Tablet or e-reader? These 12 questions will help you choose
Which device is better suited to read ebooks? Answer these 12 simple questions below, and you’ll better know your e-reading preferences.
The prices of e-readers are constantly going down. Most popular ones, Kindle from Amazon and Nook from Barnes & Noble, cost below $100. Many users feel that this is a fair price for a device that lets read and manage electronic books.
On the other side, e-readers are single-purpose devices. Some of them offer extra features like web browsing, but you should be really careful about it. E-readers have technical limitations (like e-paper screen), and they are not meant to give anything more than sheer pleasure of reading.
Tablets are more expensive than e-readers, but they are also more versatile. You can use them for other purposes, like emails, social media, web browsing, video, games. They will also let you read ebooks that are enhanced with images, videos or interactive elements.
Usually, when someone is looking for a device, first thing she or he does is to find out what tech reviewers think.
Well, my advice is: don’t rely on experts. They will only tell you whether the new generation Kobo is a 3 or 5-star e-reader, but they won’t help you recognise your very own e-reading preferences.
Answer the questions below, and you may realize that the decision on what is better, tablet or e-reader, came easier than you’d thought.
Reading ebooks – tablet or e-reader?
1. How often do I read books?
2. Is reading in color important for me?
3. What kind of books do I mostly read?
A. Text-only (fiction)
B. Text with pictures and/or graphics (guides, cookbooks, textbooks)
4. Do I want to read enhanced ebooks?
5. How long am I reading a book non-stop?
A. More than an hour
B. Less than an hour
6. Am I concerned about eye strain LCD screens cause?
7. Will the device be used by other members of my family?
8. Will I use this device to read books to my children?
9. Do I want to have constant access to the web?
10. Do I expect the device to help me focus on reading?
11. What other functions do I want to have?
A. Music, text-to-speech
B. Music, text-to-speech, videos, games, internet, mail
12. Do I want to have easy access to different ebookstores?
A. No, one ebookstore is enough
B. Yes, I want to download/buy ebooks from different sources
• • •
If you’ve chosen answer “A” more than 6 times, you’ll feel better with an e-reader. It’s a great device to help you focus on reading for long hours.
More than 6 picks for “B” means, that you will prefer a tablet. It’s a versatile device with a full multimedia support, which can be used by all members of your family for different purposes.
If you choose answer “A”, that means buying an e-reader is a fully justified decision.
The most popular rationale for buying a dedicated e-reading device is trying to calculate how many books one reads per year and how much can be saved by buying an ebook version instead of print.
I think that you don’t really have to cross the line, let’s say to save $80 on ebooks, to compensate the cost of e-reader. What is really important is that the device will be used heavily.
A most common differentiation between e-readers and tablets is the display they have. E-readers have e-paper screen that doesn’t need a back light to produce a visible image. Black-and-white is the standard for e-paper.
There are already color e-readers on the market, but they will never be as good as tablets with LCD screens. Color is a part of another world, where action rules. E-paper screens are not meant for active usage – their refresh rate is too low.
Because of a fact that e-paper is black-and-white, and playing interactive elements is impossible, e-readers are ideal for one kind of books: fiction.
Non-fiction titles, cookbooks, travel books, or textbooks, where you will most probably work with text (note-taking, bookmarks, highlights) are much better suited for tablets.
For me, a better distinction between an e-reader and tablet is a support of enhanced ebooks.
In enhanced ebooks you can find audio and video files embedded. You can play animations, or use, sometimes very advanced, interactive elements, like maps or charts. E-readers don’t support enhanced ebooks, tablets do.
What’s more important, with tablets you can access many ebooks that are sold as separate book applications, naming only a wonderful Alice for the iPad.
This question may look irrelevant, but in times of the web and social media, the point is to define how distracted you are and how much focused you want to be.
If you read for long hours, and if you want to totally forget about the outside world, choose an e-reader. This comes very closely with a next question.
Eye strain is a serious problem. Many people’s job is about using computers. Staring for 8 hours a day at an LCD screen is not good for the eyes and may cause eye strain. It’s because LCD screens produce the image by using a light source placed behind. In other words, you are looking into the source of light.
If it doesn’t bother you to use the same kind of screen in a device that is mostly devoted to reading, you can choose a tablet. Now, go back to question 5 for a moment: if you want to read for long hours, being not exposed to back light is a better idea. Choose an e-reader, instead.
This is a very important question. Mobile devices are a family decision, not personal one any more. Family members, even if they all want a device to read, may want to consume ebooks in different forms.
Tablets are better suited to serve different needs. You can download to them several e-reading applications. This might be a way to separate personal ebook libraries. An e-reader, however, is usually connected with a single account from an associated ebookstore. That means all family members would have access to the same library.
A tablet is the only choice, if you want to read ebooks to your kids. It doesn’t only let enjoy full-color books, but opens a whole new world of interactive children’s books.
Some people want to escape with a book. Other people simply can’t afford it.
If you need to have a constant access to social media, or if you are reading a non-fiction book and want to have a deeper reference from the web, or if you simply write down notes at the time of reading, you should go for a tablet.
Obviously, at a basic level, it’s a question of how a device connects to the web. The standard is a WiFi, for both tablets and e-readers. But equally important is how easy it is to use the web. It’s not easy on an e-reader.
This is related to question 5. You need to focus, if you want to read for long hours. Tablets offer a lot of features, sometimes way too many. For a book lover this may create too many distractions. Push notifications coming all the time when what you most want is to fully escape with a book. In fact, with tablets there is no real chance to get offline and focus on reading.
You can start reading your own preferences from a basic need: I want to a device to read. Now, start from that point and try to think what other features you’d like to have in a device. You’ll realize at some point that an e-reader is not enough.
As I already wrote for question 7, family members would want to have access to different sources of ebooks. But you’d also personally want to buy a book in Kindle Store, but also a new book app in the Apple’s iTunes Store.
When you choose a tablet, you will be able to install e-reading applications from competing ebookstores: Kindle, Nook, Kobo. It’s also possible on an e-reader, but it needs an extra effort in bringing all ebooks found on the web to the DRM-free file that is supported by your e-reader.
• • •
I hope the questionnaire helped you get closer to a final decision on which device will fit your needs better. Please let me know what do you think about the questionnaire and how could we improve it.
Check also other posts with ebook tips:
- Why Bookerly and Literata are great for reading ebooks
- JAVOedge offers a universal e-reader case in over 50 colors and designs
- 8 Google search tips for book lovers
- Kindle ebook exclusives – tips and facts you need to know
- 7 reasons why trying ebooks should be one of your New Year resolutions
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