The Difference Between eReaders and Tablets


It’s hardly surprising that many people get eReaders and tablets mixed up. After all, you can use your tablet to read ebooks if you like, and companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble market both eReaders and tablets under the same brand name. However, the fact of the matter is that both these devices are very different. And it’s neither an “either/or” choice: you can pick one, or 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.

eReaders like the Kindle Paperwhite (and older Kindle eReaders), Nook and Kobo, and tablets such as the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the Kindle Fire, are familiar devices in many of today’s households. Their unique designs, user-friendly interfaces, and practical applications have caught the interest of many consumers who are looking for new ways to enjoy their books and media. Although you’re able to read books on both eReaders and tablets, there are some distinct differences between the two. Your choice depends on your reading needs and budget.

eReaders came on the scene first, and were created specifically to read books, while tablets have a broader purpose and allow for greater functionality. An eReader, as its name suggests, is designed to facilitate the reading of electronic materials. They may generally allow some additional options such as word searches, definitions, and a limited selection of other features, but not much else. The biggest difference between the eReader and tablet is the type of screen they have. eReaders have E-Ink screens, while tablets have LCD screens. E-ink devices use matte screens, have less glare than their LCD counterpart, and are easier on the eyes. You can read eBooks for hours without any eyestrain or screen glare. This also means that they’ll have much lower resolutions than tablets, but it will look much closer to a printed page, especially the Kindle Paperwhite. If you are an avid reader, you may want to consider an e ink device like Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.

A tablet, on the other hand, can do everything that an eReader can do and much more. Beyond reading ebooks, tablets allow users to browse the Web, check and reply to email, play games, watch movies, stream TV, compose documents, share files, use social media, take photos, conduct video calls, and much more. All of this is done using apps (download software applications), and are generally operated via touchscreen, stylus, digital pen, detachable keyboard, or a combination of these options. Since tablets are backlit (which means that the display is created by shining lights at you), and have LCD screens, the colors are far crisper, and you can use the device at night without any problem.

eReaders were introduced to the public as early as 1998 with Sony’s Data Discman, however, they did not begin capturing the public’s attention until 2007, when Amazon premiered its first Kindle. Barnes & Noble soon followed suite with their Nook in 2009. Interesting note: Kobo began as Shortcovers, a cloud ereading service launched by the Canadian bookstore chain Indigo Books and Music in 2009, and was soon renamed Kobo by year’s end that was spun off into an independent company. (As of 2012, Kobo is owned by the Japanese ecommerce conglomerate Rakuten.) It was during this time when ebooks and eReaders were beginning to make significant strides in convenience, presentation, and marketing, as consumers sought more user-friendly way to enjoy their ebooks.

The introduction of Apple’s iPad in 2010, as well as the introduction of Apple’s iBooks app and iBooks Store, bridged the gap between eReaders and tablet computers. While the concept of an electronic information tablet had been around for decades, no such products were commercially produced until 2001, when Microsoft introduced their Microsoft Tablet PC. Despite its failing, their tablet brought an idea into reality that would blossom with the advent of Apple’s iPad. Other companies began developing their own versions of the tablet with varying levels of success, including the Samsung Galaxy in 2010, which has become one of the most popular Android-based tablets in the market. Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire in 2011, a tablet that features Amazon’s books and videos, while Barnes & Noble created its own Nook Tablet in 2011, with Kobo joining the fray in 2011 with its Kobo Vox. When users indicate a need to input data, a virtual keyboard appears on the tablet. Besides a virtual keyboard, which is touch sensitive and can be operated by touching the various letters and other symbols, some tablets can connect to a small or full-sized keyboard via a USB port or a wireless connection.

The market continues to witness ever-increasing competition between eReader and tablet creators as they work to lengthen battery life, improve user interfaces, increase the device’s capacity, and make browsing and interaction even faster.

The difference between eReaders and tablets really depends on your personal needs. eReaders are small and thin, they are about six inches, lighter than some paperback books, and are easily carried in a purse or in a pocket. Tablets boast a much larger screen size than most e-readers, typically about nine inches. The enhanced size of the screen is ideal for multitasking and enjoying media, but they are thicker and heavier due to the extra processing, data storage, and other functions that they perform. This increase in weight is a decrease in portability. Compared to a laptop, however, tablets are still much lighter and more portable, while offering many of the same functions that a laptop would provide. Because of these differences, eReaders generally cost less than tablets.

Another consideration: Are you a serious reader? Do you want a device that you can use to read books anywhere, in the sun or at night? Do you have a preference as to which vendor to purchase ebooks (Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo)? Get an eReader. The E-Ink screen is ideal for reading books and you’ll also have fewer distractions, as you won’t be tempted to leave the eBook app and check your email. But if you want a device that lets you read books sometimes, but also lets you browse websites, play games, then maybe you really want a tablet.

Like the above list of differences, at the end of the day, you have to decide what is more important to you. Enjoy your ebook and happy reading!

2LP BOOKSHOP does not provide customer service on how to install, upload or transfer books onto your tablets, cell phones and eReaders. We recommend that you consult with the customer service associated with your device if you require additional help.

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