Chapman Thats a dumb ques :P
Ellsworth M. Rucker III Tablet!!! All the way, then download an e-reader.
Elena Rico Of course tablet is better, has more functions and you can download kindle, kobo, nook apps... I saw the Wintec Filemate tablet with android 2.2 for only $218 at Walmart (cheaper than Nook Color)
Ediben Yoonan hell yea
Phong Trinh an eReader is a total waste, one trick horse
Christina Elena Amaya a tablet could replace the need for a computer for many people and capable of being an ereader for more than one brand
Brian Blaauwbroek Why? Cannot even compare the two devices. A book lover will always side with the ereader
Dominic Jessup Reid It's most definitely a preference.
Rilo Leighton Reading from an LCD screen us just annoying. Even if I do adjust the brightness on my iPod Touch, I still strain my eyes. Some people just aren't big on reading, I guess. (or good with money) $500+ for a big touch screen that doesn't even do full web browsing? No thank you.
Steve Iams No, E-Ink > all for books
Brent Legendre i will always and forever read real paper books.
Chris Corliss It depends on your budget. If you have the money to spend on a tablet you would be crazy not to pick it up, otherwise go with the eReader
Gabe Karl if my focus is reading a good book/magazine etc I will lean on the eReader
Francis San Pedro If you can't afford a tablet, a nook color is the way to go. Even better if rooted.
John Cruz Yeah tablets do more stuff anyways
Stephanie Thornton I myself love my Nook Color... Its absolutely awesome.
Mohit Gadre A tablet would offer a lot more functionality than an e- reader so I would say go with a tablet.
Israel Leiva E-readers are lame. Kindel is crap.
Oscar Phillips Yeah I bought a tablet. Say no to the evil of the ereader!
Keshawn Robinson Ofcouurse, who would pick a ereader over ipad and all other tablets smh
Gregg Loss Wow that was a sloww as question !
Austin Stevens Duh, it would be pointless to have an e-reader when you download it on ur tablet anyway
Ishy Pas Always go with a tablet, you can do what an ereader can do PLUS more, and you can just buy the physical copy.
Alan Alty well i have a asus eee pad transformer, and sometimes read books, but theres nothing like the screen you get on the ereaders so no. ereaders have better screens that are much easier to read from for long periods of time.
Joel Diaz No brAiner. Just get a tablet. Use it as an eReader and then some. I thought by now eReader would be tapered out by the tablets.
Xtaindby Xtreeme Ximplicity Absolutely... So much more functionality...
Ferdinando Satria Perkasa Yes, you should.
Skye Villanueva Unless its a nook color! But myself I own a tablet
Elliott Rodriguez Uh... Duh??
Xavier A. Boyd Definitely
Ernie Navarro i would... and did...




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