Review: Should I buy an E-Reader or a Tablet?

Part 1 of a two-part article


The battle is on, do I jump in with both feet and grab a new Android tablet like a Samsung Galaxy or a Blackberry Playbook to read my e-books? Or do I simplify life and fall to the basics of an e-book reader like Kindle or Kobo?

To set the context, I love my e-books. Even long before Kindle and Kobo where possible, I bought PDF versions of books. The fact that you can use a search functionality to find content is a god send.

Within our house we have the gambit of technology, laptops, desktops, iPod touch (retired iPhone 3Gs), iPhone 4s, and iPad 1 to name a few.  With Kindle and Kindle I can access my e-books via my PC reader, my MacBook reader, via the web with Kindle, on my wife’s iPad (preferred choice) and my iPhone (small screen but manageable).  So why another e-reader you ask?? Well, I am usually stuck reading from my iPhone –

So here is my dilemma. Four technology choices, no perfect solution:

 1) Kindle or Kobo e-Reader  ($79 to $199)

Unlike devices with LCD screens, e-readers such as Kindle or Kobo use the latest generation of Electronic Ink (“E Ink”) technology – designed specifically to deliver clearer, sharper text that makes reading for extended periods of time more comfortable, and work great in daylight (do not have to worry about glare).  Add 1 to 2 months of battery life and sized to mimic a book, how can you go wrong?

 2) iPad ($519 to $719)

Our iPad has not steered us wrong, a great App community, and more importantly being able to save some money on having to buy the same applications across multiple platforms. For me, the biggest drawback is the size of the screen. I am looking for a device  that will fit between my laptop and me typing/reading away on my iPhone (where I am actually writing this article) so a 6 to 7 inch screen would be perfect.  A 10″ tablet or iPad is just not practical (especially when you are looking for a second device).   The downfall is the price; nothing Apple is inexpensive; but would have even swallowed the price I’d the form or size worked well.

 3) Android Tablet ($199+)

Google Android OS has been around fora few years and has grown in popularity as the primary operating system (OS) for both mobile phones and tablets.  Designed around the open market, you have one if the best sources for fun  add-ons and typically at a fraction price of the Apple equivalent.  In contrast both IPad and Blackberry applications require the blessing of Rim and Apple.  Available in 7 and 10 inch screens, the key distinction between each device (manufacturer) is battery life (typically 6 to 8 hours), built in storage (for apps, music, movies), convenience of connectivity (HDMI out, hcSD external storage), and quality of the built in camera.

4) Blackberry Playbook 7-Inch Tablet ($199 to $299)

RIM (Research In Motion) jumped into the Tablet market about a year ago. Compared to Apple, and as a former Blackberry owner, their biggest downfall has always been their availability of applications.  However, the PlayBook has recently become a new contender in the Tablet market with their recent OS release 2.0 (February 21, 2012) which can now run Android applications. On the hardware side, the Blackberry Playbook 7-Inch Tablet is rock solid, and includes HDMI and mini USB, however the PlayBook but could quickly be become a paperweight if the application world is not behind it.  After-all, how many versions of the same program can we expect developers to make??  Hopefully, Once Blackberry opens up the MarketPlace to Android applications life will get better for PlayBook owners.  RIM / Amazon – all I ask for is my Kindle reader!!!

So as not to start a PlayBook war, the current workaround to instal Android applications (apps) on your PlayBook is through Developer Sideloading – but not considered a formal or recommended practice for installing applications.

So what do you choose?

An e-reader that is great a just that – being a book – or a multi-function device such as a tablet?  My next post will dive deeper into the discussion and where my mind is headed.  But I would love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. Glad I could help. I agree with you completely, particularly with the beautiful weather of summer approaching, that outside use of any device is a preference (why else would we have given up our desktop computers). Unfortunately, any device that 1) has a glass screen and more significantly 2) is back-light, will have issues in direct sunlight. That being said, one benefit I have found using our iPad and now my BlackBerry PlayBook is that by form and design, and unlike a laptop, they are much more flexible to hold at that perfect angle of refraction to help minimize any glare.

    However, a tablet could be considered the Swiss-army knife of e-readers. I think that is why the Kindle Fire as an example has become so popular. In addition to being an e-reader (I have my Kindle e-reader application on our iPad, my iPhone, and my laptop so never very far from my current book), they serve as a great temporary solution, and in some techy circles a replacement to a laptop. However where an e-reader will always prevail is with its passive, meaning that it merely reflects light, screen which excels in direct sunlight. In addition, a tablet screen has also been known to cause eye fatigue and an article in the LA Times (April 24, 2010) suggests they can also interfere with sleeping habits.

    I have two quick words of wisdom; firstly consider your primary purpose. I am one that likes that gadgets so the Tablet is hard to say no to, however if I was simply looking for a reader the enhanced battery life (great for the cottage or camping where electricity is hard to come by) and the ability to read it in nearly any condition are hard to say no to. Secondly, the great benefit of the major retail stores is the return policy, take one home, and try it out. If it really is not what you hoped for in all conditions, maybe not the best choice.

    I have been meaning to write a follow up article on what I decided to go with — was not an easy choice, but do have a new Tablet sitting beside me. That being said, a Kindle is still not out of the question for simply the reasons listed above.

  2. Thanks for your insight – I’ve been debating between getting an e-reader or tablet. I’m definitely not a techie, and one consideration (since I can’t read my laptop screen outside) is; will I be able to bring my work outside with a tablet, and also enjoy an e-reader app? I’ve talked to e-reader owners, and they enjoy easy to read formats in full sunshine, how do the tablets fare?
    thanks for your help – Ellen


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