There are no doubts about it – ebooks are quickly overtaking the printing industry. They come with a series of benefits over printed books and tend to improve with every new year. Luckily, ebooks can be read on pretty much any device. You can read an ebook on a tablet, smartphone, laptop, computer or ereader.
Computers are a bit too chunky and not portable – not the perfect position to read. Laptops might be portable, but they are still large and bulky. On the other hand, smartphones are a bit too small, so you would have to struggle with reading. It is still doable though, yet most people would choose between tablets and ebook readers.
Which one is better then? At a first glance, they look similar in size, design and specifications. Differences are a bit blurred and the truth is you can do similar things on both. Obviously, there are a few key differences that you should be aware of. So, how do you make the best decision and what makes the difference in your reading experience?
Most ereaders come with a standard 7 inch screen. There are a few slight differences from one manufacturer to another, but the biggest brands stick to this standard. If you are not sure how much it means, just think about an old fashioned printed book. It is about that size.
Of course, books today (and even the old fashioned ones) come in different sizes, yet there is a standard. If you are not sure, just measure 7 inches with a ruler. Sizes are given in diagonals. Draw a 7 inch line and a rectangular shape around its corners to get an idea.
The size is suitable for most readers. Plus, you have the option to zoom in if the font is too small. But then, you would also have to scroll left and right for each line, which would be a little inconvenient. Think about the option to have an automatically rotating screen, so you could read in a landscape mode too.
On the other hand, tablets range in sizes. Some of them carry the same specifications as ebook readers – 7 inches. Some others are larger. Top manufacturers have decided to take the large path, so you will find the market dominated by 10 inch displays.
Unsure how much it means? It is roughly the size of a modern middle sized magazine – not the large A4 ones. The main benefit? A bigger screen provides more information on one page, but you can also set the font larger without too much hassle.
Software specifications are similar, but they also vary. For example, the most popular ebook readers on the market run on proprietary operating systems and softwares. Some of them are independently developed, while others represent unique versions of Android with specific limitations.
An ereader is quite limited in terms of applications. You are mostly limited to reading related applications. Some of the cheapest models out there do not even allow any external downloads. The only things you can download are ebooks.
Tablets are a bit more diversified. The models from Apple obviously run on the popular iOS. They carry the same specifications as the smartphones and laptops. On the other hand, other big manufacturers rely on Android.
At this point, tablets are better than ereaders because they come with more functionality. They are flexible and allow multiple downloads. There are thousands of applications at your disposal, from games and reading applications to books and simulators.
Storage is often overlooked and for a good reason. These days, you got so much space that you can fit thousands of ebooks on your device. You are less likely to go that far, so for this reason, the storage space is only important for a limited category of users.
Some of the best ereaders come with 8GB of storage space – others feature less than that. Try to ignore the specifications regarding how many ebooks you can store. If a manufacturer claims on 5,000 ebooks, chances are you can store less because they calculate based on small ebooks with few pages only.
Tablets tend to provide more storage space – 16GB to 64GB on average. It is easy to tell why. You can download other things too and not just ebooks. If you plan to download some movies, videos and songs too, you are less likely to fill it up so quickly.
If you think storage space could be an issue at some point, opt for a device that comes with a memory card slot. This way, you can always expand the memory by purchasing an inexpensive memory card and fitting it in.
Connectivity is a must. After all, how do you plan to download ebooks? Sure, 10 years ago, you could download them on your computer and transfer them to your ereader through a memory card. But times have changed, so you want convenience.
Luckily, both ereaders and tablets come with WiFi connections. Just turn the WiFi on (you can keep it off when not in use to preserve battery) and connect to a local network. You can choose different sources for your ebooks too.
Tablets may also bring in a mobile Internet connection. You would have to purchase it separately. It works like a contract – you pay on a monthly basis and you have a specific amount of data. Prices vary from one provider to another.
Some tablets have slots for sim cards as well. Basically, you can fit your sim card in and use the tablet as a smartphone. Of course, it is inconvenient to talk on a tablet due to its size. But then, it becomes the cheaper option to use mobile Internet when in need. After all, downloading a few ebooks will barely use a few MB of data. Inconvenience is the only drawback – taking the sim card out of your phone, putting it into the tablet and then moving it back.
Now that you are aware of the main differences between tablets and ebook readers, here are a few questions to guide you in the right direction.
Since they are quite similar in looks, it is not such a big difference between tablets and ereaders. However, they do feel different when you hold them for other considerations than size or screen resolution. For instance, if you enjoy doing other things while reading (such as having a drink, enjoying some crisps or holding a bar in the subway), ereaders represent a better option. They are at least a few ounces lighter, so you can easily hold them in one hand.
Believe it or not, some high end tablets can be two times heavier than an average ereader. Apple’s products seem to be heavier than other products featuring Android.
By comparison, print books vary widely in weight. Some novels weigh less than 10 ounces, while a heavy book can exceed a couple of pounds.
Both ebook readers and tablets come with touchscreen capabilities – some screens are better than others. To some people, there are literally no differences. They all look the same and provide the same experience. Plus, if there is too much or too little brightness, you can always adjust it.
You would have to try different products to determine any differences. If you are the picky type who can observe tiny details, you might notice that some ebook readers feature too much glare in their screens. Tablets may also have such flaws, only they do not seem so obvious.
Tablets generally have higher resolutions and can go up to 1024×768 pixels, while some ereaders barely go to 1024×600 pixels. The difference is insignificant though. Simply put, it is a matter of personal preferences.
The best way to determine this issue is going to a local store and checking out multiple products. You can also borrow such gadgets from friends and use them for a few days to figure whether screen glare could be a problem.
You can read ebooks on both ereaders and tablets. The question is – what else do you want such a gadget for? Ereaders are obviously limited to ebooks. There are no bells and whistles. If this is your one and only reason to buy such a device, you can do with an ereader. Since it does not have too many features, it is obviously cheaper than a tablet.
Tablets are more diversified. You can take pictures and shoot videos, as you have cameras and microphones. Feel free to download thousands of applications, regardless of what you are looking for. Apart from reading books, you can also entertain yourself with games or shows, browse the web and even use them for work.
Your actual necessities dictate the right product for you. It is all about the access to the Internet and data. From this point of view, those who do not travel too much, but will do most of the reading and movie playing at home, a classic WiFi connection is more than enough. You can also save movies and music on your gadget and play it later, while you are away.
There is another category though – the traveler. These people spend lots of time commuting and traveling. Most of their ebook reading goes in trains, hotel rooms or just a bench in the local park. If you are one of these people, you should consider a tablet that allows 3G connections. Even better, the 4G connectivity will give you greater speeds, but at the cost of your battery. It will drain it much faster.
If you are an avid reader and you cannot let one day pass without reading, this is your primary concern for such a device. At this point, an ereader might be a better option. Tablets can provide extra uses, but occasional uses do not make them worth. You can do similar things with your smartphone without spending a fortune for a tablet.
Everything you purchase comes down to this aspect – your available budget. From groceries to tablets and ereaders, you do not want to spend more than what you can afford. Even if you can afford a gadget anyway, it has to make sense to you and be worth the money.
Given their lack of features, ereaders are clearly cheaper than tablets. Some ereaders might cost more than two times less than a tablet. They have no other connectivity than WiFi, not to mention the ability to download applications, stream videos over the Internet and play music.
It is more important to determine what you need such a gadget for. If it is just for ebooks, the reader is ideal. If you are about to use it for a wide variety of other things, consider spending a little more. Think about the potential 3G or 4G connection that you might need, which will also add to the costs of a tablet.
Think about your reading habits. If you barely read a couple of books a year, chances are you do not need one. It is not a cost efficient option and will just add to your carbon footprint. If you read a few dozen books a year, it is definitely worth the investment.
As a short final conclusion, it is hard to tell which option is better – ebook readers or tablets. They both do the same thing, only tablets come with more features and higher costs. It is up to you to identify your necessities and assess your reading habits. From that point on, you can easily determine which option is better.
One thing is for sure though – no matter what you choose, you will find dozens of manufacturers and probably hundreds of products. It takes time to research the front runners, but it is worth it.
Often referred to as the ebook expert, Bob Burnham's reviews are easily reachable everywhere – blogs, online publications and magazines. He was featured in prestigious publications and he even gained a few rewards for his own ebooks. While constantly releasing new work, his main focus is on unbiased reviews of modern ebooks while pursuing his career as a literature professor. Over the past years, his name was linked with a plethora of bestsellers that were successfully reviewed over the Internet. more