E-reader or Tablet - Which Should You Choose?

by Thamisgith

E-readers and tablets have some functional overlap - but they are different devices. Which should you choose?

You can read e-books on e-readers or tablet computers, but that's where the similarity between the two devices ends. They are actually two very different devices - and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. Which one should you choose? Here are ten simple questions which will help you to decide one way or the other.

E-Readers And Tablet Computers - A Brief Intro

kindle fire tablet computerE-readers and tablet computers are often reviewed and compared as if they are the same type of device. There's certainly an overlap - they can both be used to read e-books - but apart from that they are very different devices.
E-readers use an e-ink technology screen, which is as close to reading text printed on paper as you can get. Once you have been reading on an e-reader for an hour or two you really will be unaware of it. Another benefit of e-ink screens is the fact that they require very little power. You can go for weeks on a single battery charge - so you won't run out of juice on a long journey leaving you with nothing to read.
On the other hand, e-ink displays are monochrome and have a slow refresh rate. Some e-readers have rudimentary web browsers, but it is a clunky experience at best. As far as watching video  or playing games goes, e-readers are pretty useless.
Tablet computers have lovely, color LCD touch screen displays - which makes them ideal for watching video, surfing the web and playing games. They can certainly be used for reading e-books, but because the screen is back-lit, it's a less enjoyable experience than reading on an ereader's e-ink display.
The color screen, whilst well suited for web browsing etc., is also power hungry. Going for a few hours between charges is about the best you can expect. Finally, tablets tend to be quite a bit more expensive than ereaders - although the price gap is closing quite a bit these days.
Each device has its own advantages and disadvantages - but which one should you choose? Here are 10 simple questions that you can ask yourself before deciding which one to buy. Hopefully these will be all that you need in order to decide which device is best for you.

10 Simple Questions To Help You Choose

How often, on average, do you read books?
A - Pretty much every day.
B - Every now and again.

What type of book do you tend to read?
A - Novels, fiction, history etc. - text based.
B - Books, magazines or articles which rely heavily on pictures, diagrams and other illustrations.

Does your reading material rely on color to get its message across?
A - No.
B - Yes.

How long, on average, do you tend to read without taking a break?
A - An hour or more.
B - Under an hour.

Does reading on a computer screen strain your eyes or give you headaches?
A - Yes.
B - Not a problem for me.

When reading, are you easily distracted?
A - Not really.
B - Yes, but I call it multi-tasking rather than distraction.

What do you want to do with your new electronic toy?
A - I just want to read.
B - I would like to surf the net, listen to music and play video games in addition to reading.

Where do you normally buy your books?
A - I tend to buy from the same place all the time.
B - I like to shop around.

How long a battery life are you looking for?
A - I would like a battery life of a few weeks.
B - A few hours between charges is fine for me.

How much are you willing to spend?
A - I'm looking for good value for money.
B - I'm happy to spend a little more money for extra features and functionality.


So Which Should You Choose?

If you answered mostly A's, then an e-reader is probably the best choice for you.

If you answered mostly B's, then you will probably be better off with a tablet computer.

If it was a fifty-fifty split, then you'll just have to buy one of each!

What's Your Preference?

E-Reader or Tablet Video Summary

Updated: 09/17/2017, Thamisgith
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frankbeswick on 10/18/2023

I use a tablet.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/18/2023

Ereaders appeal to me as an avid reader even as tablets appeal to my music- and video-appreciative aspects.

The questions look helpful even as I wonder, why would the answers "A - I tend to buy from the same place all the time" and "B - I like to shop around" respectively tell one to tend toward a reader and a tablet?

Thamisgith on 07/27/2013

Hi Marciag - tablets are definitely the more versatile of the two. Have fun with your new iPad!

marciag on 07/27/2013

First I was looking at the Sony latest eReader, but then I decided to go for an iPad, and never looked back. It's just so much more you can do with a tablet compared to a simple eBook reader.

Thamisgith on 07/02/2013

Hi Digby - I can't remember the last time I read a "real" book. I know a lot of people prefer them - but they just seem big, heavy and clumsy to me now.

Digby_Adams on 07/01/2013

I love my Paperwhite Kindle reader. I haven't read a traditional book in several years. I love adjusting the type size. The reader is so light. I just love it.

Thamisgith on 06/07/2013

Katie - thanks for stopping by. We now have 3 Kindle Fires in our house - they've all been fine. Sorry to hear that you had a problem with yours - at least you got it sorted out in time!

Thamisgith on 06/07/2013

Tolovaj - I confess to having one of each myself. I'm just a gadget geek at heart!

katiem2 on 06/06/2013

What a great review. I appreciate the different aspects of each reader as I've only owned and used the Kindle Fire, which I love, although there was an issue with the charging port to which they resolved by replacing the device. BUT I never like going through that process of sending back an faulty device and if not done so within 30 days you get charged for it.... NOT good at all.

Tolovaj on 06/04/2013

Being pretty much multitasking myself these days, I suppose I need both. It is great to see prices are becoming more and more affordable. Thanks for the set of questions. They were not only useful but fun too,

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