One of the most frequent questions I've gotten this holiday season is "What reading device should I get – an e-book reader or a tablet?"
In other words, if your main goal is becoming a digital reader, which is the best reading device choice: a monochrome Kindle-like device with a 6-inch screen that uses E-Ink technology to create text, or a tablet ala the Apple iPad that uses a backlit LCD screen?
First I give my questioners a dirty look. "You know I write for a tech Web site every day, right?" I snidely reply. "And if you read the Tech Goes Strong Web site you wouldn't have to bother me in person with these questions."
Or, that's how I reply in my head. Out loud, I ask my inquisitors about their device usage behavior, function priorities and about their personality, give them some general guidance, then tell them to visit Tech Goes Strong to find more detail on my in-person device advice.
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We're assuming you're posing this e-book reader or tablet conundrum because you want/hope one of these slates will increase your reading. If your primary slate purpose is to surf the Web, play games, answer email, Tweet or Facebook, then it's not a question of e-book reader or tablet. It's a choice between an iPad or an Android tablet (which is another discussion), and then a choice between a 7-inch tablet or a 10-inch tablet.
Here's a comparison of ereaders vs. tablets guide to help you decide what is the best book reading device – an e-book reader or tablet.
Best choice for you
People are cheap. I don't mean that as derogative, – I myself frequently practice practical penury. Penny-pinching is the reason why folks are even considering a sub-$130 ereader rather than a $199-plus tablet.
In technology, however, you should never buy the least expensive (i.e. cheapest) option. Paying a bit more for convenience and functionality will make you hap-hap-happier in the long run. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. (Yes, this Web site is free – what are you implying?)
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't buy a cheaper e-reader.
Here are four questions you should ask yourself to help you (or whomever is shopping for your gift or whomever you are shopping for) make your e-book reader or tablet decision.
How much reading do you do? If you read less than half an hour a day, or you have a short-attention span, go for a tablet. Otherwise you'll be stuck with an e-book device utilized more often as a coaster than a reader. With a tablet, you'll have other activities to attract you or distract you between chapters of the latest potboiler.
Do you want to read more? You feel guilty that you don't read more. You figure if you actually paid for a reading device that let you carry a whole library of books with you you'd be economically guilted into picking up some of your reading slack.
If you're determined to boost your reading, you want an ereader. A tablet, as noted in my answer to the previous question, offers too many attractions and distractions – you'll read a lot at first then slowly but surely, thanks to the siren call of the tablet's beckoning tempting apps, devolve back into reading slackerdom.
An e-book reader will essentially force you to read – unless you subconsciously revolt against your own conscious resolve and start to "accidentally" leave it at home, resentful of forcing yourself to read. We'll discuss this and your father issues at next week's appointment.
How long are your daily reading sessions? If you are an avid reader – more than half-hour a day and especially more – go with an e-reader. After a while, the searing brightness of a tablet's LCD screen will eventually start to fatigue your eyes. Glowing e-book readers are far gentler on the retinas and are far lighter so easier to hold for longer periods.
Is your reading text-heavy? If you're strictly a novel/biography/literature reader, an e-book ereader will suffice. But if you're into lavishly illustrated cookbooks, photo/art books, magazines and/or children's books, opt for a tablet.
There's actually a fifth question – is this e-reader or tablet for you or someone more than half your age?
Tomorrow we'll discuss this fifth element and which e-book ereader or tablet is the best choice for digital reading for you or someone else.