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eReader vs. Tablet: Which Mobile Device Is Right for You?

It wasn’t long ago that eReaders did little more than allow users to download and, yes, read books, while tablets took on more complicated tasks, essentially functioning like mini-computers. Flash forward a couple of years, and the lines have blurred: Now some eReaders can handle more than just reading, and new tablets are trying to outdo eReaders in how they display books. It’s no wonder potential buyers are confused about which of the two devices they should purchase.

So which product is right for you? Let’s take a quick look at how they differ and why you might choose one device over the other.

Primarily an Avid Reader, or Do You Want to Do More Than Read?

EReaders were created — and are still mostly intended — to be book substitutes. Most of them feature black & white screens and use E Ink®, which looks like real text on paper and prevents issues like glare. Yes, some eReaders have color screens, but in general, the people who use these devices are people whose reading habits lean more toward text-based materials.

On the other hand, tablets, with their Web-based functionality, make reading things like newspapers and magazines more enjoyable. Their rapid refresh rate allows for easy, clean integration of interactive content, such as videos, additional images and Web-based archives, and lets you jump around from article to article at your own pace.

While some eReaders allow users to do more than just read, the more functionality an eReader has, the less it’s actually considered an eReader. (For example, consider the Amazon Kindle, a line of products that includes both basic eReaders and more advanced tablets, like the HDX.) And while eReaders do have Wi-Fi connectivity, it’s so you can download new reading material, not browse the Web.

If you’re looking to just read books and periodicals as is, then an eReader is for you. However, if you’re also looking to check your email, browse the Internet, watch movies and TV shows, entertain your children, monitor your business’s marketing activities, balance your bank account and more, then there’s no doubt you need a tablet. Think of it this way: eReaders are purely leisure devices, while tablets can be used for professional purposes, too.

You Want Something Small

In general, tablets range in size from 7” to 12” and weigh half a pound or more. By contrast, eReaders have 6” screens and weigh 6 ounces or less, which, especially compared with some hardcover books, is much lighter.

One of the advantages of a smaller device with less functionality is longer battery life. The Kindle Paperwhite, for example, is an eReader that lets you read for up to eight weeks on a single charge (assuming wireless is off and you’re reading for half an hour each day). A tablet typically needs a recharge after a few hours of use.

You Spend Lots of Time Outdoors

Tablet manufacturers like to brag about how great their screens are, and for good reason. Compared with eReader screens, tablets are much brighter because they feature an LCD screen that uses a light source placed behind the image. In other words, when you look at a tablet screen, you’re essentially looking directly into the source of light. That’s great if you want to read in the dark or in an area with low light, but it's not so good if you’re sitting in bright sunlight.

The E Ink technology used by eReaders allows you to read on a screen that’s not backlit. When you look at a page on an eReader that uses E Ink, it looks almost exactly like a page from a book. That means it looks great in bright sunlight, and it doesn't strain your eyes as much as staring at a tablet for long periods of time might.

Do Some Research

You can’t go wrong, regardless of whether you go with a tablet or an eReader. And in fact, some people choose both and use one or the other in different situations. But if you’re going to buy one or the other, it’s a good idea to do your research to know how the two products compare.

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