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 read books, while tablets served as powerfully portable mini-computers. Fast forward to the present, and the lines have blurred: 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 one is right for you? Let’s take a look.

Are you primarily a reader?

eReaders were created — and are still mostly intended — to be book substitutes. Most feature black & white screens and use E Ink®, which looks like real text on paper and prevents 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.

Or do you want to do more?

On the other hand, tablets, with their web-based functionality, have plenty of relevance for business use, while making newspaper and magazine reading 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 Kindle, a line of products that includes both basic eReaders and more advanced tablets, like the Kindle Fire HD 6.) 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, view presentations and webinars, monitor your business’s marketing activities and more, you’ll need a tablet.

Need 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.

Spend lots of time outdoors?

Tablet manufacturers like to brag about their screens, and for good reason. Compared with eReader screens, tablets are much brighter because they feature a 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.

Research is key.

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.