How Do You Choose Between Tablets and E-Readers?

by Gina Blitstein · 2 comments

Did you get what you really wanted for the holidays? Perhaps you received some gifts you’d like to return. Perhaps you received some gift cards that are burning a hole in your wallet. In any case, you may find yourself back in a store, with some money to spend on yourself.

If you’ve been thinking about treating yourself to one of those popular pieces of personal electronics called e-readers or tablets, here’s some information to help you choose the one that’s right for you.

First, some definitions. While the two devices started out as totally different entities, as the technology evolves, their functionality is becoming less distinct. While you can read on either device, here are the major differences between e-readers and tablets:


Quite simply, these are portable, electronic books. They’re primarily made to replicate books and feature “electronic paper” technology that makes them easily viewed, even in bright light. Because they’re not backlit, there is no glare on the “pages” and text displays crisp on the screen.

While some e-readers access the Internet for the purpose of downloading books and reading materials, they’re primarily uni-taskers. Rather than being designed for browsing the Internet like a computer, their strong suit is that they provide an affordable, portable means to facilitate reading and a long battery life. Some e-readers offer a color display which is preferable for reading magazines or illustrated books.

Sony Reader, Nook and Kindle Touch are names you’ll see when shopping for e-readers. Simple, straightforward e-readers can be purchased for less than $200. Kindle offers “Special Offers” versions of their devices which display advertising on their home screen, at significantly lower prices.

As new models come out, many e-readers are adopting more “tablet-like” functionality, making the differences between the two devices less distinct.


These devices are like mini-computers, usually with a touch interface and a large viewing screen. These devices run programs and are equipped with a browser for accessing the Internet, allowing you to receive email, listen to music, watch videos and, of course, read. They’re portable multi-taskers that facilitate the consumption of information from the Internet. The two major tablets at the present time are the iPad and the Kindle Fire.

Because of all that functionality, some tablets can cost upwards of $700. While many tablet models cost far less than that hefty price, you’ll pay a premium for the ones with more storage and with both 3G and wi-fi capability.

Consider these factors when choosing a tablet:

  • Amount of data you plan to store on the device – The more it stores, the more it costs.
  • Your need for 3G connectivity – 3G connects like a cell phone and will pick up a signal wherever you are. Wi-fi works like a computer and must connect to a wireless network to access the Internet.
  • Your existing technology –  Many tablets may have versions of the same programs as you’re already using on your smart phone or computer, which will allow you to share apps and data among devices.

What device is right for you? First, determine what you plan to use it for. Some people specifically choose an e-reader so they can focus specifically on reading without the distractions presented by other features. Others appreciate the array of options available in a tablet.

Like with any purchase, getting what you need without extemporaneous “bells and whistles” is the wisest choice because you’ve put your money into the features that are most useful to and desired by you. Knowing what’s available is the best way to pick the best device for you.

What device best serves your needs?

Bonus Tip:

Another way to save on your monthly Internet and TV costs is to find a current ATT U-Verse coupon code or at least a promotion to knock down your home service bill.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mitch May 23, 2012 at 11:54 pm

The essential distinguishing feature is their vastly different SCREEN technology:
a) true E-readers use e-Ink, a paper-like screen, readable outdoors in full sun; limited to no colors, no video, just paper-like readability, easy on the eye.
b) tablets use normal LCD (commonly IPS) screens, fast enough for video, colored etc. as any computer screen. However, all these LCDs, inclusive OLED/AMOLED, are not practically usable in full sun. Nor are they comparable to paper, hence much heavier on the eye during hours of reading.

This key difference exceeds any other features, pros and cons of the two respective product types.

Alex_D October 5, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I bought a MiGear eReader for $80 several months ago, primarily for reading, but it also does music, photos and videos. It is compatible with a HUGE range of ebook, audio, image and video formats.
It’s LCD, so I don’t need a light on when I read in bed. Only good for indoor use, though. The display is clear and sharp for reading, and is easy on the eye. I love it.
@Mitch: Your definition of “true E-Readers” (LOL) differs from mine.

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