Tuesday, September 27, 2011

eReader or Tablet?

While the idea of the tablet computer is nothing new, it didn’t gain mainstream awareness until the iPad. A precursor to the mainstream tablet computer was the eReader, which promised to revolutionize the way we buy books. Retailers like Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and the now defunct Borders all launched proprietary eReaders hoping to cannibalize electronic books sales.  And while Amazon clearly came out the winner with their Kindle eReader, the emergence of the multi-tasking tablet has cooled the eReader market.  So the question is, what should you buy—a Tablet or an eReader?

Devices such as the Nook and the Kindle have been highly successful. They both offer the customer a nice sized screen designed to display content in a visually appealing way. The shape and portability of both the tablet computer and the reader are similar and fit in the same market niche but there are some very important differences to consider before you make your purchase decision.

Apple iPad feature set can't
be matched by any eReader.

If you buy an eReader, millions of books are just a click (and a credit card charge) away!  For an avid reader, it’s a dream come true.  But what else can the Kindle and Nook do?  Not much.  Aside from a few newspapers subscriptions, you might be able to store photos and MP3s depending on your model, but that’s about it.  A tablet, on the other hand, can do a whole host of activities.  If you can think of it, there is probably an app for it.  Stream movies?  No problem.  Play games?  No problem.  Balance your checkbook?  No problem.  Compose emails…the list is endless.  Plus, you can download Kindle, Nook and other eReader apps for your tablet.  Winner: Tablet

eReaders like the Kindle are
well price alternatives to tablets.

At the end of the day, price matters and you certainly pay for the added functionality of the tablet. You can usually get an eReader for much less than a tablet device like an iPad. A used Kindle can range from $110-250 depending on the model while a used iPad average price starts at $362.  An extra couple of hundred dollars might not seem like much for the added functionality of a tablet, but you also have to pay for many of the apps on tablets, so you need to factor that in as well.  Winner: eReader

Battery Life
The Nook battery can last up
to three months.
There are a number of other technical differences between tablet computers and eReaders that affect battery life. The screen lighting is a major difference.  Dedicated eReaders tend to not have backlighting, which makes them great for outdoor use and easier on the eyes, but not as good as Tablets if you want to read in the dark or a poorly lit room.   And because Tablets have more processing power and a backlit screen, they use batteries much quicker.  An eReader can last up to two months on a single charge while an iPad only lasts 10 hours. Winner: eReader

While eReaders won two out of three sets of criteria, it would be foolish to recommend buying an eReader.  They are a dying technology, as evidenced the launch of the B&N Nook Color Tablet and the forthcoming announcement of Amazon’s Android Tablet.  And while neither of these tablets are expected to be as feature complete as the iPad or even tablets by Samsung, Motorola, and Toshiba, they are integrating many of the features that we love about tablets.  Look for details on Amazon’s tablet here after their press conference tomorrow. Winner: Tablet

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