E-Reader or Tablet – Which should you buy?

When eBook readers first appeared, they were revolutionary in what they could do.

Over the last few years, however, tablets have become cheaper and cheaper. Additionally, tablets can do many things that e-readers cannot and with apps for reading, a tablet can be used as an e-reader.

The features on tablets are much better than on e-readers with even the most basic tablet having changeable background colors, music, videos, and many other features that e-readers simply lack.

Kindle Back

Back side of the Kindle e-reader

With all of the features on a tablet, why would anyone still want to use an eBook reader?

Please note that in this article, we are only considering the most popular eBook readers – Kindles, Nooks, and Kobo – and the most popular tablets on the market. Although there are a few e-readers that are in color and some that do run Android OS, they have limitations – including limited color range, incompatibility with certain apps or expensive price – that make them a less than popular choice.


What eBook Readers cannot do…

Although they may look similar, there are some fundamental differences between tablets and e-readers. If you need any of the following features, tablets are the way to go. None of the major e-readers on the market have these features:

  • Games and Apps. Although some e-readers support simple games and apps, these have been designed specifically for the e-reader. They aren’t compatible with android/iOS and apps that are designed for those systems are not compatible with your e-reader. Most e-reader apps are simple and functional – calculators, note taking apps, simple games, etc. – and do not include apps like Skype, Evernote, etc. Games available for e-readers are simple, as well, and you won’t find Minecraft, Candy Crush, Crossy Road or any of the other more sophisticated games on an e-reader.
  • Fast Tactile Responsiveness.  Turning pages in e-readers are in general slower than that of tablets.
  • Web Surfing. Though some e-readers like the Kindles have experimental browser built-in, their performance is sluggish and they are not full featured browser. If you really want to enjoy surfing the web, go for a tablet.
  • Color Screens. The technology of eBook readers means that the majority of them use ‘black’ ink on white ‘paper.’ The technology for making colored E Ink is still immature.
  • Large Screen. All popular e-readers in the market have a screen of around six inch, which is good for reading paperbacks and for portability. Tablets will give you a wider range of choices, if you need a larger screen.
  • Video. eBook readers are not designed to play or stream movies or any video.
  • Audio. Although the older Kindles had an experimental MP3 player and text-to-speech, they have been left off of later Kindle versions. If you want to listen to music or audiobooks, a tablet is a better investment.
  • Bells and Whistles. The fancy features that are big selling points on tablets – like cameras, a compass for telling direction, GPS connectivity and others – are simply unnecessary on an e-reader and left off.

If these are the features that you are interested in, get a tablet. It is really that simple.


What Tablets cannot do…

The reverse side of that coin, however, gives e-readers some major advantages over tablets in very specific areas. Here are the things you will not find on Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Amazon Fire tablets or other popular tablet choices:

  • Long Battery life. This is one of the major advantages of e-readers over tablets. Tablets are good for a few hours of use before you have to recharge them. The battery life of e-readers, on the other hand, can usually double or even quadruple to that of the tablets. For instance, if you use a Kindle Paperwhite e-reader for half an hour a day, turn the Wi-Fi off and set the light at 10, it can last for 6 weeks.
  • Easy on the eye. Reading on a LCD screen is more tiring on the eyes than reading on an E Ink reader. Using an e-reader is much more like reading a paperback book, while using a tablet is more like using a computer.
  • Reading under Sunlight. The non-glare screens allow the e-reader to be used in direct lighting situations – such as outside in the sun – where glare from a tablet’s screen will make reading very difficult. The new generation of e-readers also have built-in lights that allow them to be used in situations where the older ones could not be. 
  • Light Weight. Even the smallest of the popular tablets is a lot heavier than the popular e-reader such as Kindle Paperwhite. The difference that the weight makes is a large factor in comfort and convenience. One handed reading is much easier on the e-readers than on the tablets, for example.
  • Security. The newer e-reader models usually have parental controls feature which enable you to restrict the content your kid can view on the device. There are also less exploitable security issues with an e-reader than with a tablet.

So, for what they do, e-readers are better at it than a multi-purpose device like a tablet.


What eBook Readers are Good for…

Since eBook readers have just one major use, the controls, screen, lighting and every other factor can be optimized to make that one use a more enjoyable and productive activity than on a multi-purpose device like a tablet where the reading function has to share resources and design with other uses.

The optimization process means that you can read longer on an e-reader – because of battery life, convenience and a lessening of eye strain than you can with a multipurpose tablet.

For reading, you cannot beat a dedicated e-reader.


What Tablets are Good for…

There is a reason that tablet popularity is sky-high, right now. One of the main advantages to an e-reader is its focus on doing one job really well. A tablet, on the other hand, can do many, many jobs almost as well. Playing games, running apps, watching movies and TV, listening to music, taking and sharing photos, surfing the web, checking in with social media and many other things can all be done from a single device.

And, while eBook readers are the best for reading paperbacks and regular books, there are times that reading is easier on a tablet than on an e-reader. Magazines and comics, newspapers, books with graphics and documents in MS Office or PDF format can all be read and manipulated easier on a tablet than on an e-reader. Handling documents, doing homework, taking long notes or creating long ‘to-do’ lists are also easier on a tablet.

Tablets have the advantage of being, in simplistic ways, a computer alternative that is much more portable than any computer. No one will ever consider an e-reader of being a computer alternative.


Final Decision – Tablet or eBook Reader?

This article has been leading you to make a decision. Which is the better choice for you? A tablet or an eBook reader? However, there is a third alternative and with the price drops over the last couple of years, it is now affordable to get both an eBook reader and an tablet, both linked to your Amazon account for less than the cost of many competitor’s tablets. For example, a Fire 7 tablet and a Kindle Paperwhite eBook reader can be purchased for much less than an Apple iPad mini 4.


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