E-Reader or Tablet?

Which is best for you?

E-Readers vs Tablet Computers

E-Reader or Tablet Computer?

It’s hardly surprising that many people get tablet computers and e-readers mixed up. After all, you can use your tablet computer to read e-books if you like (among other things) – and companies like Amazon and Barnes and Noble market both e-readers and tablet computers under the same brand name – the Kindle and the Nook respectively.

However, the fact of the matter is that both these devices are very different – for the moment at least. They may well converge at some point in future, but today, e-readers and tablets are different animals.

Neither is it an “either/or” choice. You can decide to have one of each if you wish. It just depends upon your particular needs and, to some extent, on your budget.

E-Readers v Tablets In A Nutshell

Here’s the short version of the difference between e-readers and tablet computers. See if it helps you to make up your mind as to which one is right for you.

E-Reader Tablet Computer
  • E-ink technology display.
  • Monochrome.
  • Battery life measured in weeks.
  • E-ink technology display is best for reading for long periods. No eye strain.
  • Clunky web browsing.
  • No video playback.
  • Light and portable (8 ounces or less is typical).
  • Relatively cheap (plenty available for less than $ 100)

Made your mind up already? Check out this post for details of the best e-readers.

  • Back-lit LCD display.
  • Color.
  • Battery life measured in hours.
  • Not ideal for prolonged reading sessions – back-lit screen may cause eye strain.
  • Ideal for browsing.
  • Great video playback.
  • Still portable but heavier (e.g. iPad – 24 ounces).
  • Currently somewhat pricey (but prices are falling fast).

Know what you want? Check out details of the top tablet computers.

View e-readers on Amazon or tablet computers on Amazon.

The main differences between e-readers and tablet computers are driven by the display technology. This leads to significant variances in some of the important features – such as battery life and price. If you’re in the market for a new portable electronic device, and you still can’t decide which one is right for you, then check out the information below.

Hopefully, this will help you to decide which device is right for you – or maybe it will just help you decide which one to buy first!

And please, if you have experience of using either of these devices, feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts. You might help other readers to make the right decision for them (thanks in advance).


What They’re Good At:

At the risk of stating the obvious, e-readers are great if what you mainly want to do is read e-books.

This is due to their special e-ink technology displays. If you haven’t used an e-ink display yet, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Reading on an e-ink screen is as near as makes no difference to reading text printed on paper. Because e-ink displays are not backlit, you will get less eye strain than when reading on either a notebook or laptop computer, both of which use backlit screens.

The other benefit derived from e-ink displays is the fact that they only draw power when the page is being updated. That means that e-readers can go for weeks between battery charges (rather than hours like a tablet computer).

E-readers are also small and compact. You can carry a collection of hundreds, or thousands, of books around with you in a gadget that is smaller and lighter than the average paperback book.

Finally, e-readers are good value for money. They (generally) cost a lot less than tablet computers and you can choose from millions of out-of-copyright e-books to download for free. Make your reader pay for itself if you like.

What They’re Not So Good At:

It’s all about the display again. As good as e-ink displays are for reading on, they have a slow refresh rate. That makes them unsuitable for watching video on.

They are also, at the moment, monochrome only. That may change in the (fairly) near future, but right now, you’re limited to black and white with e-ink.

Some e-readers have web browsing facilities, but given that they can’t play video and are monochrome only, it’s a somewhat clunky experience at best. Generally speaking, those e-readers that have web browsing capabilities are probably best suited to choosing and downloading new books to read and maybe sending the odd e-mail when your other gadgets are out of juice, on the blink or left lying somewhere else.

Tablet Computers

What’s Good About Them

Tablet computers are, in very broad terms, notebook computers with a touch screen and no keyboard (although you can add these on if you like). They are great if you want to browse the net when you’re out and about. Most have pretty decent screens which make video playback not just possible, but enjoyable.

You can use a tablet computer for pretty much anything that you might want to do on either a desktop or a notebook computer, with the caveat that anything which requires extensive typing will be somewhat painful unless you bolt a keyboard on.

There are plenty of apps for tablet computers and they should provide you with plenty of entertainment when you’re on the go.

What’s Less Good About Them

Those lovely, high definition, video playing, web browsing touch screen displays may look great – but they use a lot of juice. You’ll be lucky to get 10 hours between battery charges – although that does depend upon what you run on them (video playback might be more power hungry than browsing for example).

Whilst the backlit, LCD screens found on most tablets are great for video and web browsing, they are less satisfactory for reading e-books on. They are fine if you’re just going to read for a short time, but prolonged reading might lead to eye strain and even headaches for some people. It’s a bit like reading a book with someone shining a light in your eyes when you think about it.

The touch screens used by most tablets also tend to be more reflective and will not be good for reading in bright sunlight or under certain types of artificial light. Whether that’s a big problem for you or not will depend upon how often you might feel the need to read in such conditions of course.
Finally, all of that computing power and color screen loveliness doesn’t come cheap. Tablet computers tend to cost quite a bit more than e-readers, although the new range of 7″ tablets does seem to be priced quite a bit cheaper than larger tablets.

So Which Should You Choose?

Choose An E-Reader If:

  • You expect to read books, magazines and newspapers that don’t have a lot of graphical content.
  • You expect to read for long periods of time.
  • Long battery life between charges is important to you.
  • You have some other means of browsing the web (or you don’t intend to do this very often).
  • You don’t want to spend a large amount of money on what is, when all’s said and done, a secondary gadget.

Get Yourself A Tablet Computer If:

  • You expect to be surfing the web and/or playing video a lot.
  • You only intend to read for short periods at a time.
  • You want to read magazines or books which rely heavily on color and/or graphics to get their message across.
  • You don’t mind charging your device often – or even using it when connected to the mains.
  • You aren’t on a tight budget and are happy to spend a fairly large amount on a tablet.

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  • Kristen S. says:

    Thank you! This website just helped me make up my mind on which device to get!

  • Yvette says:

    This was very informative… Thank you for this article it helped me a lot! E-Reader it is!!! :-)

  • Marvin says:

    Thanks for the informative comparison.

  • Surendra Joshi says:

    Thank you very much. very informative.

  • Nancy Hardin says:

    I just recently bought a Kindle Fire 7 HD. I love it on the days when I have to sit in a doctor’s office waiting my turn! HA! I use a desktop computer at home, finding it more convenient for my writing. And the best part of my recent purchase, was that it was a gift of an Amazon gift card from my uncle. A good deal all the way around. I appreciate the pros and cons on the various devices here. Good work and thanks.

    • admin says:

      Hi Nancy – Glad to hear you’re enjoying your Fire HD. I take my Kindle with me everywhere these days (including the doctor’s surgery).

  • Cynthia says:

    I have actually never owned a tablet, but have often thought I would like to have one. I have wondered if my wrist / arm would get tired from holding one up to see it. I do own a Kindle and I love it. Of course, as you indicated, I only use it for reading ebooks. I do find it lightweight enough that, unless I am literally falling asleep, I don’t have any trouble holding it up in front of my eyes for hours at a time.

    • admin says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Glad you enjoy your Kindle. It’s a good point about holding up a tablet computer – you really are best to use these with a stand/cover so that you don’t put too much strain on your wrists.

  • Robin says:

    I have a Kindle Fire hd 8.9. At this point it won’t charge. So if I decide to go with a Samsung tablet can I transfer my books over to the new tablet?

    • admin says:

      Hi Robin,

      Sorry to hear that your Kindle is acting up.

      If the books were bought from Amazon they will all be stored in your cloud drive. You can access them using the “Manage Your Content and Devices” link from within your Amazon account (find it at the bottom of most pages in fact).

      The Kindle for Android app can be downloaded free from Amazon and that should let you read them on your new Samsung.

      If the books weren’t bought from Amazon, but you put them onto your Kindle some other way, you’ll need to get them off onto a memory stick or upload them to the cloud so that you can access them with your new Samsung. Maybe you can do that with the power cable in – I assume that although it won’t charge it will work when connected to mains power?

      Best of luck.

  • george says:

    can I used ereader to down from public library

    • admin says:

      Yes, it is certainly possible to use e-readers to “borrow” books from public libraries.

      Which type of e-readers are supported and the selection of available books will vary from library to library – so you would need to check with the particular library in question.

  • khawaja bilal ahmad says:

    I have to buy kindle in Pakistan but amazon is not shipping kindle in Pakistan.
    Please start shipping kindle in Pakistan.

    • admin says:

      Hello Khawaja,

      I understand your frustration – but you might be better to make your comment on the Amazon website itself, I doubt if Jeff Bezos reads my little blog.

      Amazon has expanded its international shipping of the Kindle, among other things, greatly over the last few years. I do hope that you get your wish and they begin shipping Kindles to Pakistan in the near future.

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